The Picture of Happiness
feels like spending an hour with an old friend who has a surprising story to relate. A very talented friend who revels in the act of telling and also just happens to sing like a dream. Brad Hampton’s tale of the consequences of keeping family secrets, and his eventual triumph over the aftermath, is tuneful, funny and ultimately heart-breaking. Hampton has a conversational voice that is free of the showy money notes except when the drama calls for them – it is all the more dramatic because of the restraint. Far better to be brought to tears by a casual coup de theatre or laughter by a buoyant bon mot, than be battered by jazz hands and notes sustained for effect.
Hampton’s understated delivery is undone when he morphs into his mother who quickly becomes a second character in the performance. The ease with which he compassionately channels a woman who could be a caricature is charming and it is only after that one notices there is only actor on stage. Pianist Patti Loach fills out the trio and, as well as creating music to illustrate any and all moods, joins in the action and makes an able foil for Hampton. The two have an almost empathic skill and obviously adore each other and believe utterly in the pathos and joy of the story.
The songs are drawn from sources familiar and obscure. “The Dieter’s Prayer” is a tour-de-force of hilarity and also displays just what Hampton’s voice can do. The rendition of the chestnut “Moon River” turns a piano bar staple into a gay anthem and reminds the audience that some melodies are beautifully matched to the lyrics, and even more so when thoughtfully and passionately performed. Seeing The Picture of Happiness
in an intimate setting is a perfect conceptual underline to the telling of secrets but also a chance to get close before the show inevitably moves to larger venues.
The Picture of Happiness runs Fri, Oct 19 & Sat, Oct 20 at 7:30pm at Gallery Fontana Swing, 245 Carlaw Ave. $30-35. thepictureofhappiness.com
A Fab story on the play can be found here