After attending a few of the musical parties Sharron Matthews has thrown over the years it is difficult to know how to respond when she looks at you during an interview and says, “Make me sound fabulous and not like an asshole.” It’s this kind of comic humility and mild self-effacement, with a dash of exaggerated emotion, that makes her the kind of performer who can only sound but fabulous.
Trained at Sheridan College in the musical theatre program and currently completing a semester as pop music instructor, Matthews began her cabaret, Sharron’s Party, at the Gladstone Hotel two years ago. Last June she moved to Buddies in Bad Times where she held her first Sharron’s Big Gay Party. On Fri, Dec 12 and 13 her Tallulah’s Christmas show promises to titillate and thrill with a string of naughty carols and fabulous guests that include Sarah Strange, Teresa Pavlineck, Ian Simpson and opera luminary Jean Stilwell.
Last June’s Big Gay Party really didn’t look much different from any of the other shows that are consistently “festive, fabulous and naughty.” Matthews has cultivated a powerful fondness for the gays over the span of her 20-year career. She considers her strongest relationships (“after my husband” of course) to be with gay men and has deep feelings about the community that just seems “to get the humour, the music” that she loves to showcase.
Expect amazing singing. A fall show at Tallulah’s had Brent Carver singing “Ten Cents a Dance” and an astoundingly beautiful theatrical rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Take This Waltz.” Matthews interviews her guests onstage and manages to get juicy tidbits from one and all. While interviewing Carver she recalled her stint as Dora MC last year and described how he leapt from his seat and began to dance along as she entertained and MCed. Nominated for her performance as the wicked witch in The Wizard of Oz she came onstage after losing out to another performer and quipped, “Anyone interested in buying a used witch’s costume?”
She handpicks her cabaret guests: Some are unknown burgeoning singers ripe from an audience participation event; some are the greats of Canadian theatre. Jeigh Madjus, a promising newcomer to the musical theatre scene, with a history of cruise ship entertainment, did a wonderful impromptu rendition of “Do Re Mi” one night and became a featured performer a few weeks later when he wowed guests with complex pop and theatrical numbers.
On more than one occasion shows have included some of the contestants from the reality show How Do You Solve a Problem like Maria? Matthews speaks candidly of her love/hate relationship with the reality program as well as the recent The Sound of Music production itself. “Captain von Trapp and Maria reminded me of someone and I couldn’t figure it out,” she says. “And then it hit me! Céline Dion and René Angélil… Dirty.” She also did her own campy version of “Do Re Mi.”
Matthews feels she celebrates her “disgruntledness” with the Broadway megahit. “We all think we could do better.” The Maria contest winner and current star, Elicia MacKenzie, won Matthews over with her reality show rendition of “You Needed Me” for its honesty of expression — something that lends itself well to the role of the ingenuous alpine nun.
Matthews is unafraid to critique superstars far and wide with a brash, loving intensity that is never cruel but always comically scathing. Meryl Streep’s bubbly yet bewildering performance in Mamma Mia was treated hilariously in a recent show. “She can come to my show and tell me I stink,” says Matthews. “At least I can say Meryl Streep came to my show.”
During one performance her signature “song-alogue” featured autobiographical memories of a childhood attachment to Michael Jackson. Her medley of Jackson favourites from “Thriller” to “Billie Jean” showcased her ability to mix witty self-written monologues with interpretations of popular songs, turning them into layered anthem-like tributes to some of the most memorable moments in 20th-century music history. With the support of pianist Wayne Gwillam (recently at the Shaw Festival and about to join The Sound of Music in 2009) and gorgeous gowns from Fashion Crimes, she is a delicious diva to be reckoned with.
Don’t miss her upcoming Christmas party. If you’re feeling weary and in need of a little sweetness and bitchiness mixed into one fabulous Yuletide spectacle then this is the seasonal show for you.