Riverview High takes its inspiration from the comics
|Written by Mark Robins|
|Friday, 24 August 2012|
Meet the gang of Riverview High: red-head Alex, his two sweethearts Cathy and Erica, and his hotdog loving best friend Parker. If it all sounds vaguely familiar that’s because you don’t need to look beyond the check-out counter of your local grocery store for the Archie comic books that inspired the new homegrown musical Riverview High.
Set in 1996 Riverview, Somewhere USA, the musical tells the story of Alex and the decision he is forced to make when he accidently asks both of his gals to the prom. Looking to his girl-hating best friend Parker for help, things get a little more complicated when it is revealed that Parker has a thing for Alex (Cameron Dunster as Parker and Sayer Robert as Alex in the photo right by Angela Wong).
“It’s a coming-of-age musical comedy,” explains director and co-lyricist Mike Mackenzie. “These characters are at a crossroads, about to graduate from high school and not quite sure what they will do.”
More than simply torn from the pages of an Archie’s double digest though, Mackenzie says that the musical also gets inspiration from a locally shot spoof movie trailer and 90s teens comedies Saved By The Bell and California Dreams.
Having attended high school in 1996, Mackenzie knows firsthand what the characters in Riverview High are going through and helps to make the story that much more personal.
“I remember what it was like growing up in the mid-90s and getting to the point where I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, or who I was going to end up with,” says Mackenzie.
And while the Archie franchise has only just recently stepped into the gay world with the marriage of two men, making the Riverview High character based on Jughead gay was something Mackenzie and his co-creators saw as a natural fit.
“The Jughead character is more interested in food and being a sounding board for Archie than he ever was in girls,” explains Mackenzie. “This was an opportunity to say something about being gay in the 90s and we really wanted to share a different perspective on that particular character.”
Not your typical fare at the Fringe which usually has a glut of smaller one-person shows, Mackenzie says that being part of the Festival has helped to pull off a show of this size, especially being at the Firehall Arts Centre as part of the Fringe’s Bring Your Own Venue series.
“If we were going to produce the show on our own it would cost us somewhere around $20,000.00,” says Mackenzie. “With the Fringe and the Firehall we are able to lean heavily on their resources to showcase the piece to a larger audience and to keep tickets affordable.”
Getting their feet wet at the Fringe, Mackenzie and his team have big dreams for the future of Riverview High, a show that now joins the ranks of other home-grown musicals like Delinquent Theatre’s Stationary: a recession era musical, Anton Lipovetsky’s Flop!, Studio 58’s The Park and even Atomic Vaudeville’s Ride The Cyclone.
“We’d love to have audiences across the country see it and for it have a life in the high school theatre world would be fantastic,” says Mackenzie. “We’re optimistic and hopeful that it will have a life past the Fringe.”
For now though Mackenzie and his team are busy preparing for opening night and recording the original cast album, all in the hopes of leaving Fringe audiences with a grin on their face.
“I would love people to leave the theatre with big silly stupid grins on their face. It is a show that people will have a great time and perhaps even remember what it was like to be back in high school.”