Songs of Love in All its Forms

A Bruce Dow Cabaret

By Mary Alderson

We had the pleasure of attending Bruce Down’s cabaret, upstairs in the Sculthorpe Theatre, in Port Hope’s Capitol. Bruce is of course known for his many roles at the Stratford Festival, including Oliver!, South Pacific, Cabaret, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and Jesus Christ Superstar. Stratford’s amazing production of Jesus Christ Superstar went on to Broadway, where Bruce has been in many shows. When Covid closed things down, he was in Diana, the Musical, the story of Princess Diana. When it reopened later, he chose not to go back, but he can be seen in Netflix movie version, a filming of the stage show. Bruce is currently reinventing himself as a psychotherapist, having taken the Covid break to get the necessary schooling. He is offering counselling in his Toronto practice.

Although I’ve seen him in all his Stratford performances, I have a very good memory of his starring role in Schippel, The Plumber at London’s Grand Theatre. A hoity-toity quartet of singers in 1914 Germany lose one of the members and can’t find someone to replace him. As Schippel (Dow) is singing his way through a dirty plumbing job under the kitchen sink, the three men are enthralled with his voice. But can the three snobs allow this lower-class plumber into their upper-class quartet? It’s an amusing comedy, but with a life-lesson on bigotry tucked in.

Bruce’s February 26 concert in Port Hope was a delight and a surprise. I went expecting love songs; you know, the sweet, adoring kind from shows like South Pacific or The Sound of Music. Instead we were treated to songs that also talk about failed love, or love that has run its course, and fast Sondheim songs where Bruce aptly got his tongue around the lyrics and let us feel the heartbreak in his voice. While I didn’t recognize many of the songs, I enjoyed them because he gave them so much expression. One of my favourites was “Another Winter in a Summer Town” from the musical Grey Gardens, which speaks to lost love, disappointment and loneliness. Having lived most of my life in Grand Bend, I know how long the winters can be in a summer town.

It was a delightful Sunday afternoon, and a treat to hear his rich, powerful voice and his interpretations of his repertoire.

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