Elbow Room Café: The Musical is a Witty Love Letter to Vancouver

The quirky, hilarious and raunchy play delivers a big punch of personality—and a whole lot of heart.

When I went to the Elbow Room Cafe (560 Davie St.) last weekend with a friend—in the name of research, of course—the couple at the table next to us immediately directed our attention to the 10 rules listed on the front of the menu: parental discretion is advised due to explicit vocabulary, you’re expected to make a $5 donation to A Loving Spoonful if you can’t finish your meal, and if you want a second cup of coffee get up and get it yourself. I also learned that, despite the name, the café has little to no elbow room—but its sassy personality, conveyed through its band of brash and sarcastic servers, more than makes up for it.Still, I’ll admit I was hesitant about watching a musical inspired by the tiny café which, with its celebrity sightings and cheeky repartee, has been an integral part of Vancouver’s West End and LGBTQ community for more than 30 years. I had to ask: what would a musical about Vancouver and for Vancouver look like?The play is based on real life owners Brian (David M. Adams) and Patrice (Allan Zinyk) as they struggle with and celebrate the realities of aging, business, life and love. Backed by a colourful cast of misfits, the play fully delivers raunchy jokes expected of its namesake, while still managing to touch upon real life issues of marriage, sexuality, feminism and even the AIDS crisis in moments (and musical numbers) of sweet sincerity.While some of the more serious issues come off as preachy at times, I’d expect nothing less from the unapologetic, in-your-face ways of the Elbow Room and its cast of characters. One final curtain and standing ovation later, I couldn’t help but feel that underneath the the belly laughs and social commentary, this love letter to Vancouver is full of heart.(Photo: Emily Cooper.)

Elbow Room Café: The Musical

York Theatre, 639 Commercial Dr.March 2 to 12thecultch.com