Meat (The Musical) (Venue 34, Varscona Hotel, Thomas Bennett Room)
By Alan Kellogg
The history of talented (and not so talented) actors, dancers and singers supplementing their income with stints at a restaurant likely goes back to harlequins and the medieval groaning board.
But few over the years have deigned to recount their pay-the-rent offstage gigs with original theatrical works — not to mention musicals — on the subject. Fewer still have actually enjoyed the experience waiting tables or filling salt shakers over long, potentially greasy hours.
But here it is, a sincere homage to Strathcona’s own Meat the Restaurant located just a few blocks east of this sweaty Fringe venue — performed, written, scored and choreographed by Meat employees. If that seems dodgy from a Fringe show consumer standpoint, so be it. But the good news is that like the excellent beanery itself, Meat the Musical is actually good, quite good. It’s endearing too, and Edmonton Proud. What a wonderful surprise. And you won’t gain a kilogram.
The song titles – many of them funny, touching and tuneful – give you a taste. Mixing Drinks, Stuck, Servers are People Too, When Vegans Attack, Corners, Get Saucy – you get the idea.
So the kitchen curtain is pulled back to allow us access to what really happens among young staffers before, during and after service. MtM has been carefully written (book and score) by Shaney Borden and Sarah Adam, who also play Rosemary and Wendy, respectively. And well. The hard work shows across the board in the smallest details and many of the performances are absolutely Equity-quality professional.
There is romance, angst, yuks and more here. You’ll leave happy, a bit wiser and sated. The only problem is that during an afternoon show, you can’t debrief at Meat the Restaurant afterwards over brisket and pulled pork. I’d recommend the Fringe non-meat special broccoli-cheddar burger if you can’t get into the show, which has been packed. It’s delicious, like this heartwarming example of homemade musical theatre.