by Lynn on April 25, 2022

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live and in person at the Royal Alexandra Theatre, Toronto, Ont. until May 29.

Written and performed by Jake Epstein

Developed with and directed by Robert McQueen

Orchestrations, arrangements and musical supervision, by Daniel Abrahamson

Musical direction by David Atkinson

Set and prop design, by Brandon Kleiman

Lighting design by Amber Hood

Sound by William Fallon

Performed by: Jake Epstein

David Atkinson

Lauren Falls

Justin Han

Boy Falls From the Sky is a glorious heart-squeeze of a show.

Jake Epstein is blessed with supportive parents who nurtured his and his older sister Gabi’s love of musical theatre. Every summer he and his family made the 10-hour drive to New York City to see a Broadway show. In the back seat of the van, Jake and his sister sang duets from Broadway shows to get them prepared.

In Boy Falls From the Sky, Jake Epstein’s joyous, moving autobiographical show, he lets us know that his life changed when he saw Big—the Musical, his first show on Broadway. He realized that kids could be in a Broadway show and Epstein set about planning that for himself.

He auditioned for and was cast in the Soulpepper Theatre Company’s production of Our Town at the Royal Alexandra Theatre in 1999. It was his professional theatre debut. He was 12-years-old. This led to being cast as the cocky, confident Artful Dodger in a production of the musical, Oliver! for Mirvish Productions, also at the Princess of Wales Theatre.

Epstein also knew that training and education were equally important in his achieving his goals so he auditioned for and was accepted into the Claude Watson School for the Arts. His future wife said she fell in love with him when he played a hot dog going through the digestive system as one of his class exercises. That must have been one terrific performance.

Jake Epstein branched out from musical theatre and landed a role in Degrassi: The Next Generation about the trials and tribulations of teens in a high school. He stayed with the show for five years. He auditioned for Juilliard in New York City and didn’t get accepted. He describes this as ‘devastating. It wouldn’t be the last time he would experience this feeling. And yet as he was feeling despondent on the streets of New York, he was approached by some tourists who recognized him from Degrassi: The Next Generation who loved the show and him in it. It’s one of several moments in Boy Falls From the Sky that beautifully captures the heart-breaking lows and intoxicating highs of being in ‘show business.’

Epstein continued to audition for roles and often was successful. He moved to New York City to be closer to his dream of being in a Broadway musical and then it happened. He was cast as the  alternate lead in the Broadway musical Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark. Never mind that the show had a reputation for being dangerous to actors—many were hurt because of the intense aerial work. Never mind that the show has a special place as a Broadway disaster. This was Jake Epstein’s Broadway debut. He had achieved his dream.

And then he was cast in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical originating the role of Gerry Goffin, Carole King’s ex-husband. Epstein had arrived. Or had he?

While Boy Falls From the Sky is packed with Jake Epstein’s many and various theatre credits it’s much more than a: “And then I was cast in…..” retelling. The show is loaded with Jake Epstein’s beautiful singing of songs from the various musicals he’s been in. It’s full of his endless charm, joy in performing, self-deprecating humour , perceptive observations and irony. This show is suffused with irony. The show’s title, Boy Falls From the Sky, gives a hint—it’s a song from Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark a doomed musical, and the song is about a man searching for himself, dignity in humanity etc.

Epstein begins Boy Falls From the Sky with “Razzle Dazzle” from Chicago about dazzling the audience etc. with flash and grandness. Irony. Epstein takes the audience behind the ‘razzle dazzle’ of the heady world of Broadway and show business and shows them another world. Brandon Kleiman’s set is of a rehearsal room with two guitars Epstein will play with his three band mates who accompany him; with a ladder leading to an upper area. The set is placed downstage in the Royal Alexandra Theatre, but the audience can also see the exposed backstage of the theatre. Epstein enters the space from upstage without fanfare, takes off his jacket begins to play (after his indicates we turn off our cellphones and wear our masks).  No razzle dazzle here.

Boy Falls From the Sky is full of intoxicating euphoria when you get your dream realized.  But there’s also the angst, uncertainty, loneliness of touring and needing to hide the truth about it all from a loving family who only want to be happy for you and with you. The show is seamlessly directed with subtlety by Robert McQueen.

Boy Falls From the Sky is Jake Epstein’s beautiful, heartfelt, funny buoyant show that comes to terms with realizing his dreams and perhaps learning bliss might be elsewhere in performing.  

If there is a quibble, it’s that often the band drowns out what Epstein is singing and that needs to be addressed. And there was a glitch with the amplification on opening night that was quickly solved, and handled with grace and aplomb by Epstein.

At its heart Boy Falls from the Sky is a wonderful show that lets actors know they are no alone in their hopes, dreams and disappointments, and lets audiences know that the hardest part about acting is not learning all those lines.

David Mirvish and Past Future Productions presents.

Plays until May 29, 2022.

Running time: 70 minutes, (no intermission)

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