Verdant or pedant?

New Sky Gilbert play hits Theatre Centre

Set in the Garden Of Allah, a drag bar that actually existed in 1940s and ’50s Seattle, Garden Variations is a delightful musical romp from queer bard Sky Gilbert.

Expertly clowning, singing, bitching and bawling their way through multiple characters and set pieces, Clinton Walker and newcomer Salvatore Migliore deliver stellar performances, standing out from a good ensemble cast that includes Kathryn Haggis, Mark Harapiak and countertenor Carl Strygg

Allan Moon’s music is strong and Gilbert’s sassy writing (book and lyrics) is out-loud funny and brimming with keen observation.

The only troubles in this juicy slice of rule-bound life are some ill-conceived theatrical devices. Switching eras, having characters step out of scenes and the on-the-nose running commentary often get in the way of the audience’s enjoyment and our investment in the play’s ideas on self-worth and (gender) conformity.

But such quibbles aren’t too intrusive in this production; Garden Variations is an entertaining, praiseworthy show.

The Madame Peabody’s Co-op/The Cabaret Company production of Garden Variations continues at the Theatre Centre (1032 Queen St W) until Sun, Feb 28 with 8:30pm show times. Tix are $15; call (416) 538-0988.

The contributor photo for Gordon Bowness

Gordon Bowness (he/him) is the executive editor of Xtra. With a 30-year career covering the LGBTQ2S+ community, Gordon is also the founding editor of Go Big magazine and In Toronto (now In Magazine). He is an English speaker and lives in Toronto.

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