Sharron Matthews redefines the cabaret genre, mixing stand-up, storytelling and song classics.
SHARRON MATTHEWS SUPERSTAR: GOLD by Sharron Matthews. Buddies in Bad Times (12 Alexander). To July 22, Thursday to Sunday at 8 pm. $20. 416-975-8555. See listing.
When saucy cabaret singer Sharron Matthews debuted her solo show World Domination back in 2010 at the Edinburgh Fringe, the title was clearly tongue-in-cheek hyperbole. But now, with a string of hit shows and upcoming gigs in New York, London, Cape Town, and this year's Edinburgh Fringe, world domination actually seems under way.
Last week in Scotland, her new show, Sharron Matthews Superstar: Gold, was tipped as one of 50 to see (out of over 2,000 shows vying for attention) by local tastemaker weekly The Scotsman.
"I had a little cry," admits Matthews - who's also a vocal coach on CTV's Canada Sings - after learning the news. "To go from playing the smallest venue to Edinburgh in 2010 - from begging people to come see my show - to now playing the best venue, and making the top 50, is amazing and really gratifying."
Her upcoming four-night stand at Buddies gives Toronto audiences a sneak peek at Gold, which stays true to her signature blend of storytelling, stand-up, and super-charged cabaret-style cover songs, and gives her the chance to work out kinks before she takes it on the road.
"Buddies is where I'll perfect the show," says Matthews on the phone. "My tried and true fans will be there, so it's the perfect place to fine-tune things".
Gold finds Matthews's observational humour reflecting on people she deems "gold diggers" and "gold stealers" while belting out about 20 "gold hits," all shameless covers of guilty-pleasure pop.
To keep things fresh, she's added a few new songs to her repertoire, but part of the point of Gold is to resurrect old songs fans have been requesting from past shows.
"When I sat down to put it together, I was going over some emails I got after Edinburgh last year. People kept requesting three songs from my last show [Radiohead's Creep, The Eagles' Hotel California, and Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody], so I thought, ‘These are my solid gold hits! I've got to bring them back!'"
A pioneer of cabaret in Canada since the early 1990s, Matthews has worked hard to make the often difficult-to-pin-down genre more accessible and mainstream.
"Starting out, I quickly realized people didn't want to come out to see something called ‘cabaret,' because they thought they were going to see a crazy, androgynous German or some New Yorker in sequins. I did my first show in a talk show format, because that was something people were comfortable with. I also made sure to sing songs that everyone knows."
In the decades since, alongside a smattering of roles in big-budget musicals and feature films, Matthews has earned a reputation for her seemingly limitless onstage energy and confidence - a reputation that's inspired a daring "satisfaction guaranteed."
"If you don't like my show, I'll eat a bug," she deadpans. "If you don't get at least one or two gut laughs out of it, see me after the show and I'll eat a bug to cover your 20 bucks. That seems fair to me."