Purely Cabaret (Esby Kabaret) – 2010 Toronto Fringe Review

By Adam Collier

A company called Esby Kabaret mounted a show as part of Fringe (a performing arts festival that ran from Wednesday June 30th to Sunday July 11th at venues throughout the Annex in Toronto). The show – with the title Purely Cabaret – was performed at St. Vladimir’s Theatre.

Purely Cabaret is a two-person show. There’s a singer (her name is Lindsay Sutherland Boal) and a pianist (Elisabeth Scholtz).

To my ear, the timbre was like three things I had heard before – Schubert’s lieder, the blues (in the way that Billie Holliday sings the blues), and tin-pan alley musicals – brought together in varying parts for each song.

At times – like in the song “Surabya Johnny” – the singing took on the commanding power of a jazz diva. While on the piano, the melodies were catchy, and had a time signature and arrangement that dated them in the nineteen twenties and thirties.

The audience was immensely – to say the least – grateful for the performances. Every song got a huge applause.

Between each of the songs there was an interlude. Ms Boal would talk a bit about her connection to the song she was about to perform. Or, as she did at one point, disclose some of her transition from performing opera to singing cabaret songs in German.

I always got the sense there was something extremely careful – almost rigid – about these less formal moment though.

And for me, those interludes were indicative of the look and manner of most of the show. Ms Boal’s costume for example is very tight and revealing – and yet, something about the tails on her jacket and the way she holds her body onstage seems conservative, carefully restrained.

When Ms Scholtz (the pianist) became more a part of the show in its second-half, the tension that I sensed suffusing those interludes and the performance generally, went away.

Ms Boal and Ms Scholtz have great musical report with one another throughout the show, perform some amusing shtick and share a crowd-pleasing duet.

The show ended with a fantastic number (with the title “Tschaikowsky and Other Russians”).