Review: L’Orchestre d’Hommes-Orchestres performs Tom Waits (The Theatre Centre)

By Sam Mooney

L’Orchestre d'Hommes-Orchestres

A sick toddler and his exhausted mother meant that my roommate Bredgeen came with me to see L’Orchestre d’Hommes-Orchestres Performs Tom Waits tonight at The Theatre Centre. She had no idea what to expect beyond hearing some of Tom Waits’ songs. Nor, based on my eavesdropping, did quite a few other people in the audience.

Her verdict? “Brilliant!” And the rest of the audience agreed.  Much clapping, whooping and foot-stomping, and  a standing ovation were the proof of their enjoyment. I saw L’Orchestre d’Hommes-Orchestres and Les New Cackle Sisters a year ago when they first performed in Toronto and I thought they were wonderful.  After last night I think they’re fabulous.  They are Bruno Bouchard, Simon Drouin, Simon Elmaleh, Jasmin Cloutier and Les New Cackle Sisters: Gabrielle Bouthiller and Danya Ortmann.

They perform the music of Tom Waits on found and invented instruments.  To give you an idea of what they play here are a couple of lines from the program.

“Bruno Bouchard: voice, guitar, suitcase, spaghetti, violin…” and “Danya Ortmann: voices, teapots, handkerchief…”

Here’s my list of what they played – a turkey-baster, a saw, teacups, dominoes, frying pans, a step-ladder, a banjo and spaghetti to make a snare drum, bottles as wind instruments, a suitcase as percussion, balloons, kazoos, a golf club…

You’ve probably gathered that this isn’t a run-of-the-mill Tom Waits tribute performance. You could go and sit with your eyes closed and enjoy it but to experience it you have to watch as much or more than you listen.  The controlled mayhem edges close to pandemonium at times but it’s all done with straight faces.

How the performers hold on to their concentration is beyond me.  They use each other as percussion instruments.  Quite amazing. You really need to watch everyone on stage so that you don’t miss anything.  Even so, you will miss things.  Then you have to go again so that you can see the stuff you missed.

This is a fun, imaginative evening.  Great entertainment.  Don’t miss it.


– L’Orchestre d’Hommes-Orchestres performs Tom Waits is playing at The Theatre Centre (1087 Queen Street West) until March 5, 2011
– Shows ar at 8pm
– Tickets are $25 and are available by phone at 416-538-0988 or at the Box Office an hour before the show.