Toronto’s Videofag presents Cherry Corsage, a colourful show with queer references and ’90s music
The pink Starbust I’m sucking on, courtesy of the wonderful candy bar at The Citadel Theatre – where I just saw Videofag‘s Cherry Corsage – feels to me like a metaphor for the show: delicious, chewy, brightly packaged, pretty, full of incomprehensible ingredients, best enjoyed in small amounts, and not necessarily everyone’s favourite in the pack.
This was a shiny show. As soon as we entered I was awestruck by the simple yet dazzling set. It was a shimmering, colourful fabric fetishist’s wet dream come true. There were equally bright and colourful people dancing.
My companion, Violet, asked if the show had already begun. “Not sure” I told her, as the description “a queer pantomime about the tiny show businesses we turn our lives into” left me totally uncertain about what to expect.
Then the show started. Without question, it had begun. Here is where I would normally tell you what the show was about, the underlying theme, and maybe some plot points. Unfortunately, I’m still not really sure, and this is after about an hour of post-show research.
When I asked Violet for her overall impression, her eyes widened, she took a deep breath, and said “WELL… it seemed like maybe it was trying to be deep, but I didn’t understand it, so it didn’t seem deep to me”.
I grabbed a programme, hoping for some insight. I googled Kristen Wiig, Tyler Oakley, and Nash Grier – all heavily referenced in the show – and spent the whole ride home trying to remember the other names I wasn’t familiar with – to no avail (they’re not in the programme). I’m no more enlightened than I was an hour ago.
If you’re familiar with these people you may understand the show better than I did. Alanis Morissette was the closest thing I could find resembling a theme. Rachael Ray and Isaac Mizrahi were definitely there – and references to his “floral print boyfriend cardigan” were prominent.
Despite the research, and having no clue about what on earth I just witnessed, I still enjoyed myself, and the show. It was really funny. The performances – especially by Vannary Sok and Jake Vanderham – were excellent. The choreography, physicality, set design, staging, and timing were near-perfect.
My companion and I both agreed: as children of the ’90s, the music was our favourite part. The characters, though confusing at times, were diverse and engaging. Every performer brought their all, and the cast was an absolute joy to watch.
Violet and I also agreed: before the last scene, “Alanis” – played by creator David Bernstein – promised some wrapping up of loose ends, some answers to lingering questions. None came – at least not for us – and the earlier suggestion to ask ourselves certain questions about the characters just left us more confused. The show could have maybe done without that last scene, or with a shorter one. Like the Starburst: best enjoyed in a smaller amount.
If you like colourful, wild, unique, loud, hilarious, well-acted, music- and dance-heavy shows, with queer references and great ’90s music, get yourself to see this show toute de suite. I won’t be surprised if the remaining two shows sell out like tonight’s did.
If you’re someone who needs closure and cohesion, and prefer more traditional theatre, I would suggest something else. Unless you really love free candy* and model-esque men in mesh shirts.
*The free candy may have been an opening night bonus. I make no promises.
Photo of Brendan Flynn, Jake Vanderham by Elizabeth Kelly