Review: VILLAINS An 80s Musical Cabaret (Small But Mighty Productions)

Photo of Jade McLeod, Ali Hand, Hugh Ritchie, Matt Lacas, Caitlin Turner provided by the company.Buddies in Bad Times presents a fun multi-disciplined cabaret on stage in Toronto

Buddies in Bad Times Theatre hosts Small But Mighty Productions VILLAINS An 80s Musical Cabaret in their intimate cabaret space (with a cash bar!). Despite a somewhat draggy first portion, VILLAINS is overall a fun, lighthearted show.


Set in a pink-lit, moody cavern, many audience members with drinks in hand, there’s a relaxed camaraderie in the room. Nobody is worked up or worried here, and it’s fitting for this easy-to-like show.

Only knowing the title, I admit I expected a more song-focused experience. This piece embodies a full-on narrative complete with costumes, props, and set design, and a fairly fleshed out script.

A group of supervillains are incarcerated for crimes committed with their evil powers. Instead of facing the average prison, they’re placed in a rehabilitative program under an insidiously peppy leader, aptly named ‘Prudy’ (performed with grace by Jessica Marie Harb).

Given some of the character names (Cain, Jezebel, Dante, etc), I was perhaps wrongly expecting more songs that related to what the historical villain is known for. Instead, the names were only vaguely related to the modern-context crimes that they were incarcerated for. The show focused primarily on the various relationships between the prisoners.

A favourite scene for me was the brother-sister playful song, performed by Mason M Micevski and Ali Hand. Their joy was sincere and relatable, reminding me of my own nostalgic sibling antics.

The songs were quite well arranged by Musical Director Quinton Naughton. I found myself looking forward to the full group harmonies. The cast truly shone in these moments.

The winning element of this show came from Kristen Pepper’s dynamic choreography. The precise musicality and energetic jazz style was a perfect match for this era, danced well by the cast.

Although both my guest Chloé and I agreed that when the iconic song ‘Sweet Dreams are Made of These’ was cut short, and with hardly any choreography, it struck us as a missed opportunity.

Speaking of missed opportunities, there was a moment where the sex-pot character Jezebel (Jade McLeod) spoke frequently of working with showgirls on the strip in Vegas — I would have loved to see the prisoners embody their sexuality with more of Pepper’s great work.

But that aside, special mention goes to Danik McAfee for his ability to carry an absurd character the entire show — until his surprise dramatic ending, which I’ll not spoil, other than to say it’s worth the wait.

I love me some wacky melodrama, and there was no shortage of Backstreet Boys-style reaching for the fans, throwing oneself against the wall in angst, and otherwise awesome physical comedy gags from director Melly Magrath.

I also appreciate the presence of LGBTQ+ couples onstage, especially being at Buddies, and especially since the company has no explicit mandate for this type of inclusivity; it’s simply a given.

In all, this was a fun night out, once we got past the slower paced beginning. In Chloé’s words: “It was good times.” Prepare yourself more for a lighthearted play with music than a true cabaret, and you’ll be set.

Details

  • VILLAINS An 80s Musical Cabaret plays at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre (12 Alexander Street) until October 29, 2017.
  • Performances are at 7:30 pm with weekend matinees at 1:30 pm.
  • Tickets are $22.00 + service fees and can be purchased online.
  • Audience Advisory: This show contains sexual themes and some coarse language, viewer discretion is advised.