Arts & Entertainment
2 min

A night of Broadway tunes

Expect the unexpected at Modern Broadway cabaret

“We are slowly gaining a reputation as a company that performs ‘weird stuff.’ We will be performing a song about the good old days of being a lesbian, when all the men were off at war and the field at home was easy to play. It’s not the kind of stuff you’d hear on the cast recording for South Pacific!”

Producer Kris Joseph is talking about his exciting new show — Centre Stage Cabaret: Modern Broadway, premiering Feb 9 and 10, at the National Arts Centre’s Fourth stage.

Promising a night of “the best show tunes you’ve never heard,” Modern Broadway is not your run-of-the-mill cabaret. The idea of focussing on lesser-known show tunes intrigued Joseph. The show includes quirky, contemporary pieces from musicals that played both on and off Broadway in the last decade, such as Tick, Tick … Boom!, Andrew Lippa’s The Wild Party, The Spitfire Grill, Scarlet Pimpernel, Avenue Q, The 25th Annual Putnam Spelling Bee, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Spamalot and The Drowsy Chaperon.

An advocate for the ‘underdog’ musical pieces, Joseph carefully selected the material for Modern Broadway with his musical director, Wendy Bekelaar. He explains his attraction to tunes you might not have been humming for the last decade.

“It has to do, primarily, with our love of some of the music that’s being created for the theatre today. People may be familiar with shows like Spamalot because they win Tony awards and generate huge box office, but for every Spamalot there are a dozen other shows that aren’t heard about much, outside of New York City. Not all of these productions are successful, but many of them feature some incredible music. Quite a bit of that music is being written by a host of young composers who are trying to find a new voice for musical theatre. We deeply love the songs that we chose.”

Performing alongside Joseph in Modern Broadway are three fabulous local singers: Nicole Milne, Sarah Lynn Strange and Shaun Toohey. Supporting the vocalists are Pierre Huneault on percussion, Pierre Monfils on bass and musical director Wendy Bekelaar on piano.

Modern Broadway is the third cabaret by The Zucchini Grotto Theatre Company. Their last cabaret, Divas, was a sell-out success in November 2006. Zucchini Grotto is made up of local artists, dedicated to bringing small scale high-interest musical theatre to Ottawa — in short, a blessing for gay audiences.

Co-founded by Kris Joseph, partner, Troy and friend, Ken Godmere, the Zucchini Grotto Company took a creative leap of faith in bringing musicals and cabarets to the city. “Ottawa deserved a more thriving musical presence… and we tired of waiting for someone else to do it.”

Joseph, who thrives on the interaction between the audience and performers, wanted to create an enjoyable and intimate experience with the latest production. He is happy with the Fourth Stage venue for the show — it’s a throwback to the origins of cabaret. “Typically, cabarets were performed in bar or café settings, where patrons could sit at tables and drink like happy little fishes. The NAC’s Fourth Stage is perfect for cabarets because most of the seating is at tables, and they operate a bar.”

In keeping the quirky and creative theme, Joseph expects the unexpected. “Some of the songs will be surrounded by shtick, and there will be some playful banter — tidbits about the shows the songs come from, and some of our personal connections to the music. In terms of the banter and staging, we can be a little unpredictable, if rehearsals are any indication!”