Buddies is Awake with Spring and Song

I had an extraordinary experience at Buddies in Bad Times theatre last night which I think epitomizes exactly why certain theatre artists in this city feel as though we are standing on the brink of something gigantic, exhilarating and imminent. Last night I experienced the last (for now) of Buddies’ Shameless Sundays series hosted by the unabashedly whimsical Ari Weinberg (and Greg Gibson on the keys! (he can play everything!)). The evening was billed as “an open mic piano bar with chutzpah” and indeed it turned out to be a night of some of Toronto’s most incredible talent coming together to share songs and stories, where everyone was encouraged to sing, drink and mingle. The audience was crammed into Tallulah’s Cabaret; I’m sure it was packed to capacity, and although the evening may have dragged a smidgen in bits between songs, Weinberg proved his ability to coolly and confidently attend to each small hitch that arose with the ultimate panache.
I was pleased to see that many of the usual suspects showed up. Sharron Matthews captivated the entire room with her breathtaking rendition of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Bryce Kulak and Michael Hughes treated everyone to “You’re My Man,” Sara Farb sang “My Brother Lived in San Francisco” utterly heartbreakingly, and Gabi Epstein belted out “My Simple Christmas Wish” (i.e. Rich, Famous and Powerful). I was also excited to get the chance to see some new (to me) talented folks perform (many whose illustrious names were known to me, but who I hadn’t had the pleasure of seeing before and a few who genuinely burst out of nowhere!).
The night opened with the razor-sharp wit of Kritty Uranowski, who wrote an adorable song called “Adrian;” she is pure joy to watch. Alex Saslove (currently starring in Dog Sees God which everyone says is fantastic) sang a fantastic rendition of “I Just Want to Be a Star” from Nunsense. Tricia Lackey, who I saw play the Baker’s Wife in Into the Woods at Sheridan College in 2004, sang “Any Moment/Moments in the Woods” and may be even more charming now. Then Anna Sudac burst out of the woodwork and blew everyone away with this awesome song she wrote (how are all these triple threat Sheridan kids songwriters too!?) called “Derailed” and then she did this amazing rap that truly cannot be recreated in words. She is one to watch for, folks, she has got her own thing going on and it’s totally cool.
It was an assortment of local talent, a trend that Statler’s Piano Lounge and Buddies have been perpetuating for the past few months, and this time we were joined by some extremely talented performers visiting Toronto on tour with the Mirvish production of Spring Awakening. It was amazing to have a space where performers from different cities in different countries could come together and sing, drink and mingle on a completely equal playing field. I have been saying for years that Canadian performers, and Canadian theatre in general, is in no way inferior to the theatre produced anywhere else, and last night, seeing two theatre communities come together and blend so nicely, gave me a lovely sense of affirmation.
Only at Shameless Sundays will Matt Doyle be introduced (by Ari, clearly) as having “the best ass on display in the city!” He treated us to a beautiful rendition of “These Arms of Mine” (with Freddy Hall on guitar). Hall also accompanied Sarah Hunt (making her guitar playing debut!) and Claire Sparks singing “Easy Silence” by the Dixie Chicks. Sparks then sang a mesmerizing rendition of “Don’t Want to Miss a Thing,” Julie Benko’s voice soared terrifically with her version of “Easy to be Hard” and Anthony Lee Medina showed off his lovely voice with “Lost in the Wilderness.” Andy Mientus led a joyful, hilarious, quasi-political sing along that celebrated the fact that we are all at least a “little bit” gay, and then he and Ben Moss performed a wonderful, if quirky, rendition of “The Dark I Know Well.” Julie Danielson, who plays the bass in Spring Awakening, sang a sweet rendition of “A Way Back to Then” and to top it all off, Christy Altomare sang one of her own songs entitled “The Motion of You” which showed off her sensual side.
I stand in such awe of all the phenomenal young talents who pepper our city right now. When these sorts of evenings happen, I know that I am witnessing something truly momentous and I am hopeful that the convergence of the Toronto theatre community with members of theatre communities elsewhere will only continue as we keep rejoicing and singing loud and proud and boosting each other toward the stars.

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