Thursday, July 15, 2010

L’Edition Francaise

The “living, breathing, work of art” creates a living, breath French arte film that delighted the senses, boggled the mind, and evoked laughter, tears, and more than one arousal.

Anyone who has read my blog knows that I am a Lily Verlaine fan-boy, and last night’s show at The Triple Door gives me another chance to profess my love and admiration for this artistic goddess and her work.

In celebration of Bastille Day, Lily brought to her audience a series of risqué, comedic and beautiful dance pieces performed to the works of a number of smoky French voices. On the whole it was different. It was beautiful. It was risky.

It is always a risk when you do something different. When people go to a Lily Verlaine show they expect to see beautiful girls, and handsome boys, dancing and taking their clothes gracefully, and dare I say tastefully. Lily is a master of gently pushing her audience, teasing, pulling back and teasing again, without pushing so hard as to turn her audiences off. L’Edition Francaise is no exception to this expectation, but it goes beyond that. It pushes the audience in a way I have never experienced, forcing them to immerse themselves completely in the sensations or risk getting lost in the subtly of the artistic statements, the blinding collage of stimulation, and persistent language barrier. It forces the audience to think like the French, and not like Americans. Risky.

I cannot speak for the entire audience but for this viewer the experience was amazing. Letting go of my own thoughts and preconceptions, allowing myself to sink into the story that I could only partially understand was a refreshing exercise in surrender. However, I am at a loss to describe why this show affected me like it did. Perhaps it is something that cannot be explained, but only experienced. Or perhaps the sensation of being forced out of my Ameri-centric thought patterns was more than my brain could handle and still leave room for rational thought. Whatever the case, it is truly a shame that this was a onetime event.

From the tricycle pedaling mime pick-up artiste, a lip syncing ensemble, to a cute as a button baby shark, spirited go-go dancers, and a Pilobolus-esque town car, to handsome men with cigarettes in hand, beautiful girls sunbathing, and a beautifully choreographed gang-bang (how French), to a fantastic pas de deux between Paris Original and Kylie Shea, and a sensational finale that left me speechless and on the brink of tears (and my date thoroughly confused), Lily Verlaine’s Night Cap L’Edition Francaise was without a doubt something I will remember for a long time. Brava divas!

Love ~ Fosse Jack

Sunday, July 11, 2010

SHINE: A Burlesque Musical

I sit down to a pot of Assam Tea, a pitcher of cream ready and chilled and I look out upon a mundane world, and its people walking along the street, a post sun-gasm weariness about many of them. They walk through a grey world, and I wonder if they can see the beauty around them, just waiting to come out.

Everyone is beautiful. Everyone is sexy. That is the message of Shine: A Burlesque Musical now playing at Theater off Jackson, and that is the truth the neo-burlesque movement espouses. Forgive me a moment for being preachy in what should be a raunchy review of a fantastic show, but I think it is this belief in the beauty inherent in what the world calls undesirable that draws me to burlesque. Like spinning straw into gold, or turning water to wine, burlesque can be a miraculous.

Shine A Burlesque Musical had the potential to be so many things. As my background lies in musical theater, I know that the genre can be awesome, average, or just plain awful. The same can be said about burlesque, I have seen performers who stunned me with grace, excited me with sensuality, and challenged me with daringness. I have also seen performances that left me feeling nauseous (which in some cases is the point), or worse indifferent to the performer. To put the two genres together, a passion of my own, is a risky, and dangerous cocktail, one that Shine mixed, shook, and served with gusto and skill.

The music is catchy, drawing on numerous styles of musical theatre. The lyrics are at times surprisingly clever, and over all well written. If I were to draw links between Shine and other musicals I would say take two parts Cabaret, one part Rent, one part Urinetown and a sprinkle of Spamalot and Young Frankenstein, poured over The Rocky Horror Show, and that’s what you’ve got. The scenic design is simple, effective and actually quite elegant. My one critique is the inclusion of the Cat statue, whose symbolic ties to good luck and fortune are not lost on me, but whose presence on an otherwise simple set was distracting.

The lighting design was beautiful and well executed, and the sound design while obviously canned did not distract from the rest of the show. That being said, having worked with canned orchestration before, I must say bravo to all the performers. You HAVE to be on because the musicians/music director isn’t there to help you. However, should the budget ever allow I would love to see this show with live musicians, some of the numbers hinted at grandiose and very impressive dance-music merging which didn’t quite hit the high notes that they could have.
As this is a burlesque musical two aspects of design in particular must be applauded. The costumes where gorgeous; glittery, sequined and glamorous where they needed to be, and at other times distressed and sympathetic reflecting the hard times which performers, especially fringe artists, often face.

Inga Ingénue, local burlesque artist and fabulous choreographer provided the moves for this show and her hard work shows. The choreo was uniformly professional, sexy, graceful, and dare I say tasteful? And props to all of the performers because everything was very well executed, and a few individuals in particular left this dancer somewhat envious of both their opportunities and talent.

Production elements and design having been covered I can move on to the performance itself. Brava divas! I thoroughly enjoyed this show, and found myself slipping into the story rather than analyzing details objectively. The ensemble comprised of highly talented performers, who brought their own flavors to this feast of eye candy. From the energy and precision of Trojan Original, the natural grace of Paris Original, and the masterful stage presence of the Luminous Pariah, to the powerful sensuality of Jesse Belle Jones, comedic mastery and dedication of Polly Wood, camptastic performance of Elsa Von Schmaltz, and coiled spring energy of Roxie Moxie the ensemble ROCKED!

The leads where all equally talented and amazing, taking chances on stage that many actors would shy from. I do not have the words to describe everything but I will make special mention of two of the lead performers. Cass King was funny, sympathetic and sexy as Shine, the epitome of burlesque royalty. Dedicated to the art form she inherited, and dedicated to the family she provided a home for. Adra Boo as the sensual, large and in charge Lulu was amazing. Her vocal performances stunning, and her bawdy stage presence worked perfectly in this show (an actor’s triumph as this was her first burlesque performance!) The numbers in which Cass and Adra performed together where especially enthralling.

I could go on and on, and really the cast deserves it, but my little review has already drawn on too long so I will end this by saying, if you have not seen it yet, do so. Shine A Burlesque Musical is running for one more week, Thursday through Sunday 7:30pm, with 10:30 shows on Friday and Saturday. You can buy tickets at ( And for more information about Shine, it’s creators and future check out: I will be there again this Thursday, and I hope to see you there. In this performer's opinion it is a must see show.

Love, Fosse Jack