A SHAMELESS CABARET (Canada) created and performed by Brad Hampton, with Jean Stilwell. Harbourfront Centre Theatre (231 Queens Quay West). Tuesday (April 19), 8 pm. Rating: NNNNN
Brad Hampton can relate to World Stage's Flying Solo theme. He feels it's time to spread his wings and tackle new material.
Though he's performed since high school, Hampton steps onstage alone - well, almost alone - for the first time in A Shameless Cabaret, singing songs created for women.
"These are stories I want to tell, songs I want to sing," says the gay performer. "I connected to them as a boy but didn't understand why until I grew up."
Last fall, appearing in the COC's The Handmaid's Tale, he met Canadian mezzo Jean Stilwell and formed a fast friendship with her as they waited in the wings.
"Through her I came to realize it's OK to tell your own story. I think the diva and the gay man are similar in having big lives, big passions. And by diva I don't mean a bitchy, demanding person, but someone who, unafraid of being different, publicly opens up his or her heart."
The cabaret Hampton's devised has him as a tenor, singing regulation tenor show tunes from musicals like Les Mis, until a diva (Stilwell) shows up to encourage him to sing the songs in his heart.
In the process, both get to show off their pipes in unusual material. Stilwell sings songs new for her, while Hampton showcases tunes by Sondheim, Rodgers and Hammerstein and others from his Shameless CD. Pianist Sue Black accompanies them.
"The title emerged when I was choosing material and a friend cautioned me that it was shameless to do women's songs and suggested I shouldn't," recalls the performer. "But I went for another definition of the word - I wanted to take shame out of the equation."
And it's not a drag show, as some have assumed.
"I've simply tried to give it a feminine twist. The notion that feminine belongs to women is outdated. Anyway, songs don't have gender."
This year's World Stage festival proves that one isn't the loneliest number. Subtitled Flying Solo, it features more than 20 one-person productions from around the globe. For the first time ever, the whole fest takes place at a single locale - Harbourfront Centre. And you can’t beat the $25-or-less ticket price. Here’s NOW’s spotlight on some of the best of the fest.
The World Stage Flying Solo festival, a three-week international theatre, visual arts and literary fest presented by Harbourfront Centre at various venues on Queens Quay West. (See NOW's related listings sections for specific events.) Runs to May 1. Mainstage shows $25; Kafka And Son $15; International readings $8; some events free. 416-973-4000, www.harbourfrontcentre.com/worldstage.