Last Night at the Gayety at Centaur Theatre – Montreal

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Hey all! It’s been about a month and a half since I’ve seen a show, and that is honestly so blasphemous. But I finally made it out last night to Centaur Theatre to catch Last Night at the Gayety, a new musical by the writing team Rick Blue and George Bowser. You may know them if you’re a native Montrealer from their show Schwartz’s: The Musical, based on the iconic Montreal smoked meat sandwich shop. I didn’t get to see that particular show, but I’m so glad to have made it out to catch this one.

These two guys have been doing this sort of thing for a long time. They’ve been working together since 1978 and have written 17 shows together, so I’m really grateful to have been introduced to them. And their experience absolutely shows in their writing.

Gayety is set in early 50’s Montreal and discusses the morality laws that were attempting to shut down burlesque and vaudeville shows. The plot revolves around Pax Plante, chief of police, and Lili St. Cyr, a famous burlesque dancer, and is narrated by Gayety club owner Tommy. While the plot itself is a bit weak and doesn’t have a clear direction, the use of Tommy as a narrator and kind of MC was very strong with his awareness of our present and his role in history. Very meta.

Which brings me to the direction and set design, a smaller stage on the main stage with an opening and closing red curtain, creating an awareness of the theatricality for the audience. For those of you who are familiar with Broadway shows, it was actually quite similar to the Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder set. It allowed for quick set changes and emphasized the fishbowl quality of the events transpiring. Totally effective, and also allowed for some fun shadow puppet moments.

And that’s what this show is: fun. If somewhat predictable and repetitive, the humour written into the dialogue and the song lyrics had me laughing all night. These guys really know how to write.

The music was advertised as having a sort of bluegrass feel, but to me, Bowser and Blue wrote an entirely Broadway score. I could feel the Gilbert and Sullivan influences in the music. Perhaps the score would have been more memorable if the songs had been more interconnected or if there had been some returning themes, but it certainly did the job of entertaining the audience. The songs did tend to draw on a bit long, however, without actually advancing the plot any further, which tends to drag on the show a little.

Despite this, it was an excellent musical, and I can’t wait to see and hear what these guys come up with next. The performers were also immensely talented and radiated energy, which really brought heart to the show. If you grew up in Montreal, you will adore this show!

Last Night at the Gayety is playing at Centaur Theatre until May 15th. Tickets are $55 for adults, $47.50 for seniors, $41.50 for under 30, and $33 for students. Video footage and audio available on their website.