Review: Girl Crush (Musical Stage Company/CanStage)

Sharron MatthewsOne-person show takes to the Toronto stage with hopeful and funny messages

Just in case Shakespeare isn’t your jam (we won’t judge), Toronto’s High Park Amphitheatre provided a quick break from the Bard this week for local funny lady Sharron Matthews and her cabaret show Girl Crush. Co-produced by The Musical Stage Company and Canadian Stage, Sharron spends a delightful hour with us dishing out personal stories interwoven with melodic covers of old favourite tunes about heartbreak and insecurity.

Although she is most well-known as Joan the Secretary, the unsung heroine of classic film Mean Girls, Ms. Matthews is an enchanting talent in her own right. I wasn’t entirely sure that a cabaret, an inherently intimate form of performance, would work in the expanse of an outdoor amphitheatre, but the performer’s overflowing personality and cheeky charm made it work.

Matthews’ timing and delivery on jokes are precise, and her singing voice is crystalline and awesome in the classical sense of the word. The show as a concept could work even if she happened to be a less talented singer, but Matthews does nothing halfway. By the time she got to her encore, I was regretting not bringing a lighter to wave back and forth in the air.

The show bleeds with that sort of infectious, candid hilarity. Her arrangements of hit songs are also particularly well-thought-out. A few changes to the lyrics of Jesse’s Girl and the song goes from pining over “a woman like that” to addressing the admiration and envy in interpersonal, female relationships. And frankly, you haven’t lived until you have heard an acoustic jazz cover of Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap.

A lot of the show’s songs and references do date it somewhat. As a child of the 1990s myself, it occasionally took a bit of extra effort for me to keep up with her jokes and anecdotes. Nonetheless, Matthews doesn’t talk down to her audience, and it was actually quite intriguing to hear personal stories that gave greater context to the songs I’ve grown up hearing, or hearing about. When Matthews began dishing on tales about real-life mean girls, though, generational gaps became a non-issue. The theme of her show could be summed up in a single line she utters towards the ending: “This is how I am, and it’s @#$%ing awesome”.

This message and her songs are her ultimate answer to the uncertainty that plague the teenage and young adult years of so many of us. As an anxious 20-something woman still in the thick of such insecurities myself, there’s something beautiful about hearing an affirmation like that from a 40-something woman playing to a packed amphitheatre. It’s almost as if a message of hope is being projected back in time, cutting through the fear and doubt inside of us. For that above all else, I must thank Ms. Matthews for conceiving and staging this show.

Girl Crush is (or was!) a one-night-only performance at the High Park Amphitheater. However, Ms. Matthews does tour this show, so keep an eye on her website for the next time she performs it.

Image provided by the company.