Review: SCHWARTZ'S THE MUSICAL Staged Reading at Centaur Theatre

By: Dec. 16, 2018
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Review: SCHWARTZ'S THE MUSICAL Staged Reading at Centaur Theatre

For part deux of their Legacy Series, Centaur Theatre offered up a staged reading of Schwartz's The Musical, as their two-cheek kiss to Montreal audiences. Originally a fully staged box office hit in 2011, Schwartz's The Musical is the work of Canada's political comedy duo Bowser and Blue, with the show's concept having been inspired by Bill Brownstein's chronicle of the landmark delicatessen.

Speaking to audience members, it seems that many Montrealers are not so well-versed with what a staged reading entails. Let me enlighten those who are unclear: For this rendition of Schwartz's, the original cast and live band spent three days rehearsing the show, and performed it with script and sheet music in hand (or rather on music stands). That meant no set, few props, simple costumes, limited staging, abridged choreography, and basic sound and lighting cues. It was a musical on a budget, and I can tell you that thanks to the co-direction of Eda Holmes and Jonathan Patterson as well as the immeasurable onstage talent, I didn't miss the frills one bit.Review: SCHWARTZ'S THE MUSICAL Staged Reading at Centaur Theatre

That being said, as much as I appreciated some the "rye" humour of Schwartz's, the piece itself had more schmaltz than the large smoked meat platter. The libretto served up many cheap laughs, peppered with insults about Torontonians and innumerable deli-related puns. What made the show more palatable was the cast of (mainly) local performers who demonstrated incredible versatility in both the acting and singing departments. Under the skilled musical direction of Chris Barrillaro, the ensemble cast's blend and harmonies managed to impress. Barrillaro's ability to multitask as onstage conductor, keyboardist, actor and singer was a feast for audience members. Always a pleasure were the vocal chops of Stephanie Martin (Montreal's original Eponine who we lost down the 401), as well as the more comedic Holly Gauthier-Frankel and Felicia Shulman.

Schwartz's the Musical cuts the mustard if you're into cheesy musicals, but the lack of plot left me in a pickle. While an admirable way to showcase Montreal talent from soup to nuts, this show was a bit of a matzo ball. The Legacy Series continues in May 2019 with Alice Abracen's play "What Rough Beast" about the political polarization of a university campus.


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