CABARET U-MANO (SOMA/Realisation. net/Jeffrey Latimer). At Diesel Playhouse (56 Blue Jays Way). To February 18. $34.50-$59.95. 416-971-5656. See Continuing, page 80. Rating: NN Rating: NN
If you go see cabaret U-Mano at the Diesel Playhouse, you can enjoy a drink while you watch. Make it a double. This show is much more "drunk-in-Vegas-after-midnight" than "sober-in-Toronto-mid-winter."
Cabaret U-Mano stars 29 puppets and a cast of 10 humans who wear, carry and manoeuvre them to the rhythms of famous theatrical showstoppers and pop tunes.
The puppets, cleverly designed by Serge Deslauriers , include classic cabaret types, plus others. Some of them delight, like Kiko the Latin Lover and the disco trio that resembles bedsprings topped with 70s 'fros. But this kitsch comes with a hitch. Soon you realize that the show is really just one idea repeated over 90 long minutes.
The producers must have used up most of their budget securing music rights. The rest of the production looks as if someone raided a high school drama club closet (for the actors' clothes) and then lit the stage with some dusty old fresnels.
The show cheats to get laughs by relying too heavily on the borrowed tunes, such as Chicago's I Can't Do It Alone and I'm Super, Thanks For Asking from the South Park movie.
Surreal moments add humour, like when a sheep, a wolf and four humans strip and seduce each other to Frank Loesser's Baby, It's Cold Outside. And when puppet Lorraine the Diva pulls a suit-wearing male audience member onstage and gives him the most memorable lap dance of his life, the audience howls as the embarrassed guy's hands unconsciously move from his sides and tuck tightly into his lap.
The young, energetic cast work the puppets in unison while they smile and try to sell the show. Don't buy it.