Theatre that takes it back to the 90s at Buddies in Toronto
I expected to laugh and I expected to sing along but I didn’t expect A Very Christerical 90’s Cabaret to make me cry. In retrospect it’s not so surprising: for one thing, the show is in Tallulah’s Cabaret at Buddies, which is a space with a bar, so I was softened up by the pitchers my companion and I were downing. And music is very good at evoking emotion, and music from a significant period in a person’s history has even more of an impact. Chris Tsujiuchi is slightly younger than I, but his tales of growing up queer in the 90’s definitely resonated with me. It also helped that he is a very good story-teller and an absolutely delightful performer.
The musicianship of Chris and his band is impressive, at least to me who couldn’t carry a tune if it had handles. They flow from hip hop to country to alt rock in fast paced and whimsical medleys that kept us dancing in our chairs. I found myself enjoying songs I hated in high school. (Cough, Shania Twain, cough.) I found myself remembering the words to songs I had forgotten existed.
And then, when we were all revved up on music and nostalgia, the band would take a break and Chris would tell us some funny and poignant story from his youth. He told us about being fat and awkward and gay in middle school and high school in the nineties. Chris is so charming I think everyone would enjoy his stories, but for those of us who were fat and awkward and gay(ish) in the nineties (though for me that decade was all of high school and the first half of university) it hits home in a wonderful way.
Occasionally Chris would take a break and let his backup singers take the spotlight, and they are all wonderfully talented in their own right. My favourite of these, however, was Hilary Wilson’s crooning cover of Baby Got Back. I have a fondness for non-hip-hop covers of hip-hop songs – that’s what I listen to when I need cheering up – and I think Hilary’s version is just as good as Jonathan Coulton’s.
My only problem with the show is that it had to end. The nineties was a whole decade; they couldn’t cover all the songs, even with the medleys where they just did a couple of bars of each. But this is the fourth annual 90’s cabaret, so hopefully they’ll do another one next year and then I’ll get to hear more of my favourites. In the meantime, I’ll just keep to my habit of listening to the 90’s on 9 on satellite radio whenever I rent a car. And of course there’s always Youtube.