Written and Performed by Bremner Duthie
Original Choreography and Musical Staging - Tracy Darin
Dramaturgy and Original Direction - Robert Burns
Direction - Tracy Darin
A new approach to the songs of Kurt Weill. Featuring music from across Weill's extra-ordinary career with 10 powerful songs embedded into a effective dramatic and comedic story.
Whiskey Bars has been delighting audiences in North America and internationally for over 10 years, winning critical awards, five star reviews, sold out audiences and standing ovations around the world.
WHISKEY BARS - THE PLOT
A fast-paced fusion of reality, comedy, music... and a touch of tragedy. Whiskey Bars is a strikingly original, unpredictable singer's story of attempting a final comeback, fueled by too many vodka martinis and Kurt Weill's dark and daring songwriting.
Backstage, in old dressing room of a run down cabaret theatre, just before his big comeback performance, a performer battles an invisible critic, trying every trick he knows to win a good review. There are lies, seduction, charm, anger and outright begging - and in the process he reveals more then he expects about himself and his belief and love for the music of the amazing Kurt Weill.
“a fantastic show - a perfect festival experience – outstanding singing, in a distinctive setting - with the story of the insecure performer lending subtext and dynamism to a thrilling reworking of Weill material. It was seedy. It was stirring. It was utterly memorable.”
Andrew Clover, Sunday Times (uk)
"...theatre at its very best. Duthie’s classical training and background as a many-year veteran in musicals and jazz bands is evident from the outset. By the time we arrived at the chillingly Speak Low - calm on the surface, yet bubbling with undercurrents of febrile yearning - we were left with no doubt whatsoever that we were in the presence of a true master of his craft. This show is, like the best of Weill's own works for the stage, a seamless blend of gripping entertainment and genuinely moving art."
The Edinburgh Fringe Review
"This one-man show was dark, glitzy, dingy and sparkled with the life of a performer down on his luck. Written and performed by Bremner Duthie, it betrays the author's passion for Kurt Weill, whose music inspired the piece and permeates the show's central character. Innocent and at the same time far too world-weary, Bremner's voice was strong and beautiful. Darlings, life is a cabaret."
Three Weeks Magazine
"brave and inventive...a compelling and boldly-delivered one man show full of energy and impassioned acting.
Music Theatre Matters
"Kurt Weill grew up," states actor Bremner Duthie's character impassionedly near the end of this show, "between a synagogue and a music hall theatre." Thus, Duthie asserts, the composer's life and music reached a perfect balance between the sacred and the profane early on, and there's a real sense of both in his show. The music is sung with all the passion the character brings to bear when introducing it. Duthie's voice and performance give songs like I'm a Stranger Here Myself the perfect level of sexuality and tenderness, while his version of Je ne t'aime pas demonstrates what he means when he says "Weill can break your heart in any language"."
Complete Reviews for Whiskey Bars
FIVE STARS - "Whiskey Bars was created in response to a series of frustrating attempts to do justice to Weill's music theatre songs in a concert. Duthie then came to the conclusion that the brilliance of these songs demanded and deserved a dramatic setting. Whiskey Bars was the result.
I have only one problem with Duthie's thesis: namely, I'm not sure that I believe that Kurt Weill's extraordinary cabaret songs would not stand up as a show on their own, particularly with such a consummate professional such as Duthie delivering them. His classical training and background as a many-year veteran in musicals and jazz bands is evident from the outset. By the time we arrived at the chillingly Speak Low - calm on the surface, yet bubbling with undercurrents of febrile yearning - we were left with no doubt whatsoever that we were in the presence of a true master of his craft. Still, it doesn't take long to warm to the monologue format, a play interspersed with songs - a solo musical, if you will.
The dramatic context in which the songs are presented is convincing, and provides a new filter through which to experience them. The device of using the audience as the silent 'critic' who supplies the unspoken part of a dialogue with Duthie is effective; it allows the work to move in tangents that would not otherwise be available. The direction by Tracy Darin is deft and subtle, never intrusive; the show is slick but never pretentious.
This really is Fringe theatre at its very best. Furthermore, I cannot imagine a one-man-show that is so suited to the venue and vice versa. Duthie doesn't simply make a virtue out of necessity - he positively wallows in it; the seedy, dank atmosphere of the Vault creeps into every sinew of this performance to paint a disturbingly convincing picture of an obsessive man, vulnerable and needy yet never unsympathetic.
