Cabaret Brise-Jour mixes musical and visual performance in tribute to Kurt Weill

It’s guaranteed to look like nothing you’ve seen before — although it might be a little like something you’ve heard before.

Cabaret Brise-Jour (Shattered Cabaret) — The Music of Kurt Weill is “really a performance show it’s not a theatre show” according to Bruno Bouchard a member of L’orchestre d’hommes-orchestres (LODHO) the Quebec City-based group behind the production and the recent recipient of the 2014 City of Toronto Glenn Gould Protégé Prize.

Having previously toured a show based on the music of Tom Waits this time LODHO uses the songs of German composer Kurt Weill as the backbone of its performance. Weill perhaps best known for The Threepenny Opera and tunes like “The Ballad of Mack the Knife” spent time in Germany France and America and mixed intellectualism with singable popular songs — all of which is reflected in the trilingual Cabaret Brise-Jour .

“I think it’s a really fun and deep performance at the same time” says Bouchard. “You have that very strong meeting of popular culture and contemporary and intellectual research in art in different disciplines and that’s exactly what we wish to do and what we try to do.”

While the music is the foundation of the show it’s only half the story. LODHO creates under the tagline “music that can be seen” and so the visual experience of Cabaret Brise-Jour is paramount. Audiences will see the eight performers in eclectic costumes on a stage crowded with musical instruments and other head-scratching objects. “Every object on stage… will become an instrument somehow and will become a way of interacting with someone else on stage” says Bouchard. “Song by song we construct many different ways of performing the music so we create instruments we put ourselves in strange positions and situations.”

While some of the music is made with recognizable instruments like a piano or violin LODHO has also put everyday objects like brooms and phones to use. The care and attention to the visual aesthetic is exemplified in a chandelier-like organ made from stringing together 55 improvised flutes a “music-object” that not only offers haunting sounds but is also visually stunning.

Unlike many theatre performances Cabaret Brise-Jour doesn’t have an overarching plot of consistent characters. “There’s no story in the show we give many clues to create your own story between what’s happening onstage and what’s happening in the songs” says Bouchard. “There’s many little stories you can link together between the action and the music and the objects.”

Weill was active from the 1920s through the 1940s and you’ll get a sense of the era through his music. “You can feel the time period that the work was written” says Bouchard. Without being too literal the set and costumes hint at Broadway and Paris and Berlin cabaret. But the overall mood of the show is timeless. “The substance is very strong and the music and the text are really into human condition and not only specific stories.”

Despite the seeming complexity of the performance there’s an unabashed glee that carries it all forward. “You have all of those strong stories you have all of those weird and very powerful images and then you have that really simple and childish way of playing with objects” explains Bouchard. “You really as an audience can feel the fun that we have onstage.”

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