Theater Review: Little Green Pig Closes with a Schmaltzy Cabaret
After 15 seasons, Little Green Pig Theatrical Concern presents as its final show Céline Dion Live at the Gaza Strip, a cabaret conceived and directed by Jaybird O’Berski.
A somewhat seedy Palestinian cafe is the setting where Céline Dion (Esther Vaknin-Sober) is performing with her backup singers, Dina (Dana Marks) and Fatima (Cuquis Robledo), accompanied by Rene Charles (Charles Cleaver) on an electronic keyboard and a master of ceremonies, Carla (Dale Wolf).
Céline Dion is, of course, that mega popular Canadian singer (hard not to remember her Grammy Award-winning love song from Titanic) who left a huge musical footprint on both her most ardent fans and fiercest critics. Her overwrought sentimentality is treasured as often as it is attacked. Vaknin-Sober leans into that diva aspect, playing up the overt emotional angle with a campy, tongue-in-cheek performance that just veers from mocking this icon.
But is it really the pop singer on stage or an Israeli soldier channeling an inner diva? The latter possibility gets tossed out there, but it certainly is not the focus of this Little Green Pig production. Here, the musical numbers capture our attention.
Marks and Robledo share the pleasure of performing the exaggerated emotional elements of songs with Vaknin-Sober, particularly during “Must Be Love on the Brain.” Each of these talented actors are also given solos, highlighting their vocal prowess.
Wolf’s Carla offers some perspective, and a light comedic touch, by borrowing text from Carl Wilson’s book, LET’S TALK ABOUT LOVE: A JOURNEY TO THE END OF TASTE. Wilson interrogates the divisive nature of Dion’s music, and Carla, much like a stand-up comic, uses this material to remind us of the increased need for a reasoned response to differences of opinion. Dion’s (or maybe the soldier as Dion?) teary speech lamenting the plight of the Palestinians, and the air raid siren that punctuates a performance of the 1980’s hit, “You Keep Me Hangin’ On,” underscore the consequences of the prolonged discord in Gaza.
Frequent patrons of Little Green Pig Theatrical Concern will appreciate the bittersweet performance of some of their favorite performers in this humorous production tinged with schmaltz — the explanation of the origin of this phrase is itself worth the hour spent here. That, and the wonderful cup of Turkish coffee while listening to some pre-show music, make for a unique evening.
The Little Green Pig Theatrical Concern production of Céline Dion Live at the Gaza Strip runs through December 8th. For more information visit https://www.littlegreenpig.com/now-playing or the RDU on Stage Calendar Page.