Viola Virus: A Major-Key Metal Musical @ Arena at Aberdeen Hotel
Saturday, February 6, 2021
Viola Virus: A Major-Key Metal Music is a one-man musical comedy that invites Fringe audiences to enter a hilariously bizarre alternate world where, rather than the COVID-19 Coronavirus, Earth’s citizens are at threat from a Viola epidemic. Denoted by its spread of out-of-tune scratchy noise, the Viola virus has shut down orchestras everywhere, which results in chaos for Willy and his cast of wildly and delightfully unstable characters.
Self-referential and self-aware, this show bounces along at a frighteningly fast pace, as writer and performer Viola Willy plays all of the show’s characters, with each character singing their story while disregarding the threat of the virus and playing the viola. Supported by a full-band backing track, each track is a nod to a different style within the metal genre, and included such gems as the hairband-inspired Lockdown from Heavy Metal friend, the fist-pumper Punk Rock Viola Party by Willy’s Swedish neighbour and the intense, yet equally humorous, black-metal of Viola Is Number One performed by Willy’s love interest, the Japanese Manami.
To perform each character, Viola Willy swaps in and out of accents and each song’s lyrics are presented in a different colour on the screen behind him. While this may seem like overkill at first, the different colours not only help the audience to catch the subtle jokes that Willy throws into each song but demonstrates the performers nuanced understanding of how to bring a crowd along in his wild ride. This was particularly relevant as the hysterical plot deepened, further intertwining each of the show’s six characters, in the lead up to the show’s epic final number where all six of the characters perform on the one track.
Though the production lacked a certain smoothness at times, it can’t be easy when a snap COVID lockdown prevents you from entering your venue until a day after your first performance was scheduled. Any gaffes in the performance were treated with a knowing smile by the seasoned performer, and it felt like nothing could stop him and his enthusiasm from winning over the audience.
Half the joy in the show was being delighted by the performer’s mastery of the musical comedy genre he has become so adept at. With four completely original musical comedies in as many years now under his belt, including 2020’s sell-out Fringe smash Trump 2020 the MAGA Musical, the sheer ambition of Viola Willy to pull all these characters together and to write an entire set of original songs within a year should be applauded. In fact do it all while playing the viola and showing off his impressive vocal chops that would not be out of place on a traditional Musical stage, are a nod to Willy’s past performances in the realm of Gilbert & Sullivan. His performance was simply amazing and captured the audience’s hearts and imaginations many times over.
Creatively adventurous and artistically ambitious, Viola Virus is a show that is truly like no other and will appeal to orchestra-nerds, metal-heads, fans of irreverent and absurdist comedy, or anyone simply willing to be entertained. Perhaps Viola Willy’s warning for this show was correct, and this reviewer has indeed caught the “Viola virus,” but like this show, it really is something you’d gladly catch again.