Uncovered 10-Bowie & Queen

Divine Brown.JPG

Koerner Hall- Various Artists
Submitted by Lenny Stoute

For their tenth anniversary production of the UnCovered series, the folks at Up Stage Theatre went uptown to Koerner Hall to stage the potentially tangy UnCovered: Queen & Bowie. That potential was not often realised as the storyline offered many occasions on which, rather than a clash of creative views, we had consensual arrival at a soft middle ground.

But you don't go to Uncovered for strong storylines, you're there for the music and on that front, the cast and band delivered the goods. The strong line-up offered Brent Carver (Tony Award-winner), Divine Brown (Juno Award-winner), Melissa O’Neil (Canadian Idol-winner, Broadway’s Les Miserables), Sara Farb (Stratford Festival), Maev Beaty (Stratford Festival), Gabe Grey (Beeba Boys, Bomb Girls), Andrew Penner (Sunparlour Players, Soulpepper), Kelly Holiff (Charlottetown Festival), Robert Markus (Stratford Festival, Shaw Festival), Arinea Hermans (2016 Banks Prize Winner) and Jahlen Barnes (2016 Banks Prize Winner).

As befitting the theatricality of the material, they were backed by an orchestra of piano, violin, cello, guitar, bass and percussion, which made for intricate layering of sounds absent from the originals. Full marks for creating unique arrangements tailored to the story within each song's lyrics.

With the two towering catalogues of Bowie and Queen to work from, there was no shortage of killer story songs in the set, though 'Killer Queen' wasn't one of them.

“Somebody to Love” showed up as voiced by Divine Brown into a set highlight which ignited the proceedings. Melissa O’Neil spun “Space Oddity” into a haunting hymn of loss and isolation, "Modern Love" arrived as a male/female duet and shone brightly and in these PC-conscious times, it was refreshing to hear "Fat Bottomed Girls" reinstated to its rightful place as an outsider anthem via a zestful deliver from Maev Beaty. Brent Carver did the heavy lifting with the male leads, going through "Changes" "Life On Mars" and absolutely slaying "We Are The Champions", all the while keeping the nuances of the song's story front of his interpretations.

The glorious end began with the ominous opening bass line and tumultuous group sing of "Under Pressure", the only song Bowie and Queen frontman Freddie Mercury created together. Then it was off into the warm November eve humming "We Are The Champions."