ORLANDO — Never let it be said that our neighbors to the north don’t have a lot to offer when it comes to exquisite pleasures.
Canada truly does offer quite a bit, from the spectacular beauty of Niagara Falls to great cities like Montreal and Vancouver, and if you’ve never vacationed there, you’re truly missing out.
If you want further evidence, just travel over to Epcot and dine at Le Cellier Steakhouse, the Canadian restaurant in the World Showcase that offers an unforgettable candlelit steak and seafood meal in a cellarlike space.
Now Orlando residents get another fine example of a truly first-rate Canadian import, courtesy of Toronto singer and performer Ryan G. Hinds. A longtime fan of the Broadway songwriters John Kander and Fred Ebb — best known for legendary musicals like “Cabaret” and “Kiss of the Spider Woman” — Hinds has delivered his tribute show, #Kander And Ebb,” to the Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival.
Is it worth seeing? Well, if you love a) rich, stunning singing voices, b) a delightfully funny performer, C) Liza Minnelli, and d) obviously, the music of Kander and Ebb, you’re definitely going to want to catch this one.
In the show, Hinds — who has taken “#Kander And Ebb” on an international tour — makes an exceptionally good case for being the ideal interpreter of the works of the two songwriters who are probably best known for their association with Minnelli and Chita Rivera. Hinds truly seems to enjoy putting a lot of emotion into the songs, whether its excitement, longing, sadness or somber reflection. He fully embraces each song in a very heartfelt way.
At the same time, we also get a good understanding of how this performer — whose artistic journeys have led to performances with Minnelli and Rivera, plus Todrick Hall, Debbie Reynolds, Billy Stritch, and Lady Bunny — came to create this tribute show. He talks about how his devotion to the works of Kander and Ebb led to opportunities to meet both of them (including a funny story about his first, not so successful encounter with Ebb backstage at a concert), and then to a career interpreting their work.
So while Hinds is quite entertaining performing songs from “Cabaret,” “Kiss of the Spider Woman,” “Funny Lady,’ “Chicago,” “The Visit,” and “Flora The Red Menace” (with Giustin MacLean on piano), he’s equally charming tossing out celebrity gossip about Minnelli, Rivera and others. His rendition of “Mein Herr” from “Cabaret” is particularly fun to watch.
Then again, Hinds’ talent at interpreting Kander and Ebb songs reaches a hilarious highlight when he notes the one song that can be interpreted two ways: either as a humorous ditty about going for a swim … or as a double-entente about a, well, rather specialized kink. Once you listen to the lyrics, you’ll be rolling on the floor in laughter, fully understanding exactly what Hinds means.
“#Kander and Ebb” is enjoyable in part because the songs by these two Broadway legends are so good, and worth rediscovering. But it’s really Hinds’ own talent as both singer and narrator that makes the show so much fun.
“#Kander & Ebb” is being performed in the Purple Venue. Catch it on the following dates:
* Today at 12:45 p.m.
* Tuesday May 23 at 10:30 p.m.
* Thursday May 25 at 5:45 p.m.
For tickets visit Orlando Fringe.
Michael Freeman is an Orlando journalist, playwright and author of the book “Bloody Rabbit”. Contact him at Freelineorlando@gmail.com..