Saving Celine @ Mainline Theatre

As part of her quest for world domination Montreal's number one drag queen Mado has now broadened her horizons to working in English and a stage production. Is there anything she cannot do? This production, out of her usual arena, is our chance to find out.

Every francophone or at least every gay male francophone in Montreal, which is a sizable enough community, knows Mado and loves her for what she is (talented with a razor sharp tongue and a quick wit) and what she does (make them laugh). She has built a large following at her own club (Cabaret Mado), at Divers Cite and at the large Bingo Nights she hosts at the Casino. She is an entertainer pure and simple. Luc Provost has created a larger than life character that everyone loves. It seems a natural leap then for Mado to be portraying the largest diva every produced by Quebec and probably Canada, Celine Dion. As opposed to the singular emotion we feel for Mado (love) what we feel for Celine is quite mixed. She is the woman we love to hate, but still find interesting. Regardless of how we feel about Celine we all have to admit that she is entertaining on many levels.

The story of the play revolves around a Celine impersonator named, of course, Celine, who has gotten in trouble due to her 'devotion' to her idol. In many instances in her life she works it out by wondering what Celine would do in this situation. Her obsession has got her in trouble at several of the jobs she's worked at and it has gotten her court-mandated sessions with a psychiatrist. Dr. Oliver Panteas (read the name out loud slowly and you'll get a chuckle!). Dr. Panteas does not believe that Celine is crazy just anxious and prescribes her some medication. The medication seems to send Celine into a state, which upon regaining awareness she remembers nothing of what went on. Her life becomes more and more stressful as she is living with her hyper critical mother who is an invalid and always butting heads at work with Whitney, another female impersonator, who is very competitive. Soon after Celine's mother is murdered and Celine believes that she is being followed by a blonde woman in a black trenchcoat. Then Whitney is murdered at the club and Celine wakes up with the gun in her hand. Something sinister is going on. Will Celine be able to figure it out before she is arrested and, more importantly, before she is to meet her idol at the UNICEF concert?

Writer Mark Watty has made a play that is full of Montreal references, inside jokes and a tongue-planted-firmly-in-cheek look at how we today have become so obsessed with our idols. And I don't mean just the American Idols! The play uses multi-media to tell its story with video being projected and much pop music being played. It should appeal to all sexual orientations, ages and persons of both official languages. Like the diva herself the play is completely cheesy and over-the-top, but in a laughable harmless way. It is a murder mystery that involves cloning, Cheez Whiz, many wigs, and plenty of chest pounding. What could be more fun?

It is surprising to me that there has been no other theatre production or the like here in this province that has used Celine's career as fodder for entertainment before. The woman is larger-than-life and has given us a stunning amount of soundbites and visuals over her career. It is not surprising then that the largest laughs in this production come from the moments that Celine herself is projected against the backdrop. The clip from CNN with Larry King of the interview she gave just after Katrina is priceless. It is almost surreal and is hilarious. She is so kétaine that you have to love her. Mado is probably the perfect person to play her (odd to say a man is the person most suited to play Celine but there it is) and it is a real coup that director David Pellegrini and playwright Mark Watty got her to star in this English production. The best moments in the play for Mado as Celine come in the scenes when she is lip-synching her songs. The closing number singing "I'm Alive" in a wedding-type dress is wonderful and really gets the audience singing along. Mado is in her element. There are times when Mado is not exactly a natural as an actress, but they actually work in this play because it is about an impersonator. It is a fun, light evening about a diva and the devotion she has given birth to.

Photos by Harald Schrader

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