Warning: This review may contain spoilers.

Rubaboo, Andrea Menard explains at the beginning of her cabaret of the same name, is the Métis word for a “clean out the bottom of the refrigerator” kind of soup. And it’s an apt description of what the production is: a little of this, a little of that, and a little of the other, but never a complete, deeply-flavoured dish.

That’s not to say that the ingredients aren’t fresh. Menard is a fine vocalist, and the three others comprising her band are talented instrumentalists and singers. She’s an engaging storyteller, especially when recounting slightly ribald trickster folklore. She and Robert Walsh have written meaningful lyrics addressing historical events with a pointed modern take. And the set backdrop by Cimmeron Meyer (based on artwork by Leah Dorion) and lighting by Kimberly Purtell are impressive and nicely complementary.

There’s no lack of subject matter, either. Menard’s Métis ancestry, and ancestors, are front and centre; her ma-mère and her ma-mère in particular are well-represented. The four elements, fire, water, wind, and earth, form a skeleton for the cabaret, as does the concept of the rubaboo itself. Menard speaks and sings new (mostly country-western and folk) and traditional songs in at least three languages. There are clarifications of and references to many colonizational terms and events, such as the Red River Resistance led by Louis Riel (styled as a rebellion by politicians, historians, and teachers until only recently). There are even audience singalongs.

And it’s that which may be the salt in the soup. There’s just too much for a ninety-minute performance, and there’s not enough of any one thing. A cabaret by its nature can’t do much more than skim the surface of its variety of elements, but here each added morsel leaves less time to savour its unique essence.

This Rubaboo is an overwhelming mixture of many intriguing flavours. Perhaps it will encourage diners to seek out some of the less familiar ones for a more substantial taste.

1 thought on “Rubaboo”

  1. Rose McG says:

    Saw this show this afternoon and really wasn’t sure what to expect. The stage was simple yet eloquent. The story telling superb and the music truly soothingly beautiful.

    What a talented performer and education in history told through the stories and music many songs written by the singer herself and the other performers. It actually mirrored the history of other people/nations – deprived and persecuted people trying to survive and maintain their culture, including the Irish and the songs and art were in tune with Celtic music and art with even a hint of Country sound. However it was the profound and heart felt performances that truly make this a show to see. To be honest ‘Rubaboo’ would not have been something that really drew my attention to buy tickets. The title ‘Rubaboo’ itself is an education through song, dance and crowd inclusion. Having now seen the show it actually made you sad that it was not a full house because it certainly deserved to be..

    I would highly recommend seeing this show from both an educational and entertaining perspective. In spite of being historical of the Métis people it is also touching and uplifting in the songs, humour and simplicity with which the story is delivered and the music is shared.
    Wonderful performances by all. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

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