Zee Zee Theatre Company
Elbow Room Cafe: The Musical Book & Lyrics by Dave Deveau

Dates and Venue March 2 – 11, 2017, at 8pm ( 2pm matinees on Mar 4, 5, 11, 12) | York Theatre, 639 Commercial Dr.

Director Cameron Mackenzie Original Music Anton Lipovetsky Musical Director Clare Wyatt Choreography Jessica Hickman Set & Costume Design Marina Szijarto Lighting Design Kyla Gardiner Costume Builder Darryl Milot Props Design Jenn Stewart Sound Design Kyra Soko Stage Manager Jillian Perry Musicians Sally Zori Percussion, Clare Wyatt Keyboard, Molly MacKinnon Violin

Reviewer John Jane


Just about everyone who lives in Vancouver has, at some time visited the Elbow Room Café opposite the Emery Barnes Park on Davie Street. The few who haven’t eaten there, at least would have heard of it (and perhaps tried to avoid it). Partners in business and in life Patrice Savoie and Bryan Searle have run this iconic eatery for more than three decades. The café has created its legend by serving bacon and eggs with huge dollops of good-natured abuse. It’s a place where the customer is never right – at least not until it’s time to pony up a big tip or offer a donation to the establishment’s favourite charity.

Elbow Room Cafe: The Musical is Dave Deveau’s unapologetically outrageous homage to his favourite diner. Just like the real Elbow Room Café, the play is loud, chaotic and way over the top. The play got its creative kernel when it was presented as a workshop at Langara College’s Studio 58 a couple of years ago.

David Adams as Bryan Searle is the straight man (only in the sense of being a comedic duo) to Allan Zinyk’s overstated shtick as Patrice. The pair has extraordinary onstage chemistry and obvious mutual professional respect offstage.

While it’s the Savoie – Searle earnest quiddity that proffers the main focus, the café’s colourful customers also raise the comedy count. Emma Slipp and Steven Greenfield as Tennessee tourists Tabby and Tim manage to get dragged into the turmoil. Synthia Yusuf as a reluctant bride-to-be and Nathan Kay and Stephanie Wong as two members of her bachelorette party look to continue their shenanigans into the morning after.

Christine Quintana and Olivia Hutt as fickle lesbian couple Jackie and Jill offer a more contemplative counterpoint to Patrice and Bryan’s zany relationship. It’s Quintana that gives the show one of its few poignant moments with Anton Lipovetsky’s original song “There She is.”

Like any piece of musical theatre, there is an overriding reliance on the tunes. Anton Lipovetsky’s infectious songs make this piece of theatre worth seeing as well as driving the narrative.

Elbow Room Café is not perfect. Sometimes the raucous comedy can be too overwhelming and the jokes a little crude. But the show has a big heart – as big as one of the real café’s oversized pancakes.

© 2017 John Jane