by Kumari Campbell
Review This summer, Pamela Campbell is reprising her role as Abigail the apprentice angel, that she created back in 1995. Wingin’ It! was written by Campbell and her collaborator, Nancy Beck, almost a decade ago, as a quasi-comical look at the phenomenon of guardian angels. The script and lyrics were written by Beck, while Campbell provided the music. Since then, the show has enjoyed a measure of success unknown to most made-on-the-Island community theatre productions. The play’s 200-plus performances have included venues across Canada and the United States, notably off-Broadway in New York City where it ran for several weeks.
By writing a play about an angel-in-the-making, Campbell and Beck have created the opportunity to infuse their trademark humour into a subject that is looked upon more seriously by segments of society with religious sensibilities. Thus, Abigail’s foibles as she goes through her period of apprenticeship, and her lighthearted musings (such as not wanting to be an angel-of-death because she doesn’t look good in black) are not perceived as disrespectful, but rather, innocuous preoccupations of youth. Campbell’s exaggerated facial expressions, coupled with her youthful appearance, imbue her character with a puckish personality that endears her to the audience and puts a smile on its face.
As the one-woman story opens, Abigail is found conversing with and confiding in her imaginary mortal (the one she hopes to be assigned to once she attains full-fledged angelhood), whom she has taken the liberty to name Chris due to the name’s cross-gender usability. As the play unfolds, she is put through her paces by the Angel Advisory Council, who is evaluating her performance during a mid-term consultation. The evaluation will determine whether or not Abigail receives her wings.
Recounting her many assignments, the novice angel relives a number of situations ranging from the humorous to the dramatic. While these situations are rather mundane, and not terribly exciting, they do underscore status quo values and standards of behaviour. The musical numbers, on the other hand, are crisp and fresh, and help lift the play from its clay-sodden boots to a more ethereal plane. Despite some trite lyrics, the songs do a remarkable job of furthering the plot, while providing Pamela Campbell with a fitting vehicle for her multi-layered, angelic voice. The music offers a nice variety from a sweet lullaby to some resonant jazzy numbers; one highlight being a catchy little tune about the four archangels. A beautiful arrangement in the second act juxtaposes Campbell’s on-stage voice with a recording of her singing the same song, sometimes with a few different lyrics, in and out of sync, to great effect. Campbell brings the performance full circle, ending by reprising her opening song “I wanna be a guardian angel” (with appropriately modified lyrics, to denote her new status), and the title song “Wingin’ It!”. As usual, Pamela Campbell carries the evening.