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Craigslist Cantata is clever and quirky exploration of humanity

By Alejandro Bustos on November 17, 2014

For most people, Craiglist is the online version of a massive market.  Whether you are looking for a used couch, a mechanic to fix your car or a cheap apartment, this popular website is a one-stop destination for a wide range of goods and services.

For CBC radio broadcaster and playwright Bill Richardson, on the other hand, Craiglist is a sociological goldmine that shines a light into our very souls.

In his highly clever piece Do You Want What I Have Got? A Craigslist Cantata, Richardson assembles a collection of real ads that have appeared on the popular website.  Using catchy melodies from musician Veda Hille, each ad is sung as if it were its own individual tune.

With surprising ease, audience members will find themselves humming to musical vignettes about such items as a potato cannon or the hats of a deceased cat named Snowman.

The result is like a quirky Vaudeville act that will leave you laughing, thinking and shaking your head at the absurdity and strangeness of human beings.

“This is a beautiful piece,” says Jillian Keiley, artistic director of NAC English Theatre, in an interview with Apartment613.  “It’s also an expose, because Craiglist is a bit anonymous.”

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Playing at the National Arts Center until November 22, this show contains many positive elements.  To begin with, there is the impressive four-member cast: Bree Greig particularly caught my attention with her strong vocals, while Dmitry Chepovetsky was a pleasure to watch.

The cleverness of the musical is also intriguing, with the full range of humanities’ emotions – e.g. innocence, humour, quirkiness, creepiness, desire – on full musical display.

Where the piece does stumble a bit, however, is in its lack of a narrative structure.  While it is amusing to watching Craiglist ads put to music, the novelty does wear off a bit as the show progresses.

That being said, this is still a fun and ingenious show.  This is a not a typical musical, but rather something akin to a vast musical collection of short stories that are told with humour and, at times, insight.

Do You Want What I Have Got? A Craigslist Cantata is playing at the NAC until November 22. Tickets start at $51 and can be bought online.