By David Cutting
VANCOUVER – Elbow Room Café on Davie Street is a Vancouver legend. Known for its sassy service and delicious food, the restaurant holds fond memories for so many. In the past couple years, Dave Deveau and Anton Lipovetsky have ventured to create an even richer legacy for the community staple — a show called Elbow Room Café: The Musical, a delightful romp through the rich history of the couple who have owned and operated the establishment for decades. BeatRoute caught up with Deveau to learn more.
BR: What is Elbow Room Café: The Musical about?
DD: Elbow Room Café: The Musical celebrates Vancouver’s iconic Elbow Room Café (nowadays located at 560 Davie Street, though originally down on Jervis) — a little hole-in-the-wall with great food and a side of verbal abuse. The cafe is owned and operated by real-life partners in life and crime Patrice Savoie and Bryan Searle, who after over 40 years together know how to put on a good show of yelling and screaming at each other, all with a subtext of love. The musical looks at how we age together in a Technicolor world and tackles notions about legacy, about what we want to leave the world after we go.
BR: Where did the idea come from?
DD: Zee Zee’s managing artistic director (and my husband/partner in crime) Cameron Mackenzie came up with the idea in 2013 when we were sitting in the Elbow Room with our friend and collaborator Anton Lipovetsky. We had just opened our critically acclaimed play My Funny Valentine the night before (written by me, directed by Cameron, starring Anton), and were musing about what a big Vancouver musical might look like — where would it be based? Would it be recognizable? As we looked around the room and saw these endless walls of headshots, larger-than-life colours, and a raucous environment, Cameron said, “What about Elbow Room: The Musical?”
BR: What should people know when going to see it?
DD: The show really resonates whether you know the Elbow Room or not because there’s something deeply human about the characters’ journeys, but you’ll certainly get an added level of satisfaction and belly laughs if you’ve ever been to the Elbow Room during its busy weekend brunches to see Patrice and Bryan in action — it’s an experience any Vancouverite or tourist should experience at least once.
BR: What makes it special?
DD: It’s a big, gay musical celebrating Vancouver, celebrating our queer community, and the songs are unbelievable. I dare you not to bust a gut laughing and shed at least three tears. There are some songs that actually render cast members inconsolable — thankfully we have a good rehearsal process for them to be able to get over it!
BR: What is your favourite part?
DD: I’m still amazed that Bryan and Patrice gave me full access to their lives and archives and let me write their past and their future onstage. There’s something amazingly delicate, intricate, and profound about being given that rare gift. Watching them watch their lives being performed onstage during our 2015 workshop production was astounding enough, and I can’t wait to see how they react to this far more developed version.
Elbow Room Café: The Musical runs March 1–12 at The York Theatre