Review: RUBABOO Delights Audiences at Edmonton's Citadel Theatre

Rubaboo runs at The Citadel’s Maclab Theatre until March 3. 

By: Feb. 20, 2024
Review: RUBABOO Delights Audiences at Edmonton's Citadel Theatre
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There’s nothing more comforting than a home-cooked meal. In this case, it’s a rubaboo- a hearty stew simmering over a glowing campfire. The founder of the feast is Andrea Menard, a Métis singer-songwriter hailing from Flin Flon, Manitoba (Treaty 1 Territory). Her colourful cabaret, Rubaboo (the Michif word for “leftover stew”), is a whimsical, 95-minute musical feast steeped in storytelling, dance, and culture. 

There is a palpable sense of belonging from the moment the curtain rises. Menard welcomes the audience as if they are visiting her home. She introduces the concept of the never-ending circle integral to many Indigenous creation stories and describes the unity it symbolizes. Coincidentally, the show’s venue- The Citadel’s semi-circular Maclab Theatre- literally embodies this concept. The four elements- fire, water, wind, and earth- are also explored through a Métis cultural lens. As Menard remarks, they are each integral to cooking up a rubaboo that not only nourishes the body but the spirit.  

Menard is joined by three other musicians: Karen Shepherd, Robert Walsh, and Nathen Aswell. Together, they deliver stirring renditions of Menard and Walsh’s songs including Gather Round, This Spark, and Memmere’s Rubaboo. The latter- a humorous ballad inspired by Menard’s memmere (great-grandmother)- is especially a delight to listen to.

On the other hand, the cast also sheds light on hardships endured by Métis people. Menard pays homage to Louis Riel in Riel’s Prayer and relays the horrors of Indigenous residential schools in the solemn number, Where is God in this Place. She also explores the weighty topic of truth and reconciliation through a lens of hope. She relays the over 200-year-old saga of the church bell stolen from and returned to the Métis settlement of Batoche. The bell- named Marie Antoinette- inspired the uplifting Return of the Bell of Batoche, which Menard also performed at the treasure’s 2013 re-instillation ceremony.  

From beginning to end, Rubaboo is a feast for the senses. Its whimsical score is complimented by Cimmeron Meyer’s playful set design, which features backdrops reminiscent of Métis beadwork and a rubaboo pot in the foreground. Like a hearty stew, the production brims with vibrant ingredients, creating a rich experience that audiences will savour. 

Photo by Nanc Price for The Citadel Theatre’s production of Rubaboo (2024), featuring Andrea Menard.