Jumpin' Jack Written and performed by Lyle Victor Albert Directed by Blake Brooker At the Big Secret Theatre in Calgary Rating: ***
'I was born in a crossfire hurricane," cries the narrator of the Rolling Stones' Jumpin' Jack Flash, "and I howled at my ma in the driving rain."
Jack, the hero of Lyle Victor Albert's new one-man show, Jumpin' Jack, hasn't had it any easier. He was born in Cold Lake, Alta., and his ma dropped him from a hayloft onto his head. That was just before she split to find Jack's estranged father, ol' rubber lips himself.
Yes, Jack is a member of that ever-expanding, worldwide club made up of Mick Jagger's illegitimate children. Only, he assures us, he was not just another bastard byproduct of some "coked-up, slutty one-night stand." He's Mick's bona fide love child, conceived when the future Stones front man was just a young lout studying at the London School of Economics and Jack's mom, Virginia, was a naive Canadian exchange student. Mick wooed her in class by crooning Willie Dixon's Little Red Rooster into her ear. He always intended to marry her, but this band he was in started taking off. . . .
Jumpin' Jack, which premiered Thursday at One Yellow Rabbit's High Performance Rodeo, is a funny jab at Jagger and his notorious sex life, crossed with a small-town coming-of-age story. And there's an added quirk: Its main character, like actor/playwright Albert, has cerebral palsy.
Jumpin' Jack is Albert's third solo show, following the successful Scraping the Surface and Objects in the Mirror May Be Stranger Than They Appear -- works that dealt candidly and humorously with his cerebral palsy. This time, he tries on a fictional character and makes his disability incidental to the comedy. It's a transitional piece that still needs some work.
While the Jagger material is amusing, Albert's wittiest writing comes in his descriptions of Jack's adolescence in a farming community, bits that hark back to his earlier shows. And lurking under the play's good-natured exterior are darker aspects that he touches on but doesn't really explore -- the despair of the betrayed single mother and the pain of the abandoned child. He lets Jagger and his kind get off too easily. This is, after all, the man who sang (in what may be the Stones' most odious song), "Some girls give me children I never asked them for."
As a performer, on the other hand, Albert again defies expectations. Once you adjust to his voice and his self-described "jumpy" movements, he's captivating.
The production, directed by One Yellow Rabbit's Blake Brooker, is a tidy spoof of rock-concert aesthetics. Albert slouches across the stage in black leather pants and a red silk shirt. Appearing at once glorious and geeky, he's every guy who ever tried to look like his favourite rock musician. But he also reminds us that it was Jagger who proved you don't need a pretty face to be a sex symbol. Or, as Jack puts it while letting us admire his profile: "It's okay to be odd-looking, as long as it's in a good-looking way." Jumpin' Jack Flash runs tonight and tomorrow night as part of One Yellow Rabbit's High Performance Rodeo in Calgary, and Feb. 8-10 at Workshop West Theatre's KaBoom Performance Theatre Series in Edmonton. Information: 403-264-3224 (Calgary), 780-477-5955 (Edmonton).