At the CBC Studio 700 on Thursday, April 21. Continues From April 28 to 30
In preparation for a night of pseudo-Bollywood fare, I dined on butter chicken at the White Spot. Seemed like the thing to do at the time. The Canadian version of the South Asian dish is to real Indian food what the local sketch troupe I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter Chicken is to the delightfully colourful and campy musicals from the former Bombay: not as fulfilling as the real thing but palatable in its own right.
With their newest show, The Butter Chicken’s Back”¦Alright!, which has three more nights remaining, Munish Sharma, Leena Manro, and company ham it up with skits about meddling Indian “aunties”, precociously naive four-year-olds, and a creepy serpentine-dance hopeful.
The production value is low but that’s not the point. Laughs have no price tag. As in any sketch comedy, it all comes down to the writing and the performances. And one out of two ain’t bad. Sharma was a really strong comedic presence and Manro’s physicality was totally endearing. Like any good entertainer, they aren’t afraid to play the fool and make themselves less attractive than they are. They’re ably supported by Aga Postawska, Sandhya Sharma, Kevin Taggar, and the bearded wonder, Jason Vaisvila, whose roles ranged from a hirsute preschooler to furry females.
There were some good lines, too, and strong premises, but the overall writing was bordering on amateur hour. Most skits ended with the characters excitedly running off-stage and many hinged on a Three’s Company–like misunderstanding. In one, Manro played a Dr. Ruth–type character counselling a bored married couple. She suggests a big cucumber and whispers to the wife, as played by a game Postawska, what to do with it. Hilarity is supposed to ensue, and might if that conceit weren’t so overdone. Later on, the same character whispers her advice to an oversexed young woman even though, ostensibly, they’re the only two people in the room.
I would have liked to have seen the band that ended the night (singer Sabrina Saran and multi-instrumentalist Stuart Gray) play a larger role. Instead of keeping it away until the finale, the group could have been utilized to give the night a bigger sense of show. As it was, the duo was joined by Sharma to present a 10-minute musical introduction to the Bollywood classic, Sholay, which was one of the highlights of the evening, bringing everything together—writing, performance, music, dancing, and, most importantly, comedy.