The Elbow Room Café brings magic to York Theatre in rousing night of musical fun

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The Elbow Room Cafe is a staple in Vancouver as a soulful hub on Davie street with loud, eccentric patrons and fantastic meals, served with a side of playful banter. Elbow Room Cafe: The Musical managed to capture the cafe’s essence and condense it into one fantastic show.

Focusing on the owners Patrick (Allan Zinyk) and Bryan (David M Adams) along with a few customers on one day in the cafe, we learn a lot about the intricacies of relationships and the diversity of experience that can bring you to the same place. This production effortlessly manoeuvred between its many scenes and storylines, at times lighthearted and comical, while others emotional and intensely moving.

If there was a soundtrack of this show, I’m sure you’d hear people singing these songs throughout Vancouver soon. Anton Lipovetsky’s wonderful music and lyrics were so memorable, I’ll be humming along for the next few days. There were so many songs I wanted to hear over again, and it made me so happy when there were brief callbacks to them later in the show.

Playwright and lyricist Dave Deveau deftly managed to skirt around many stereotypes that he could have easily used for each character. The couple from Tennessee (Steven Greenfield, and Emma Slipp) could have remained the cliched homophobic couple, but they were almost immediately given further development and branched out to become a great comedic element in the show. Jackie (Christine Quintana) and Jill (Olivia Hutt) had one of my favourite relationships, helped along by Quintana’s powerful voice in many solos and their grounded performances.

But Zinyk and Adams were the clear stars of the cafe and the show. Running around throwing snarky remarks turned to meddling in others relationships, and finally introspection and serious conversations that brought a power and depth to the musical I hadn’t expected. Rounding out the cast was Justin Lapeña as Chiffon/Nelson, Nathan Kay as Stephen, Stephanie Wong as Beth, and Synthia Yusuf as Amanda who were all marvellous and created some fantastic moments on their own.

The Elbow Room Cafe is playing at the York Theatre until March 12. You can find tickets here.

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