Review: Rubaboo—a rich stew of story & song

A review by Lucy Haines

Before a show goes up in an Edmonton theatre, the playbill or artistic director reminds audiences of the company’s privilege to live, create, and perform on Treaty No. 6 territory, traditional home of the First Nations and Métis peoples. Those words ring especially true ahead of a performance of Rubaboo, a Métis cabaret, now playing at The Citadel Theatre.

Part song, part storytelling, this 90-minute celebration of Métis women is not a typical theatrical experience. A usual show doesn’t have audience sing along, for example, but that’s only a small part of what makes this one different. There’s an intimate, joyous, and interactive vibe created in the Citadel’s Maclab Theatre, a vast circle of audience seats surrounding the four onstage singers/musicians who, in turn, focus on a cooking pot over the fire. How else does one make a rubaboo?

Powerhouse singer/songwriter Andrea Menard is the creative force behind Rubaboo—a term derived from the Michif word for big pot, a stew or soup composed of all that nurtures the Métis people of the prairies. Songs revolve around fire, water, wind (air), and earth, beautiful ballads and light-hearted ditties—even a little Red River Jig—that envelop the audience in the beauty of Métis culture.

Menard (often on hand drum, the ‘heartbeat of Mother Earth’) is accompanied by Robert Walsh (music director/co-writer) on guitar, Karen Shepherd on fiddle, and Nathen Aswell on the unique Chapman stick (it plays bass lines and chords). The foursome creates lovely harmonies and a magical backdrop to Menard’s strong, lyrical vocals on songs like Memmere’s Rubaboo, Return of the Bell of Batoche, and Silent No More.

Photos courtesy Citadel Theatre

Menard’s stories, snippets of wisdom interspersed between songs, about her own powerful female ancestors, Métis history and more, are a grand musical feast that highlight themes of reconciliation, truth, compassion, unity, and resilience. There could be no better ambassador to share these concepts than the magnetic, talented Menard. We are transfixed.

Menard has previously taken Rubaboo to spots across the country, including London, Ontario and Vancouver. The opening night audience in Edmonton showed a lot of love for the performance too, embracing the stories and songs like the warm wind and nourishing ingredients of that pot of stew.

I’d argue Rubaboo is required viewing for all Canadians—it’s educational without preaching, giving insight into Métis culture in a welcoming, entertaining, inclusive way. Whether we’re settlers, part of European history and culture, or have Indigenous history ourselves, there is much to enjoy and discover in this unique presentation.

As Menard says, we’re all welcome, we’re all relatives. Seeing Rubaboo confirms that.

Rubaboo plays at the Citadel Theatre until March 3. For tickets, go to

Lucy Haines is a longtime arts writer, covering theatre, music, and the arts in and around Edmonton. Her reviews and columns have appeared in Alberta Prime Times, Metro News Edmonton, and more. And sometimes, when she’s not writing about it, she hits the stage too!


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