We asked director and producer, Cameron Mackenzie of Zee Zee Theatre, to give us his notes, a backgrounder if you will, on the new fully-professional staging of the play—Elbow Room Café: The Musical. Cam says, “Like all good art, it’s the years, experiences, and people that you meet leading up to the actual idea [four years in the making] that makes the idea that much better when it finally comes.”
Cameron Mackenzie: When I first started Zee Zee Theatre, I had a chance to meet a few men from a local gay men’s social group called the ‘Prime Timers’. The first play we produced, and I directed, explored isolation amongst older queers in our community. I was given an opportunity to speak to this group about my upcoming show, and it was here that I met Bryan Searle and Patrick Savoie, owners of Elbow Room Café on Davie Street. We become fast friends. The couple regularly attended Zee Zee shows, displayed posters for our shows in the café, and became regular donors to the company. We became regulars at their café.
After the opening of our remounted production of My Funny Valentine, staring Anton Lipovetsky, Bryan had offered for my husband Dave Deveau and I to come into the cafe for a free breakfast after our opening night revelry. Our table began talking about how musicals were becoming popular again and how Montreal’s famous deli had just been commemorated in Scharwtz’s: The Musical. What followed was us riffing on what a Vancouver equivalent might be; I suddenly looked around at the walls with all the head-shots and the people yelling at one another and I said: “Elbow Room Cafe: The Musical“. Dave loved the idea, and soon afterwards, Anton got on board.
Next, we approached Artistic Director Kathryn Shaw of Studio 58, who also loved the idea, and thanks to their Emerging Company Partnership we were able to use the incredible talent that program has to offer—from the publicity department to their technical director, to the amazing students who brought so much to the table. Dave and Anton began to craft a musical with very little limitation on cast size, something that we see far too often plaguing the development of new scripts in Canada. Thanks to Touchstone Theatre’s “In Tune Conference”, and to The Cultch’s Executive Director, Heather Redfern, we’ve been able to come up with the second professional phase of this new Canadian musical.
We are all so thankful that we have the opportunity to honour, to preserve, and to share the legacy of the two amazing men that are Bryan Searle and Patrice Savoie, and all that they have created with their small world in a big city.Elbow Room Café: The Musical plays at The Cultch’s York Theatre, March 2-12. Get your tickets here.
Originally from South Africa, Cameron Mackenzie is a director, producer & drag queen. He is the founder and Managing Artistic Director of Zee Zee Theatre and has directed most work for the company including My Funny Valentine, Nelly Boy, Tiny Replicas, Whale Riding Weather, Lowest Common Denominator and Elbow Room Cafe: The Musical. He is the recipient of the Ray Michal Award for Outstanding Body of Work by an Emerging Director, and is a Jessie Richardson Award nominee. He is a graduate of Studio 58.