Up your people

Amway: The Musical

Somewhere between the inoffensive emoti-pop of Céline Dion and the infomercials of motivational guru Tony Robbins, lies a well meaning but banal musical named Decide (playing every Saturday in a Queen West loft).

With salon theatre more in vogue, small plays like Decide are cropping up across Toronto in nontraditional venues like this hip, apartment-cum-theatre. It’s a surprisingly effective space for this mixed media production, though possessing the most torturous folding chairs imaginable.

The show opens with a short film, in which writer/director Stuart Knight coaxes the audience to rise and give itself a standing ovation. He hoots and hollers encouragement for several minutes, in a daring move that could have easily fallen flat with less-generous attendees.

What follows is a disjointed, overlong treatise on changing mundane lives, seizing opportunities and, oh yes, getting the girl in the end.

Decide is basically a set of motivational-style monologues performed by Knight, with the rest of the cast serving as a Greek chorus, punctuating his earnest rhyming couplets with intensely performed songs of positive-thinking and self-love.

It’s all very Up With People, complete with overwrought power ballads, Canadian Idol-type hand gesticulation and some truly off notes (particularly in the shaky harmonies). Emilio Zarris is probably the strongest singer here, but over-emotes with boy-band vengeance every chance he gets. Amy Rivard nails a mean high C. Often.

Each chorus member gets his or her own moment. But it’s really Knight’s show and it rides on whether or not you find his Willie Aames persona likeable or grating. He’s obviously well spoken, but his history as a Coca-Cola motivational speaker comes shining through in a slick performance that’s one part engaging MC and two parts telephone solicitor.

There are some fun moments: Shantelle Canzanese’s macho rap is quite cleverly done, while Rivard and Jay Chellew do a wickedly incestuous Donny and Marie during intermission, when the audience is dragged to its feet for some stretching and deep breathing (yes, seriously). Knight returns for some passable beatboxing, and later shares a great pick-up scene with Canzanese.

The evening closes with the dictum to “make three new friends tonight,” indulge in the cash bar (first drink is free), purchase the motivational music CD and return for a corporate networking seminar the following Wednesday.

It must be acknowledged that the opening night audience went crazy for Decide when it relaunched as a weekly event last month, weeping openly during a film montage of war and sad-eyed children and cheering the mantras of just-be-yourself and stick-to-itiveness.

It may be akin to Amway: The Musical, but Decide seems to be nothing if not a crowd pleaser.


$20. 8pm.



721 Queen St W.

(416) 703-9696.

Read More About:
Health, Mental Health, Culture, Arts, Toronto

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