REVIEW “Girl Crush: An Intensely Personal Cabaret” 4 STARS (out of 4)
Picture by Ben Laird, Design by JP Thibodeau, Accompanied by Vincent Bundick
Written by Louis B Hobson for the Calgary Herald
Girl Crush, the cabaret Sharron Matthews created for Lunchbox Theatre, is as achingly personal as it is immensely entertaining.
Matthews, who has been called Canada’s gift to the world of cabaret, has wowed audiences in the United Kingdom, across Canada, in South Africa and in New York but for years she has wanted to bring her cabaret to Calgary.
That dream came true two years ago when Lunchbox’s out-going artistic director Mark Bellamy invited Matthews to be part of the 2015 Suncor Stage One Festival of New Works.
With his guidance, Matthews created a cabaret for Lunchbox, and what a show it is.
It’s part stand-up comedy, part musical mash up and a very large part autobiographical.
To introduce herself, Matthews opens with Wig in a Box, that confessional anthem from the musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch.
As with all 14 songs in the show, Matthews instantly makes Wig in a Box her own.
It’s about how she was initially more confident on stage than off.
Those wigs let her be someone else and someone she could make people love.
It’s her way of letting us into the tragedy of her youth as an awkward duckling.
When she sings Kim Carnes’ Bette Davis eyes it’s about how intoxicated she was as a child with sexy screen sirens, especially Farrah Fawcett Majors.
Her patter with the audience during this song was a way to find out how many people were on the same page with her references and, to her delight, the audience gladly answered her questions.
Matthews talks about not liking herself because she was ashamed of her body image, so when she sings Charlene’s 1977 hit Never Been To Me the lyrics become so poignant.
She could travel the world but never get away from her feelings of insecurity.
She has a hilarious routine centred around The Police’s Roxanne when her older sister tells her that her newly acquired anthem is about a prostitute.
Her revenge is to bump and grind her way through Blondie’s Call Me.
Nothing I can say will let you know how deeply affecting her version of Jessie’s Girl becomes.
It’s obvious Matthews loves an audience and certainly knows how to work one.
By the time she gets to Girl from the Gutter, Matthews is everyone’s best friend and we want her to get even with those four mean girls who tormented her so mercilessly in Grade 4.
Matthews had the audience laughing raucously until she got midway through her routine about bathing suits and then she tugged at the heartstrings.
We didn’t feel sorry for her.
We identified with her and were tearing up as much for ourselves as we were for her.
This is a show about a performer opening her photo album and sharing photos and stories with us, and that’s precisely what J.P. Thibodeau’s set allows her to do.
The back wall is a collage of picture frames allowing Matthews to show us pictures of her old screen idols, those mean girls, her own elementary school photos and her two bathing suit photos.
There is a downside to Girl Crush.
It ends far too quickly.
Sure, Matthews does one encore, but it’s not nearly enough seeing that in just 50 minutes she becomes an old friend not just a dynamite cabaret star.
As soon as Girl Crush ends its run at Lunchbox Theatre on April 8, she has to pack her bags and head for Feinstein’s/54 Below in New York.
Be assured, New York is just the first stop on a tour that will take Girl Crush around the world.
Created and performed by Sharron Matthews
At Lunchbox Theatre until April 8