Review: Viva Cabaret – A Tribute to the Greatest Divas (Rivoli)

The Rivoli’s Viva Cabaret takes the stage and Kicks Off Toronto’s WorldPride In Campy Style

Viva Cabaret, performed by Yury Ruzhyev at The Rivoli on July 25 and 26, was an absolutely delightful cabaret drag show and the perfect way to kick off Pride weekend a day early. Ruzhyev performs numbers from a dozen of pop music’s greatest Divas with great accuracy and rapidity, making for a night of madcap comedy.

The show itself combines two good-time events: a drag show and a cabaret. Both encourage audience participation and both rely on strong, fun, energetic performances to be great. Ruzhyev takes advantage of these art forms to create a highly energetic, highly engaging show.

Ruzhyev’s great range is proved by his ability to play all of these Divas convincingly regardless of race or gender. Whether it’s getting Whitney Houston’s head-jerking just right or playing a Liza Minnelli who is distinctly different when she is old and when she is young, the man can do no wrong.

I loved Ruzhyev’s Edith Piaf who practically threw herself off-stage to get to her audience singing “La Vie En Rose” and his Marlene Dietrich who was slinky and sexy in her masculine pantsuit. Both characters emphasized Ruzhyev’s European take on the Diva review show.

It was also refreshing to see Ruzhyev play men too; drag performers so rarely do impressions of people of their own gender. Ruzhyev’s wonderful Freddie Mercury earned a huge applause when he returned to the stage wearing a cape made out of a Pride flag. And Ruzhyev’s dance background was particularly apparent when he danced “Billy Jean” as Michael Jackson.

And, although he barely needs them to get the characters across, the costumes are spot on throughout the show. Cher’s over-the-top body suit and Beyonce’s gold lamé dress are standouts in a slew of dresses and other costumes that continually shock and amaze.

Seeing Viva Cabaret was such a fun night out and I would happily see another show with Ruzhyev again. In his closing speech, Ruzhyev celebrated the fact that he will become a Canadian citizen tomorrow, thanks to his act keeping him employed in Canada. It’s unsurprising that someone as funny and talented as Ruzhyev can make a living from this act.

Judging by the constant hooting and hollering of the audience, they all loved the show as much as I did. This was the first drag show the friend I brought along with me had ever seen, and she wants to go see another one immediately. It’s just too bad we can’t go see this show again.

The few who got to see the show while it was running are truly lucky, although I somehow doubt that we won’t be seeing another similar show from Ruzhyev sometime soon.

I’d like to offer my personal congratulations to Ruzhyev on an excellent show and on his attaining Canadian citizenship. Welcome to being a Canadian and I hope to see you on stage again soon!

Photo of Yury Ruzhyev provided by the production.