When he is offered a tantalisingly ambiguous glimpse of salvation towards the end of the piece, the audience is made to feel complicit in the whole sordid affair. The effect is both disturbing and uplifting. It comes as no surprise to learn that this show is one of the few adaptations of Weill's work that has received the full support of the Kurt Weill Foundation. I have no doubt that they will want to cherish every opportunity to encourage and promote a show that, like the best of Weill's own works for the stage, is a seamless blend of gripping entertainment and genuinely moving art."
FIVE STARS: Edinburgh Fringe - Three Weeks Magazine
"Welcome to the dressing room, darlings, and to the cabaret that introduces the man who "played a hand against the universe and lost". This one-man show was dark, glitzy, dingy and sparkled with the life of a performer down on his luck. Written and performed by Bremner Duthie, it betrays the author's passion for Kurt Weill, whose music inspired the piece and permeates the show's central character. Duthie enters the stage in only a towel and proceeds to don make-up, top hat and tails as he narrates the story of his downfall to a fictional reviewer, supposedly in the audience. Innocent and at the same time far too world-weary, Bremner's voice was strong and beautiful. Darlings, life is a cabaret."
FOUR STARS- Edinburgh Fringe - Broadway Baby Magazine
"This one-man show is masterful work.... Bremner Duthie portrays a has-been cabaret singer in his dressing room, testily enduring, conducting, evading and sabotaging an interview with a reporter before a comeback concert of dubious merit. The reporter is never heard, so this is essentially a monologue. It touches on many themes, including the prostitutional nature of performance, relations with managers, the performer's need for his art, and the shifting nature of "truth" in the world of showbiz. These are heady themes, but they are woven with a light touch into a resonant and evocative tapestry. All this with eight or ten songs by Kurt Weill delivered with nuance, power, clarity and mastery. The songs expand and breathe with meaning in the context given by Bremner's ironic and complex delivery and his superb script. Absolutely see this one."
-John Munger, Director, Dance America
"Say nice things about me in the paper," begs a fast-fading cabaret performer. He is speaking to an unseen journalist who has come to see him in the dressing room of the nightclub where he is about to give a comeback performance. "Give me one pull-able quote - even if you think the show's crap, work it in".
Actually, there's no need for such special pleading or apology on behalf of Bremner Duthie, who is playing him. This is one of those rare and revealing things: a study in mediocrity that isn't mediocre itself. Duthie may know of the personal compromises that an artist has to make for himself -- the New York born actor, who was raised in Scotland and Canada, has done a stint as a singer at EuroDisney - but here has the opportunity to bare his heart and soul (and body, too) in a neatly orchestrated programme of Kurt Weill classics that are threaded through his character's life story.
Its like Hedwig with far better melodies, and Duthie performs a kind of reverse striptease, beginning the show in his dressing room wearing a towel only, gradually adding layers of clothing as well as emotion as he prepares for his performance. It's a clever conceit, and Duthie brings passion, power and conviction to the songs.
The Stage Magazine (Britain's Major Theatrical Journal)
"Bremner Duthie, brings his one man "Kabarett" to Edinburgh, featuring the music of Kurt Weill - and it wonderfully showcases his multitude of talents as a writer and performer.
A jaded cabaret artiste is attempting to revive his flagging singing career. We hear his story through a one sided conversation with an unseen journalist who has joined him in his dressing room as he prepares for the show. The story of his career unfolds as he spins tall yarns of his early days in show business but as the interview progresses his self-confidence gives way to reveal a more insecure and lonely man. The character pays homage to the life of Kurt Weill, punctuating the interview with captivating performances of his songs. These are beautifully delivered with power and emotion, set to a hauntingly sparse piano accompaniment. At times we are magically transported to 1930's Berlin.
Bremner Duthie gives a funny, engaging and dramatic solo performance as the charming, witty and increasingly anxious faded star."
