Riot cops. Tear gas. Protesters chanting. Youthful angst and idealism. Political theatre of the absurd. Love. And coffee... These are some of the images and themes that pepper Cabaret Civil, an album of satirical cabaret songs performed by chanteuse Anouk Grégoire and l'Orchestre Cabaret Civil from Québec, Canada. Alise Marlane rose to the task of musical director for Theatre Wakefield's stage production of Cabaret Civil (the play). 'Newcomer that I was to the realm of musical theatre, when that first songwriting challenge was presented: 'We need a tear gas song that includes the sound pfffft in the chorus!' I wondered what I was getting myself into. It was an all-consuming and thrilling learning experience to work with such talented people on this high-spirited production. Working with the theatre troupe was a riot!' The play was a local hit on many levels, not least for the satirical bite of it's 10 original songs - and the deftness of their delivery - that helped weave together the production's comic interpretation of events surrounding the popular demonstrations against the FTAA Summit of the Americas in Quebec City in the spring of 2001. Cabaret Civil was presented by a troupe of some 40 community volunteers who demonstrated once again the fertile ground that Wakefield provides for bilingual performing arts endeavours. The music - written to order by Marlane and other local songwriters, and arranged with local musicians (Brian Sanderson of Silverhearts fame and members of the group JazzAnouk) shortly before the play's presentation last spring in Wakefield, Québec - punctuated every theatrical scene. The songs drove along the often-wild stage antics and propelled the captivating stage presence and show-stopping delivery of chanteuse Anouk Grégoire right into the heat of the action. So successful was the musical component that Theatre Wakefield agreed to support it's recording by raising the cash from within the community to do so, engaging Ms. Marlane to produce the project. The recorded album replicates the excitement of the live production with multi-instrumentalist Sanderson working from a palette of acoustic sounds that range from accordion to viola to sousaphone, and clever mixing of audio montages from the play over a driving rhythm section (Peter MacGibbon on bass and Jean Maisonneuve on drums). This is music that mocks the current culture of fear and the abuses of power that support it, even while acknowledging the social comedy and chaos surrounding organized civil agitation. The result is a satisfying brew of cabaret music in the satirical tradition - a sarcastic broadside against the paranoia of our times.
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