March 21 1979: a group of under-employed French-Canadian actors are about to stage a small play they’ve created and open at a small downtown Montreal shop converted into a makeshift theatre.
The play is called simply “Broue”, an Anglicism on the word “brew” which itself is a colloquial word for beer. However ‘broue’ is French-Quebec colloquialism which specifically refers for the foamy head on a glass of beer.
Created by Jean Barbeau, Germain Beauchamp, Gaston Caron, Robert Gurik, Claude Meunier, Jean-Pierre Plante, Francine Ruel et Louis Saïat, it starred Marc Messier, Michel Côté,and Marcel Gauthier. It was initially a way to give them about a month’s worth of work until late spring and summer acting came along.
Instead it became an almost immediate cult hit with non-stop bookings all around the mainly French-speaking province.
It ended up earning a Guiness record in 2006 for the longest running theatrical play with the same actors and is a cultural legend in Quebec.
The scene is “Chez Willy” (Willy’s Place) a fictional neighbourhood tavern on the evening before a new law in Quebec comes into force requiring that taverns admit women. Taverns sold beer only and up until the 1970’s were exclusive male domains so it was the place where Quebec males could have all to themselves
.The three actors play several different characters during the play. At once hugely comedic and playing on the old tavern atmosphere and parodies the kind of working class Quebec characters and cliché’s that populated the small neighbourhood taverns of the 1960’s. There’s also just a hint of nostalgic sadness for a bygone era, while briefly also poking a bit of fun at the English and French solitudes in the city,
The website says it has sold over 3.2 million tickets during its run, and many Quebeckers have seen the play several times, as its become a cultural icon. It has also been performed in English to equally enthusiastic reviews and audiences .Although it was announced in 2006 that the play would end, it has since been performed again and again due to incredible popular demand.
In Jan 2011, the group took the stage for the 3,000th time.
Finally after 3,322 performances the original trio gave their final performance on April 22, 2017, some 38 years and 3,324,195 tickets later.
But “Broue” is far from gone from Quebec and it’s now also being staged in other languages and other countries.
In Quebec when any performances is announced, it still is almost instantly sold out. Three new comic actors have taken up the roles and it will continue its record breaking run in Quebec starting in June and running through to August at a well-known theatre in Terrebonne just north of Montreal before continuing on to Quebec and then Gatineau (Hull)