FIVE STARS, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Edinburgh Fringe Review Magazine
"The official setting for Whiskey Bars is Venue 8. But writer and performer Bremner Duthie seemingly tore down the backstage wall so he can fit the audience into his dressing room as he laments on an arduous theatre career. This intimate story is like stumbling upon a veteran performer's diary and getting to flip through the best parts. Any diehard theatre fan will adore this treat, which features the music of Kurt Weill and includes one of the best renditions of Mack the Knife you're likely to hear. Extraordinary. "
--The Winnipeg Sun
"Bremner Duthie has.... a voice of power and inner beauty that commands the whole space..... One feels like being seduced by the sheer power and beauty of this performance"
Musical Stages Magazine: London, England
"Whiskey Bars is, hands down, my pick for best of venue - and I'm willing to bet it is the best thing at the Fringe, period. Set in a bare dressing room, over the course of the hour Bremner Duthie's nameless Performer readies himself for a performance, answers the barbed questions of an unseen critic, waxes philosophical and sings a healthy selection from the songs of the incomparable Kurt Weil. And my god, does he ever sing. Bremner's performance is jaw-dropping-my jaw literally dropped-as he not only sings beautifully but actually performs the songs beautifully as well. This is the play the lucky few who get to see it will be raving about until next year's Fringe, and you should kick yourself if you're not one of them. "
--FIVE STARS View Magazine, Hamilton , Ontario
"It takes more than just an expressive voice to really communicate Kurt Weill songs - it takes love, fear, regrets, wistfulness, loneliness, tragedy and charm. And above all, it takes a fine actor. Duthie has it all...He performs about a dozen Weill songs during this evening of cabaret and soul-baring. Listening to Duthie sing is like sipping hot chocolate topped with cream, sitting on a sun terrace high up in the French Alps, snow all around. His character, or alter-ego perhaps, has a huge dose of artistic temperament. He is completely self-centred, achingly confident in his looks, sexuality and talents - but also afflicted with rampant doubts and stage fright that he unsuccessfully tries to hide. This is the human condition magnified ten fold. This is what Weill is all about. "
--Theatreworld Magazine, London, UK
"I wouldn't have thought 'Whiskey Bars' would be a highlight, but this solo musical is one of the finest offerings at this year's Fringe. For many of us, our first exposure to Kurt Weill was on Bette Midler's early albums. Since then, such performers as Ute Lemper and Teresa Statas have become great interpreters of his music. Add Bremner Duthie, the star of 'Whiskey Bars' to that list. He delivers a stunning, stirring rendition of "What Keeps a Man Alive?" and his 'Mack the Knife' is done slowly and seductively, because it's a song for a bad boy. Duthie's character tells us that Weill's music is both sacred and profane at the same time, making 'Whiskey Bars' is smart, sexy and a bit sad."-Steven LaVigne, audience web-review
"The George Ignatieff Theatre is one of those cold energy sinks dreaded by performers, yet Bremner Duthie manages fill that whole negatively charged space for an hour, turning an institutional theater into a shabby dressing room -- and every time he sings into a Weimar cabaret. The conceit of this show is that Duthie is a fading performer granting an interview before going on-stage to do a Kurt Weill revue. Speaking to us as if we were the reporter, Duthie bullshits, invents, gossips, cajoles, begs, drinks, reveals his stage fright and pours his heart into the Weill songs. We're moved by the performance because Duthie has the guts to put a revealing amount of himself into superficial and egotistical character. And we forgive the Performer his idiocies because he loves the music so much. Kurt Weill, he reminds us, grew up between a synagogue and a music hall --the sacred and the profane are glorified in every song."
"An amazing voice "
WHISKEY BARS at Venue 8 is my pick for Best of Fringe 2004. A gem of a show, beautifully acted by Bremner Duthie as an actor desperate to revive his fading career. Duthie gives his audience pathos that never descends to bathos, and his remarkable voice interprets the songs of Kurt Weill better than anybody since Lotte Lenya! (His rendition of 'Speak Low When You Speak Love' will break your heart.) An absolute MUST
"Mom says, 'Wow. That was...wow.'
It's a simple set up. A cabaret performer, down on his luck and attempting a comeback performance he's financing himself, doing music he loves, is in his dressing room, verbally fencing with an unseen but not entirely supportive critic wanting an interview before the curtain goes up.Descriptions of this show call it a reverse striptease but that's only half true. Yes, he starts out in a towel and ends up in full tux, white-face, and top hat. But Bremner Duthie's onstage alter ego is constantly fighting his emotions and uncertainties lurking just below the surface of the bravado as he steels himself for the show that will make or break him. In that way, he's making his character more naked as the show goes on.And much as I've ranted before about how I'm tired of hearing of the trials and tribulations of artists, this one is one of those notable exceptions that works because, as all the best ones do, this show makes the performer fully human first, "Artist" with a capital A, second.But the big draw here, folks, is Bremner Duthie's voice. He sings the songs of Kurt Weill gorgeously, with tremendous passion. It's great fun."
Mathew Everett, web-reviewer: