Review: Cocktales with Maria (Tapestry Opera/Pride Toronto)

Cocktales with Maria is raunchy, provocative and explicit opera at its finest, played in Toronto

Cocktales with Maria, playing as part of TAP THIS: A Queerated Opera Series (Tapestry Opera in collaboration with Pride Toronto) was possibly too explicit for some, but one hundred percent on point for my companion and I.

Cocktales with Maria is a creation of the Gutter Opera Collective and is a confessional, operatic drag show in which “contralto profundo” drag queen Maria Toilette (Joel Klein) tells tales of gritty gay sexual encounters. Maria is accompanied by pianist dominatrix Morekeys de Schade (Karen Lee-Morlang) and supported by performative stage manager Vadge (Kristina Lemieux).

Composed by Isaiah Bell, the show features song sets that recount sexual experiences provided by gay men across Canada. The format of the show is akin to that of a classical or musical theater recital, but definitely not like any classical recital you’ve ever seen before.

The stories pull no punches and spare no details, creating a presentation that is raunchy, funny, telling and poignant all at once. The set-up of each song was also hilarious and included gems such as a demonstration of a sounding rod (using a dildo) and the statement “It’s important that you know that ‘guano’ in the context of this song means bird shit”. It’s the kind of performance that will linger in your mind for days to come in a delightful and salacious way. Never mind days, the story of “The dirtiest sex I ever had” will change the way I think about oral sex and rim jobs forever.

Explicit content aside, the music was also stunning. Isaiah Bell’s compositions demonstrated spectacular emotional range and complexity, which was mirrored and brought to life by the performers. Maria Toilette has an absolutely fabulous, larger than life stage presence and the wardrobe to match. Her initial gown and stole were stunning, but her intermission gown change elicited gasps and applause from the audience. Maria’s voice is robust and warm, with a bright, forward edge. Combined with her flare for the dramatic, her voice swelled and shone through melodically and texturally complex passages.

Similary, Morekeys de Schade is a consummate collaborative pianist and has such phenomenal chemistry with Maria Toilette it was as though they were playing a single instrument. Her costume of coattails and leather fetish gear was also super!

I had no idea what was meant by “performative stage manger” in the program, but Vadge schooled me. She was absolutely hilarious in the role of the timid, nervous submissive against Morekeys de Schade’s dominatrix. Her deft grasp of comedic timing and intentionally diffident gestures were riotously funny and certainly one of the highlights of the show. The number wherein she silently mimics Maria Toilette’s gestures while wearing a black ballet leotard was one of the biggest crowd pleasing numbers in the show.

Gutter Opera Collective has been developing and performing this show on and off for four years. This current production was supported by Queer artist and performer Ryan G. Hinds in the role of Artistic Associate. Suffice it to say, the show is not for “sensitive viewers”. However, If you like raunchy and opera, don’t miss this rare opportunity to fulfill both those desires!


Photo of Joel Klein provided by the company.