Toronto gets mighty fine cabaret in a mighty fine space, behind the green door on Ossington Ave.
A decade ago, the strip of Ossington Ave. between Queen and Dundas Sts. was a tired and dirty oldwasteland of tire shops, building-supply outlets, a car wash, the best Vietnamese pho shop in town and one, good traditional Portuguese bakery.
Now it's a showcase of the ultra hip, from delicious espresso to designer lighting stores and galleries to dimly-lit lounges with no name on the door. And the bakery is still there, too, a living link to the Bad Old Days.
Joining the fun is the Lower Ossington Theatre -- a nicely renovated building with a larger stage upstairs and what turns out to be an ideal cabaret space on the ground floor, revealed by pulling open an anonymous, green, streetside door.
Cabaret enthusiast and impresario Rober Missen, whose main aim these days is to give Toronto a taste of the intimate charms of live, loungey entertainment, has commandeered the Green Door every Friday and Saturday in June, and has rounded up some of our finest performers to strut the diminutive stage in the middle of the room.
Coming up tonight are charismatic CBC Radio 2 host Andrew Craig, at 8 p.m., followed by Gabi Epstein at 10:30 p.m. Admission is a reasonable $20.
Check out the full lineup here.
Last night's treats were Stratford Shakespeare Festival regular Bruce Dow, for the early show, and Serena Paton for the later one.
Dow drove down from Stratford with accompanist (and Stratford musician) Marilyn Dallman following an afternoon performance of Jesus Christ, Superstar!
I'm not exactly impartial, because Dow is an old friend, but watching him fully inhabit the character and mood of every song was such a treat.
I found myself thinking, several times, how someone as skilled as Dow in manipulating the little ticks and gestures of expression could give lessons to classical singers, who are often afraid to -- or have been discouraged from -- showing the rawer human emotions in performance.
It is the emotional content that creates the stongest bond between performer and audience -- and it can be conveyed without the hardworking singer having to leave some of their blood on the stage floor.
I see and hear a lot of singers, but I can count on the fingers of one hand those who can repeatedly pierce my heart in the course of a single show or recital.
Bruce Dow is one of those people. And I'm thrilled that Missen is giving us -- and them -- the means to make experiences like last night possible.
You can check out his singing here.