Past the miniature red carpet that serves as an entrance, people walk down Berri to the Loto-Québec stage in packs, sporting green and pink donation bracelets. Others come alone, perfectly comfortable in solitude, dancing their way over to the front of a forming crowd, to the asphalt-trembling beats of DJ Stéfane Lippé .
As Divers/Cité’s 12th annual Boulevard des Rêves variety show is about to begin, it’s hard for any newcomers to know what to expect without having seen the show in past years. Anticipating a blow-out of all different art forms, accompanied by pre-show DJ-ing that feels like the buildup to a massive, energy-filled dance party, some may be left a little surprised to find themselves watching a mostly cabaret-style show with about as many slow songs as move-worthy ones.
Despite that, the show certainly has the crowd going – enthused supporters slow dance and lip-sync passionately into empty beer cups at some points and cheer with laughter at others. That said, Marleen Menard’s three-hour extravaganza has a few too many monochromatic glitter outfits and Broadway-inspired cries and prolonged notes to truly offer a lot in terms of “variety.” Regardless, this seems to bother no one – the crowd continues to respond all-too-positively to every two-song act under the soft radiance of red glow sticks handed out en masse and spotlights that rotate around buildings lining the street.
A particularly effective crowd pleaser this year is New York City’s fabulous and shocking Queen Shequida, who owns the stage in a long silver gown that seems to sparkle stronger than any of the other glitter-blazon talent of the night. Standing statuesque, it may be an understatement to label the breathtaking voice that comes out of Miss Shequida as surprising. The queen first embraces her “man” by projecting the seemingly deepest notes of her ability, clearly enjoying herself, before switching off to an entirely different end of the vocal spectrum, a lovely soprano. Shequida is confident in breaking just about every boundary, making the crowd go absolutely wild as she does it.
Another more-than-welcome shocker of the night, halfway through the show Mado storms the stage by surprise, extravagant as ever. Montreal’s queen of queens has the crowd faithfully singing along to every word, her loving “gang d’écureuils.” Her eye-catching outfit is pieced together in a marvelous, over-the-top collection of blue shades: a long gown à la drag, along with a huge matching headdress, complete with feathers.
Amidst a menu of acts taking the scene with wild costumes and enthusiastic dance moves, Boulevard des Rêves would simply not be complete
without acknowledging what it and Divers/Cité are all about: embracing diversity. Many of the artists have things to say, but bluesy scat-star Dawn Tyler Watson is one to stand out. “We judge each other based on differences, when we need to judge based on similarities,” she preaches. “We are all just one big soul.”
The final act of the night, before a farewell piece performed by all the entertainers, Misstress Barbara picks up on similar themes. As the last song of her set, right after club classic I’m Running, Barbara introduces Who You Are, a new song off her upcoming album, declaring the tune as “perfect for the occasion.” The Montreal DJ wraps up the night to a crowd of swaying, trancelike bodies moving to the words, “Come on, be proud of who you are. Shout it out, you’ll see, it’s not so hard.”
Divers/Cité continues until Sunday, July 3
For more information, go to http://www.diverscite.org