Review: Montreal hits a musical high with “Last Night at the Gayety”

EDITOR'S PICK!

Daniel Brochu as nemesis inspector Pax Plante and Julia Juhas as the statuesque striptease goddess Lili St. Cyr. Photo Credit: Andrée Lanthier.

Closing its 2015-16 season with much glamour, glitter, and gusto, the Centaur Theatre Company presents the World Premiere of the musical comedy “Last Night at the Gayety”. Under the direction of Roy Surette and with original music, lyrics and book by Rick Blue and George Bowser, the cheeky creators of “Schwartz’s the Musical” are back at it again in their latest and greatest love letter to Montreal. 

It’s 1951, height of the Prohibition Era in the “wide open” capital, and cabaret clubs, seedy brothels, and gambling dens galore garnish the Saint Catherine strip. Strip, indeed, is the draw at The Gayety Theatre, home of legendary burlesque artiste Lili St. Cyr (Julia Juhas), “the best dressed, undressed lady” in the biz.

A landmark attraction in the city’s Red Light District at the time (and present day site of the Theatre du Nouveau Monde), the Gayety and its sultry star suddenly become the target of an official inquest to save the citizens of Montreal from crime, corruption, and sinful debauchery. From the grave, ghostly Gayety club owner Tommy (Frayne McCarthy) here narrates the tale of the demise of his vaudevillian empire in a sizzling spectacle of jazzy showtunes and dance.

Head of the raid crusade, rancorous Police Chief Pacifique “Pax” Plante (Daniel Brochu) sets out to put a stop to the obscene fun and dirty games, cracking down on the shadiest after-hours hotspots and liquor-law violators with the help of the scruffy young cop Donald (Jonah Carson) and the blessing of priest Marie-Joseph d’Anjou (Michel Perron). Meanwhile, Mafia middleman Jimmy (Davide Chiazzese) keeps the mobster trade tables turning and gullible Griffintown girl Molly (Holly Gauthier-Frankel) joins the ranks of the scantily clad Gayety chorus girls (Tamara Brown, Rosie Callaghan, and Shannon T. McNally) in the attempt to escape a life of poverty. What ensues when this ensemble of mischieveous characters come to clash in a story of tension between modernity and morality is but a sure bet of amusement and hilarity.

Last Night at the Gayety features an irresistibly stellar cast, with no single weak link to name. From Julia Juhas' lusty presence and poised portrayal of Lili St. Cyr to local burlesque queen Holly Gauthier-Frankel's (a.k.a. Miss Sugarpuss) tap and twirl extravaganzas, there is no performance to fault. Photo Credit: Andrée Lanthier.
Last Night at the Gayety features an irresistibly stellar cast, with no single weak link to name. From Julia Juhas’ lusty presence and poised portrayal of Lili St. Cyr to local burlesque queen Holly Gauthier-Frankel’s (a.k.a. Miss Sugarpuss) tap and twirl extravaganzas, there is no performance to fault. Photo Credit: Andrée Lanthier.

With 18 sparkling new songs by dream team of composers Bowser and Blue, masterful arrangements and colourful orchestrations by musical director Chris Barillaro, and thrilling choreography by Jonathan Patterson, no entertainment escapade to Broadway or Vegas is necessary any time soon, really. Perhaps still living up to its historical “Sin City” sobriquet, Montreal has in Gayety one of the most dazzling home-grown acts to ever grace the stage. (Original musicals are already a treasured, rare godsend as they are…but, truly, this show has been the most fun I’ve experienced at the theatre this entire season. If such pleasure is to be forbidden, arrest me, by all means.)

Comically capturing the political, religious, social, and cultural transformations of Quebequois society that occurred during the nostalgic Golden years, Last Night at the Gayety is a nonstop explosion of scandal, steam, and satire to keep you high for days. Indisputably (and quite literally) the hottest theatre ticket in town, this is the show you hope there won’t be a last night of; in the meantime, you have until May 15th, 2016 to strut your way on over to the Centaur Theatre, 453 St. François-Xavier, and join the party. Tickets are $33-55 and can be purchased online, in-house, or by calling the Box Office at 514-288-3161.


Review by Montreal Theatre Hub Editor-in-Chief Camila Fitzgibbon

Last Night at the Gayety

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Camila Fitzgibbon

Founder & Editor-in-Chief at Montreal Theatre Hub
Multidisciplinary performing artist and passionate Founder & Editor-in-Chief of Montreal Theatre Hub, Camila breathes and lives theatre. She is the proud recipient of the 2017 Carla Napier Award from John Abbott’s Professional Theatre Program for industry potential in acting as well as for her current contributions in helping the local arts community connect, grow, and thrive. MTH is a labour of love.
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