Orlando Fringe review: 'Rhubarb the Bear'

Before you start the wisecracks, be advised that Rhubarb the Bear has heard it all:

Yeah, he knows that he looks like those famous bears at that theme park down the road. He's heard enough Chuck E. Cheese jokes to last a lifetime.

And don't talk to him about animatronics or he's likely to pick up his electric guitar and start clanging out a 1950s Elvis Presley hit, as Rhubarb does in the opening moments of the one-man musical that, uh, bears his name.

It's obvious that this bear is tired of being misunderstood, but all of the aforementioned comparisons come to mind when looking at this guitar-strumming, piano-pounding character in a glittery red vest, baggy blue pants and, yes, a bear suit.

Rhubarb is the alter ego of composer and musician Ned Wilkinson, an Orlando resident by way of Branson, Mo. Wilkinson makes this bear hipper than all of those others put together.

In this fun, briskly paced one-bear show, he plays Jimi Hendrix songs, basks in the blues ("pondering the regrets, sorrows and miseries that have fueled my muse") and tinkles the ivories in a dandy piano-bar version of "The Bare Necessities." There's a whiff of serious emotion along the way, but not enough to unnecessarily darken the mood.

Face it: Just the sight of a dude in a bear suit playing piano is entertaining on some level. With Rhubarb's musicianship and comedic sense, he makes the most of his animal magnetism.

60 mins. Rated G. Red venue


5/18, 12:15 p.m.

5/19, 5:30 p.m.

5/20, 8:15 p.m.

5/22, 5:45 p.m.

5/25, 5:45 p.m.

5/26, 3:45 p.m.

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