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Schwartz's the Musical: A Little Lean

Posted by Amie / April 6, 2011

Schwartz's the MusicalFood and music - two of my favourite things combined into one gluttonous show of song, dance, and smoked meat! Schwartz's the Musical is a recipe for success, but just as some people's culinary ability only goes as far as "heat and serve", there's always a way to mess it up.

I actually ate an enormous dinner before heading to this show at the Centaur Theatre, just to make sure I wasn't ravenous for marinated brisket by the end. Disappointingly, I wasn't.

As much as succulent slices of fatty smoked meat are the real hero of the show, the theatre would need to add some smoked meat-scented candles to the room to leave you hungry and wanting more. Sure, lots of words rhyme with "Jewish" ("true-ish", "blue-ish", etc.), but besides a few zingers the laughs were few and far between.

But if you've lived in Montreal for awhile you'll enjoy hearing about the lovable, local business, the other city references, the Toronto-bashing, and the explanation of why smoked meat is just so great.

The fun part of the show is that you'll learn (or be reminded of) the following Schwartz's smoked meat rules:
1. Don't order lean meat
2. The drink of choice is black cherry soda
3. Don't add mustard to the first few bites. Savour the meat.
4. Smoked meat is served on rye and only on rye.
5. Don't ask for dessert. Eat your smoked meat or liver and shut up.
6. Tip!

This is your smoked meat bible.

So I left fully educated about the history of the shop - the different owners, the stereotypically poor service, and the screwball regulars - but I also left feeling like I'd just watched a two and a half-hour long extended diner scene from Grease the Musical (1 not the horrible sequel), except instead of a jukebox there was a piano that also acted as the diner sandwich counter. Basically the show got over-stretched into a dry, lean chicken breast instead of a tender, fatty, flavourful piece of cow.

The whole shtick is that a woman from Toronto comes to Montreal to buy Schwartz's from the older proprietress, but she falls under the spell of both the smoked meat and the head waiter. Same old story - Torontonian realizing it's better here than there.

The leads have strong voices, but there's only so much you can do with tunes that don't get stuck in your head. Maybe if the dancing condiments had offered free samples, or the mustard container didn't look like a baby's bottle and the pickle didn't look like a sickly green potato...

So go see the show if you absolutely love everything about Schwartz's or Montreal history, because it really does do the restaurant proud in terms of honouring them as an important slice of Montreal history, but don't go if you think you can't make it through an evening of shuffle steps. Lets just hope there's no bagel sequel. Go watch the West Side Story rumble scene instead.

Schwartz's the Musical

Where: Centaur Theatre, 453 St. Francois-Xavier
When: Until April 24th, 2011
How much: $51, $32 for students



Vanessa (Lady Grey) / April 6, 2011 at 10:40 am
Great review... I love the Schwartz's smoked meat rules. I've sadly broken the mustard rule in the past, but now I know better!
Margot / April 6, 2011 at 06:01 pm
Or if you don't want to watch that other West Side Story scene, watch this:

I think I'll go down to Schwartz's tonight and drop $32 on some delicious sandwiches...
Amie / April 6, 2011 at 10:16 pm
Luc: A lot. It's true.

Margot: You're going to be so full. Also, that video is amazing.

Vanessa: The smoked meat gods will forgive your sins. Mustard can be a seductive thing.
L. kliger / May 14, 2011 at 09:19 pm

You might want to take some prozac; or the like. Lighten up! The show was fun and your commentary was depressing. You must be from out-of-province or too young to recognize light-hearted humour when it hits you in the...belly.
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Gianelita / February 4, 2015 at 07:04 am
Had similar isesus with other tobaccos in the past. I’ve tried these three with varied result. That being, they were more smoke-able than before. 1. Cut heavy with a preferred blend. (A lb to cut is a bit much..this option is least preferable)2. Heavy wet with a preferred Schnapps, seal for a week, then open, shake, open…etc till desired moisture level is obtained. 3. Heavy wet with “Woodford Reserve”…same as above but age a year. It’s not my everyday smoke, but when I want that ‘whisky kick” I’ll load a small bowl full and it suffices. Or…..just toss on the barbecue and the backyard smells wonderful for about five minutes. Nuff said.
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