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Thursday, 13 April 2017 16:23

AJ BRIDEL Makes Cabaret Debut

Written by  Dennis Kucherawy
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Award-Winning Triple Threat Performer Premieres

“Dare Me” Next Wednesday, April 19th at Jazz Bistro

Special guests include singer Danielle Wade and piano accompanist Jeannie Wyse

Final Toronto performance before leaving for Charlottetown Festival to Star in “Anne of Green Gables,” beginning June 26th




Andrew Lloyd Webber on CBC-TV’S “Over the Rainbow,” commenting on AJ Bridel’s performance of his song, “Memory” from “Cats”:

“You’ve brought a truthfulness to it and you understand the lyrics… You made the song completely your own.  That was a fabulous performance!”

Mention the name AJ Bridel and the following lyrics come to mind:

“Try an enchilada with the fishy baccalà and then a
Hey cumpa', I love a how you dance a rhumba
But take a some advice, paisano
Learn how to mambo
If you gonna be a square
You ain't a gonna go nowhere

Hey mambo, mambo italiano

When she playfully performed this classic Dean Martin/Rosemary Clooney number on CBC-TV’s Over the Rainbow, AJ revealed just how funny she can be. Not only is she a terrific singer, a great dancer and wonderful actress, she can be a hysterical comedienne.  In her break-out role as the ingénue Lauren in the Toronto company of the Tony Award-winning “Kinky Boots, she brought the house down every night, especially with her side-splitting rendition of Cyndi Lauper’s “The History of Wrong Guys:”

“Chapter One – He’s a bum

Two – He’s not into you

Three – He’s a sleaze

Four – Loves the girl next door

Five – Loves the boy next door…”

It’s a performance that in 2016 won her a Toronto Theatre Critics’ Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Musical and a Dora Award nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Female in a Musical.

Last December, AJ also starred to great acclaim in Ross Petty’s annual panto which this year was “Sleeping Beauty.”  The Toronto Star described her as “adorable” and “a powerhouse.”

She’s leaving Toronto soon for PEI’s Charlottetown Festival to begin rehearsals for her starring performance in the 53rd consecutive season of “Anne of Green Gables.” “AJ brings the kind of imagination, desire and youthful excitement that is essential to the role,” said Adam Brazier, artistic director of the Charlottetown Festival.

First, she is presenting her first cabaret AJ’s cabaret next Wednesday.  Titled “Dare Me,” it features her friend singer Danielle Wade and talented accompanist Jeannie Wyse.

(Danielle and AJ were competitors in “Over the Rainbow,” the  CBC-TV competition to choose a performer to play Dorothy in the Toronto premiere and North American touring production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s adaptation of “The Wizard of Oz.” Danielle won and AJ placed in the top three.  Nevertheless, they have remained friends and performed last summer in the cast of Drayton Festival’s “Footloose.”)

Danielle just finished playing the Narrator in Cambridge and will continue to perform the part with engagements at the Drayton Festival circuit of theatres continuing May 17th at the Fest’s theatre in Drayton, before moving to Grand Bend’s Huron County Playhouse and the King’s Wharf Theatre in Penetanguishene.)

AJ Bridel chatted about her cabaret “Dare Me” recently with Song & Script:

Why your first solo cabaret and why now?  And why Toronto’s JAZZ BISTRO?

It's been a long time coming actually and I finally have the time to do it! Conveniently, I have been quite inspired lately by specific musical theatre/pop pieces that will be in the set for “Dare Me” and I am quite excited to share them.

Jazz Bistro is a very beautiful, intimate spot that I think will best suit the show I have put together. I quite enjoyed shopping for a venue but if I'm being honest, nothing holds a candle to the ambiance of Jazz Bistro. I am still working on a few details but I'm quite certain it will be a fun, loud, exciting evening!

Why the title “Dare Me", anything more than the obvious meaning?

I workshopped so many titles that I can't even count. I kept telling myself that the right one would pop up in my mind and I would know right away. Thank goodness it was true because the last thing I wanted was to settle for a title that didn't excite me.

"Dare Me" can mean a lot of things, all of which are applicable to the theme of the evening. It's mostly a description of the overall theme of, "Never taking the easy route" or "Never taking NO for an answer" or quite simply, "Not Being Afraid of Anything.” All things I try to live by, but are of course, easier said than done. I want to show a sense of fearless and FUN. I think "Dare Me" says that.

Tell us about your guest, Danielle Wade.

She was the first person I asked and she said yes.  I was shocked she was available. Miss Danielle Wade will be an extraordinary special guest for the evening. If you're a performer looking for a special guest to blow your audience away while you take a sensible water and vocal break, it doesn't get any better than Danielle Wade. We will also being singing a couple duets for the first time EVER.

We competed against each other on “Over the Rainbow”  and shared the stage in Footloose at Drayton Entertainment, but this cabaret will mark our first duet together. Very excited about it!

Is this your farewell to Toronto as you prepare to blast off for PEI?

Pretty much! I'll be back for the fall but it will be nice to get a final few tunes in before I spend the summer on the beautiful island of P.E.I.

What can you tell us about your set list?  Are you just doing show tunes?  Any pop or jazz?  Maybe that wonderful Patsy Cline number you posted online – Crazy?  Any songs from your previous shows – Over the Rainbow, History of Wrong Guys, etc.?  Sneak preview of Anne of Green Gables?

There will be a wide variety of Musical Theatre and Pop with a hint of Jazz. As for specifics, I promise to show a side of me that has not been seen yet! However, I will pay respect to shows past.

Are you holding a draw for a free flight to PEI and tickets to Anne of Green Gables? Lol

If I could, I would! I would be happy to buy coffee to anyone who wants to visit! lol! Maybe even throw in a cookie or a scone.

Any comments looking back at “Sleeping Beauty” and “Kinky Boots?”  Did those shows change you as a performer?

Every show changes you as a performer, that's the beauty of art! It's impossible to perfect because you're getting better all the time. I hope to carry the skills I have learned from those experiences into future theatrical adventures and continue to improve and learn. Then, keep my eyes on the next one!

Tell me about your thoughts about playing Ann at the Festival? Also have you ever been to PEI before?

I cannot wait to get out there and start with the show. Anne Shirley has been at the top of my bucket list for years and it seems surreal that it is actually happening this summer. On top of that, I get to spend an entire summer getting to know the East Coast (which I have yet to experience). I'm pretty lucky.

I am thrilled to be putting this cabaret together on April 19th. It has been a goal that I have been chasing for a few years now and I can't wait to share some songs, stories and laughs. Woo!

A final word goes to singer Louise Pitre, who was a judge on CBC-TV’s “Over the Rainbow”:

“AJ, you are the truest, you have the widest range of emotions, and you speak to me and you touch me.  I love you.”

www.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=678575 -  AJ Bridel singing “The History of Wrong Guys” from “Kinky Boots,” CTV – Canada AM

Tickets & Information


Call 416-363-5299 for dinner reservations.

Wednesday, April 19th, 2017 – 8 p.m.

Jazz Bistro

251 Victoria St.

Toronto, ON

By Dennis Kucherawy

Last modified on Thursday, 13 April 2017 16:36
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