Hot Brown Honey is a dazzling socially driven cabaret, a “brilliant spectacle” on stage in Toronto
Near the beginning of Hot Brown Honey, an Australian export co-produced by Why Not Theatre and Native Earth Performing Arts and presented to lucky Toronto audiences by TO Live, Queen Bee Busty Beats exclaims from the hive-top “Fighting the power never tasted so sweet!” They are unimpeachably correct, so please stand by for several paragraphs of effusive, lavish praise for this spectacular piece of work.
Where even does one begin? Hot Brown Honey is a cabaret, in the modern style but faithful to cabaret roots. It features a pleasing variety of talented acts – music, beatboxing, comedic sketches, aerial acrobatics, and more – organized around a theme. Where many cabarets in recent Toronto memory have had themes like “Star Wars” or “Gothic Vampires,” Hot Brown Honey‘s theme is “Justice and liberation for all, with Black, Indigenous, and women of color to the front.” It’s a very literal spoon full of sugar that makes the medicine go down, and their liberation politics spare no critique.
At the same time, Hot Brown Honey is a brilliant spectacle of blinking lights, ribald humor, booty shaking and deep beats. The work is layered and nuanced – bits suddenly turn from playful to pointed, or from wrenching to triumphant in an eye blink, but the skills do not waver. There’s an absolute ton of talent on display, tightly rehearsed, perfectly choreographed, and lavishly presented. Presented, in particular, as important (and yet not self-important).
As a reviewer, I understand that I am expected to bring my critical faculties to bear on every performance I see. It’s also true, however, that occasionally I see something so good that it washes away the reviewer and leaves only the audience member, elated and exhausted. Hot Brown Honey does that. Go and be swept away, challenged and comforted, warned and welcomed, delighted and devastated in an hour and a half. Don’t miss this.