Sharron Matthews wants you to feel like a superstar. Unless you’re Kim Kardashian.
“How exactly does someone become a celebrity for making a sex tape?” the Hamilton-born chanteuse fumes. “I watched it, for research purposes only. And the only interesting thing about it is that they’re both chewing gum the entire time.”
Matthews won’t say whether K-Kard and company get a mention in her cabaret spectacular, Sharron Matthews Superstar: Gold. But given the subject matter, audiences shouldn’t be surprised if the sibling celebutantes feature.
“It’s got gold hits and gold diggers,” Matthews laughs. “But it’s also about people who try to steal your personal gold, those things that make each of us unique.”
Self-actualization through storytelling and song is Matthews’s trademark. She cut her teeth as an actor for large-scale musical theatre at 20 while still a student at Sheridan College; her first Broadway gig came at 24. Though Matthews says she enjoyed playing to thousands and the commensurate paycheque, she gradually realized it wasn’t for her.
“I’d wanted to be on Broadway since I was a child,” she says. “But after a while I realized it wasn’t who I was. I wanted to create my own material, rather than just interpret other people’s. Striking out on my own forced me to find my own voice.”
Matthews’s show features quirky interpretations of cabaret standards, with sprinklings of Lady Gaga, Justin Timberlake, Queen and Radiohead. The show’s Toronto premiere launches a three-month tour, which will take her to Edinburgh and London, UK, followed by Cape Town, South Africa. Though she’s warbled many a tune in Great Britain, the Rainbow Nation will be a whole new playing field.
“They said I couldn’t be blasphemous or profane, so I sent them a list of words to see what’s okay,” she says. “I checked to see whether I can say ‘shit’ or ‘bitch.’ I’m hopeful for ‘fuck,’ and I’d like to throw out ‘cocksucker’ if I can.”
Though Matthews still finds herself in bigger houses occasionally, it’s that small-space intimacy she’s shooting for regardless of venue size. When she launched her monthly Sharron’s Party cabaret series at the Gladstone Hotel in 2005, she developed what became a career-long habit: greeting audience members individually pre-show.
“I was so nervous when I started working on my own, and talking to people on a casual level before the show was a way to combat that,” she says. “The first few minutes of any performance is always about trying to win the audience over. But if they feel a connection before you hit the stage, you’ve already got them in your corner.”
Since she folded Sharron’s Party in 2010, in favour of less frequent though more complex shows, she’s adopted the Lloyd Webber-esque moniker Sharron Matthews Superstar.
Could this be a sign of a messiah complex?
“I’m a spiritual person and I believe in the goodness of my fellow mankind, but I’m not trying to save the world,” she laughs. “I’m trying to take over. It’s not a messiah complex. It’s a Madonna complex.”