There’s more than hors d’oeuvres heating up in the kitchen, as The Catering Queen takes the stage at Metro Theatre, Vancouver until November 18th.
Alison Lawrence’s comedy takes a behind the scenes look at the McKinley Catering’s team working for the Henderson Tessier McGuire & Smythe annual Christmas party. Anyone who’s worked a front line service job will relate to the need to drop the smile as soon as you step into the safety of ‘the backroom’, snarky comments and critiques about the guests, their habits, their appearance become that defense mechanism against being rendered invisible by the people they’re serving. In the case of The Catering Queen, the backroom is a spacious kitchen in the hosts’ West Van mansion, created by Set Designer Emily Dotson and Decorator Daisy Fung, with the help of some enviable hardware provided by sponsor, Coast Appliances.
The guests have no idea what is going on in the lives of the caterers, but the audience gets a peak into what keeps them coming back to this thankless job. There’s Melanie (played by Lindsay Nelson), McKinley Catering’s supervisor, known by the team as ‘The Catering Queen’ for her long service and dedication, but unable to dedicate much to herself. Melanie, still reeling from a recent break-up is forced to confront it when her ex-Nick (David Hollinshead) appears at the party as a guest of Julia (Emma Geleynse) a hot shot young lawyer. Melanie’s close friend, and former roommate, Cynthia (Cheryl-Lee Fast) is an actress, of a certain age, still struggling for her big break but finding it hard to accept that catering might be part of her life for longer than she hopes. Timothy (Eric Keogh) is their friend who has come back to the catering team after taking some time away from work, and much to the Cynthia’s chagrin, and friends. Rounding out the serving staff, Eric (Brad Bonnell) is the unflappable, hard worker who loves his work, or does he?
The Catering Queen follows the team over two nights, the aforementioned Christmas Party and a subsequent event a days later. Throughout the evenings, we see relationships revealed, resolved, and revived as the group break down each others’ flaws and weaknesses, before coming back with strength and growth.
Alison Lawrence’s script, directed by Rebecca Walters, feels ready made for a sitcom. The typical workplace scenario features Melanie as the central character, playing it straight as the foil for the snarky and sassy best friends. The potential of a handsome love interest is interrupted by the return of the ex-boyfriend into her life, made all that much worse by the appearance of his new flame. Along the way, the group contend with handsy guests, drunken confessions, life, death and love. From the hearty guffaws and chortling along with spontaneous applause of the audience, the laugh-track seems ready made (although at times a bit distracting in volume).
The Catering Queen feels like there could be a whole season’s worth of behind-the-kitchen-door stories ready to be released as we find out more about this loveable cast of characters. Find out what’s happening as The Catering Queen plays at The Metro Theatre, 1370 Marine Drive SW, Vancouver until November 18th. Find showtimes and tickets at metrotheatre.com/the-catering-queen