< PortFringe 2024



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POSTED 6/4/2023

If I was to tell your average theater goer that the performance I just saw was a one man show about his love for a marvel superhero that involves banjo song parodies and costuming and set design all around that character, they would either think I was making it up, or that I was going to a Fringe festival. The Fantastic One, by Jesse Ward, is a heartfelt personal story with a good message, told through the foil of Marvel Comics superhero; The Thing, and fits in well with the PortFringe ideals. As a long time fan of comics and superhero movies, I was able to understand and relate to a lot of what Ward was referencing in his tales about the wonders of The Thing. But to an average viewer, which he addresses, they could find this show hard to engage with fully. I was definitely a good target audience to aim for, nodding along with the various “in the know” references to the Fantastic Four movies of the 2000s. Among the stories of our favorite rock covered hero, there were popular song parodies about the Thing, performed on an electric banjo. Which brought a fun and unique feel to the performance. There was also audience participation and a live Funko Pop unboxing. Among a fun concept and a quirky stage presence, there were also times where it was hard to hear due to microphones and audio mishaps. As well as the mask that Ward wore throughout making his audibility hard during the longer story sections. However, by the end of the performance I felt warm and fuzzy from an all around good message and heartfelt performance. For those who couldn’t relate as much as I could, maybe not the same reactions. Going forward, perhaps a tighter run time and a more focused narrative could take this show from being good, to fantastic.

submitted by: Paul Frees, PF23 Independent Review Team

POSTED 6/4/2023

Sometimes, the stars align and you end up at a show that you are very uniquely qualified to review. The Fantastic One, an electric banjo musical about Marvel Comic’s Fantastic Four’s “ever lovin’ blue eyed” Thing, is a show that most of my friends would say, “This is made for you.” As I sat down and took in the Thing-laden stage (or perhaps, more accurately, an alter to Benjamin “The Thing” Grimm), I truly had no idea what to expect. While existing in the world of Jesse Ward’s jukebox parody musical, I was of two minds. This is either an Andy Kaufman-esque level commitment to a bit the likes of which I have never seen before; or Jesse is truly and earnestly a passionate devotee of the rockiest member of Marvel’s First Family. Experiencing it to the end, I firmly believe it’s the latter. This musical isn’t about Jesse’s passion or fanaticism for The Thing. Sure, Ben Grimm is the overwhelming focal point. Yes, Jesse wore a flimsy The Thing Halloween mask for the duration (which did make him hard to understand occasionally.) But. What is presented is about a very particular group of feelings. Something more. It’s about finding confidence, acceptance, love, and community. In the comics, Benjamin Grimm is the heart and soul of the Fantastic Four. Comics are our modern myth. They are as universally important, timeless, and sweeping as Santa Claus. Superheroes are an escape, they have been for me personally for years and years. Superheroes allow you to believe in something greater, better; there is good in the world, and they will always find a way to triumph over evil. Who doesn’t want to believe in that? Especially after the last few years. Jesse sees The Thing for what he is: good, pure, and a pinnacle of pop culture and escapism. Harnessing this power gave Jesse a window into a better world he had been longing for. This musical is about belief and allowing yourself to believe in something more — all while seeing the world through a rocky monster’s eyes. Or, in the case of this show, Jesse’s eyes. He invites the crowd to find their own vulnerability while sharing his own; trying to dig past both his own orange rocky exterior and that of everyone in front of him. This show truly led by the creed “Don’t overthink it, just do it,” a phrase stated early in the evening. Wild, rambling, sad, confident, messy, and all over the place. The Fantastic One is a show I don’t think I will ever forget and I will be honest, I am still trying to decide what it means to me.

submitted by: Jake Cote, PF23 Independent Review Team

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