Fringe review: The Great American Songbook Cabaret


The Great American Songbook Cabaret (Stage 18, Sugar Swing Ballroom)

By Marc Horton

I confess to having once been a tiresome baby boomer much given to lecturing indifferent and bored whippersnappers that it was my generation that had put a stranglehold on pop music.

“We had the Beatles,” I would pronounce, “and Dylan. And the Stones, and…yadda, yadda, yadda…” I think I might once even have included The Monkees, God forgive me.

For the record, I recant. What I said then was balderdash. It was stupid becauseno generation can make the claim to being the best. The generation that comes closest to perfection, however, is the one responsible for the Great American Songbook: classic, unforgettable, evergreen tunes that have proven themselves open to fresh interpretations from singers as different as Renée Fleming, Rod Stewart and Willie Nelson.

Again for the record, I love these songs for their clever lyrics, surprising rhymes and tricky, seductive melodies. Nobody beats Cole Porter or Harold Arlen or Hoagy Carmichael or Johnny Mercer or George and Ira Gershwin or…the list goes on.

And I’m positive that the three young singers and their equally young back up band responsible for this superb cabaret show agree with me. They deserve sellouts.

Victoria Breitkreuz, a MacEwan theatre arts grad, holds centre stage with her powerful voice. She is ably supported by vocalists Raine Radtke and Cossette Dubrule as they present a handful of some of the Songbook’s most memorable tunes.

Breitkreuz provides a simple narrative line of love found and love lost as she introduces the audience to an early-love ballad – Lazy Afternoon by Jerome Moss and Sonny Burke – to a torchy lost-love classic – Arthur Hamilton’s Cry Me a River.

The best?

I Had Myself a True Love, a little-heard Harold Arlen song from the musical St. Louis Women. Breitkreuz brings the house down with this one. Kudos to the band as well: Aretha Tilloston on upright bass, Dave Herrick on trumpet, Jazz Nipp on piano, Leah Harmen on tenor sax and Sam Malowney on drums.

My one criticism? This show is too short. I could listen to these guys all day.

Marc Horton is a former entertainment writer with the Edmonton Journal. He plays a rudimentary jazz piano and he cannot carry a tune.

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