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By Alex Szabadics

“At age 11, Elliot was abducted from his family. Now 5 years after being declared missing, he has returned and now must come to terms with the adjustments he and his family must make in order to reconnect with his place in this world.”

The Killdeer is something special. It’s short, clocking in at roughly eighty minutes on opening night, but in that feature-length time it manages to pack so much heart, character, and power. It’s an original musical (which is a feat in itself) written and directed by Taylor Broadley, with all-original compositions for every song.

First off, every member of the cast did a fantastic job. Everyone embodied their characters with intense believability. The standouts were Harley Dasey in the lead role of Elliot, whose shifts of character were finely crafted and electric to witness, as well as Cathy Woodhouse as Bernadette and Tannah Pridmore as River. The chorus was also fantastic, never dropping character and always giving life and humour to the stage. From its rural beginnings to that gut-punch of a third act, everyone performed with confidence and clarity. The pacing and plot of this show can’t be ignored – it ran for just the right amount of time to tell this full story without taking distracting detours, and the ending was a spark of genius that left me with my mouth wide open.

In terms of set design, it was simple but highly efficient. The centrepiece, a rusty graffiti-ridden phone booth gave the play a sense of iconography and unique visual style. To its sides were two mobile metal staircases, moved around to convey different scenes. In conjunction with the great light design it worked really well - the locations were always apparent and easy to interpret even with the simple ideas at play.

The biggest standout of the play is the music. It did a great job at balancing its rock/folk roots with elements of classic stage-show musical structure, and they blended seamlessly into songs that created a fantastic atmosphere and mood for the play. “Who Are You” was a huge highlight, and I loved the rap verse performed by Tashlin Church – it was fast, smooth, and so much fun. Every time the whole cast and chorus sung together I was blown away, and even the quieter songs like “A Waste” were subtly beautiful.

Unfortunately, I do need to address the area of the performance that did need more work. There was a myriad of audio issues, especially during the songs – the band was noticeably louder than the individual singers most of the time, and it drowned them out to the point that I couldn’t hear what anybody was singing. It may not have had an impact of the quality of the play itself, but it was a slight detriment to that opening night experience.

Overall, The Killdeer was a fantastic experience and a great way to start off the season. Taylor Broadley conquered so many aspects of the production here, and everyone involved did an incredible job managing it all and keeping it all together. Writing and performing a musical is harder than it looks, but this was a resounding success. I can’t wait to see what’s next! Congratulations to the entire Killdeer cast and crew.