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A Parisian cabaret

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Les Chansons d’ Amour cast members in full costume.

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Les Chansons d’ Amour cast members in full costume. Photo Store

"Way-Off Broadway Cabaret Collective" is an apt description of this locally-based 10-piece musical ensemble that is currently presenting Chansons d’Amour – A Parisian Cabaret.

This local singing group has been performing cabaret-style shows for over 12 years now. The producer, Dale Laird, explains that they call themselves a "collective," because the cast varies from show to show depending on availability.

Their latest endeavour will be performed at the Forrest Nickerson Theatre at the Manitoba Deaf Centre, 285 Pembina Hwy. for one night only Sat., Sept. 7. This show had a successful run at the Aspire Theatre in Gimli a couple of months ago as part of the town’s Summer Theatre Festival and garnered two standing ovations. Their last production More Songs of Love, Lust and Laughter sold out completely last year.

The seasoned cast had the audience enthralled with a variety of solo, duet and ensemble showstoppers. This musical theatre cabaret features selections from several French-themed musicals, such as Gigi, Les Miserables, Can-Can and Le Cage aux Folles along with the songs of Édith Piaf, Jacques Brel and others. The finely-choreographed program also included several novelty and comedy numbers, wonderful singing, colourful costumes, lots of laughs and joie de vivre.

Although most songs are sung in English, you could hardly do justice to a Parisian cabaret without at least a token effort towards bilingualism. Édith Piaf’s classic signature song, La Vie en Rose, is performed in French by Dale Laird, a classically trained soprano.

It was Dale, a recently retired school psychologist, who originally formed the group. It features the vocal talents of Trygve Ringereide, who recently retired as a high school principal in Ontario where he was known as the "singing principal." He is now the music director at Sturgeon Creek United Church. Recently, Trygve appeared in Dry Cold’s production of Sondheim’s Follies.

There’s Gail Mildren, a lawyer with Manitoba Justice who’s also on the board of the Gilbert and Sullivan Society where she’s performed in 22 productions. She has also sung with the Manitoba Opera chorus.

Elliot Lazar is an 18-year-old theatrical hotshot, playwright and Fringe performer who studies classical voice at the University of Manitoba and who has plans of a career in the performing arts.

Heather Quinn, the stage director for the show, teaches music in elementary school and is a seasoned performer who has performed with the Gilbert and Sullivan Society, Rainbow Stage, CBC’s Hymn Sing and the Tara Players, to name a few.  

Judy Aubert is a member of the Sweet Adelines women’s choir.

Martin Wilson is an accomplished tenor, actor and voice teacher at the Manitoba Conservatory of Music and Arts who has taught vocals in New York and Vienna.

Musical accompaniment is provided by the Denby family, with Cary Denby playing piano and serving as musical director for the show. Cary is an accomplished freelance pianist who has accompanied the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and the Manitoba Opera chorus. Her husband, Steve, plays bass and six-string guitar and son Cameron is on drums. Just like the singing cast, the Denby’s have a strong musical pedigree. They direct the Bison Men’s Chorus and Steve also performs with a cappella singing group The Riffs.

The two-hour show features around two dozen songs. Tickets cost $15 and usually sell out fast. They are available by calling Dale at 204-452-4982.

Trevor Smith is a community correspondent for River Heights. You can contact him via email at smitht@mymts.net

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