Despite early setbacks, The Last Night at the Cabaret Solitaire was a show full of energy and musical talent.
The DAN School of Drama and Music Fall Major, The Last Night at the Cabaret Solitaire, had its first show on Nov. 14, almost a week after the originally scheduled opening date. Due to a COVID-19 outbreak among cast members and the production team, the DAN School Major cancelled five shows, postponing the release by five days.
The cabaret spectacle was a comedic take on what it means to belong in the world, embracing the exceptionalities people bring to everyday life. The overarching message of the show was one of acceptance and connection. From drag show lip-sync performances to ukulele serenades, there was something for everyone in The Last Night at the Cabaret Solitaire.
Director and Professor Grahame Renyk described the show in the program as “a place that exists in between everyday places.” From modern hits to iconic pop songs, the cabaret solitaire brought new meaning to the radio top 100.
The use of projections and lighting throughout the show brought the stage to life as though the audience was getting a glimpse into the lives and minds of each actor. While each character in the show shared the same name as their performer, it was clear the cast had come a long way in bringing unique meaning to the word cabaret.
The production’s Stage Manager Megan McDonell, ArtSci ’26, shared how the cast came together throughout the creative process.
“Grahame [Renyk] really created it for the cast, which meant we didn’t have a show until we had the cast,” McDonell said in an interview with The Journal. “It was just really wonderful to watch Grahame create this show and edit it to make it fit the cast.”
The ensemble shared many musical numbers and comedic bits with one another; however, it appeared that some performers were favoured over others. In a show that’s meant to be a place for everyone, it felt like some performers didn’t get to have their shining moment.
In the program, Renyk wrote that the Cabaret Solitaire celebrates idiosyncrasy and queerness. It was described as being camp and full of glitter, both significant parts of queer identity as it appears in performance and fashion.
While the show did include elements of queer culture and freely played with gender non-conformity, as a member of the queer community, I think the show lacked camp. The costumes felt like the only element that contributed to the camp presence on stage.
There’s a fine line between performative queerness and real queerness in theatre. The queer numbers in the production leaned more toward the performative side, and lacked deeper meaning or reasoning as to why certain performance choices were made.
Considering the long history of cabaret is built on queer identity, it’s difficult to bring modern queer culture into theatre without giving deep thought to present issues in the queer and gender non-conforming community. This performance continues the ongoing conversation about theatre being made for versus with queer people, and onstage community representation.
Overall, The Last Night at the Cabaret Solitaire is a show that builds a sense of belonging, and an idea of ‘anything goes,’ for both cast and audience.
“It’s not like any other show we’ve done here,” McDonell said. The Last Night at the Cabaret Solitaire is a step forward for the DAN School and will hopefully set the groundwork for future works to be just as experimental.”
The Last Night at the Cabaret Solitaire runs from Nov. 14 to 19 at the Rotunda Theatre in Theological Hall. Tickets are available for purchase online.
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