Saturday, April 30, 2011

Beebo Brinker Pulp Cabarets

This past Thursday marked the launch of a six month series of events which will include four monthly cabarets, a special engagement at The ACT (Central Heating Lab) and finally the Seattle premiere of the theatrical adaptation of the collected pulp-fiction novels of Ann Bannon, called The Beebo Brinker Chronicles.  The events collectively promise to be "THE gay event of the summer."  Thursday night's cabaret showed that it does have the potential to fulfill that promise.

The theme of the evening was Greenwich Village of the 1950s.  Lyla la Coeur, Diva le Deviant, and Cherry Manhattan (the driving production team) brought together musical, theatrical and burlesque talent, including the Hot Pink Motion Machine, Fuschia FOXXX, the cabaret's headliner.  Other performers included Whisper De Corvo, Ginger Snapz, Angel Alabaster, and jazz artists The John Terpin Trio which along with its featured performances provided instrumental riffs when necessary (a nice touch).

The highlights of the evening began with the pre-show video. Looping through clips of Betty Paige dressing Tempest Storm, old black and white commercials for cosmetic products, an "educational" film telling us that girls who date around aren't as popular as they think they are, and waiting at home for your one guy is the mark of a desirable female (not to mention instructing men to ask their sweeties out well in advance so they have plenty of time to spruce up), juxtaposed with girl on girl wrestling and ending with an dance performance of a Hindu goddess slaying a demon in battle; the film made a clear statement about social expectations.

The first solo act of the evening was Whisper De Corvo, who debuted a new number, which I'd like to call Whisper's Cotillion. The act blended grace, comedic pantomime, and of course, sexy strip tease.  For those of you who have never seen Whisper perform, allow me to make some comparisons.  With a face like Audrey Hepburn, the stature of Bea Arthur, and the curves of Marilyn Munroe, Whisper fills the space with both her statuesque frame and her cheerful personality.  Her style is comedic, playing to the audience's lighter side, and her strip techniques skirt the boundaries of innocence and down right dirty.  Her performance on Thursday night was well played, and the audience seemed to truly enjoy it.  Evoking laughter and cat calls, Whisper was a good choice for the opening burlesque act of the show.

Speaking of pantomime, the most "artsy" piece of the night was a three part installment that blended a sensual reading of some of the novel's sexier bits, by Rebecca Olson, and the light hearted, teasing, interaction of two 50s "housewives" as portrayed by Lyla and Cherry.  The first two pieces also included Fuschia FOXXX as an awkward (very awkward) young woman who struggled with her attraction to Lyla's character.  Funny, and in some ways sad, the story told in these scenes was one that highlighted the socially taboo nature of lesbian lust.

Fuschia would return to the stage in the second act to close the show, presenting a sideshow classic , a "hermaphrodite " number.  Dressed as both the French maid and her employer, Fuschia made good use of a feathered fan to hide one half of herself while each character performed.  The physical nature of this piece was intense, and both halves of psyche anima and animus showed their strength through movement.  This number  was both artistically impressive and a definite crowd pleaser, and was an excellent close to the show.

One last thing of particular note was the continuing usage of the Beebo Brinker literature to introduce the various performers.  Diva, in a cherry print dress that hugged her curvacious frame and red, 50s style glasses, read selections of the novel with excellent use of flare and breathy accentuations.  In each case she inserted the performer into the role of Beebo's lover.  This was a brilliant vehicle, expertly driven by the Diva, and I hope it is one that will return in the following cabarets.

Early on the bar was set, the standard high but achievable, and the performers met all expectations.   The few critiques I would have to offer are largely things out of the control of the performers. I do hope that the producers will talk to the spotlight operator whose constant fidgeting with the light was more than a little distracting.  Sound was decent though at times the pauses between introduction and "music go" were uncomfortably long.  Those technical matters aside, Thursday's show was quite strong, and I look forward to attending the future installments.

The Beebo Brinker Pulp Cabarets will be playing through July at The Re-Bar, with the next scheduled for Thursday, May 26th.  The guest artists? Fuschia FOXX will be joined by The Shanghai Pearl and Lady TaTas.  For those who missed the first cabaret, I recommend that you mark you calendars now.

Fosse Jack

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Anita Goodman Experience

You cannot go long as a member of the Seattle burlesque community without meeting or at least hearing about local drag-personality Anita Goodman and her co-host/producer and BFF Cassie O'Hara.  These Ladies have been regular performers in Seattle cabarets for the past four years or so, and for several years have produced and hosted their own show: The Anita Goodman Experience.

Last Thursday night, I had the opportunity to attend the latest installment of this show, a tax-day hangover themed extravaganza of drag/burlesque/comedy/improvisational chaos.  At least that it was it appears to be at first glance.  Starting off with a formulaic structure consisting of original theme music, and dry, witty comedic monologuing by Cassie O'Hara, the show quickly becomes more complex.  Guest performers both on and off stage add layer upon layer of material until it is hard to tell where the show is going.  Improvised interruptions often throw the audience (and sometimes the performers) for a loop, and may appear to be out of control (example ... about two hundred used Starbucks cups being unexpectedly dumped on stage!).  Yet through all of this the audience has an anchor.  Removed from the chaos, standing like a pillar in the storm, Anita holds the show together.

The Tax-Day show included performances by:

  • The ever-clever cabaret singer Gams Galore, performed one of her witty parodies, than spent the remainder of the show working her tush off as Anita's "fluffer" and impromptu pick up artist 
  • Improv maestro Andrew McMasters brought "The Sheen" to the stage as only he can, and tangled with one of his biggest fans, Gary Gloryhole.
  • Lydia McLane harassed Anita and the audience as an uptight agent of the IRS, with her mascot the 1040FU faithfully sic'ing tax dodgers.  
  • Brendan Mack, a regular performer on The Jack & Wood Show, brought the over medicated, crazy, trany-wreck Helen Hitchcock to Anita's show, immersing himself so deeply in the character that a young woman attending the show actually thought he was an unstable homeless woman and gave him a monetary handout!
  • The evenings burlesque guest, forgive me but I cannot remember her name, performed a piece as a business woman who while doing her taxes realized that she could make more money in stripper's heels than at her desk job.
  • Cassie performed a lip-sync piece to "The Ladies Who Lunch".  I don't normally enjoy lip sync, but Cassie's facial expressions are masterfully timed and quite funny.  
  • Anita closed the show by singing (Anita actual sings, and well, something few drag-artistes do) a song to Charlie Sheen, a strong finish and final anchor point to a delightful evening of sensory overload.
For those of you who have never been The Anita Goodman Experience, your first time may be a bit much for you to take in all at once but like a "Where's Waldo?" book it is a lot of fun to explore and see what sort of jokes are hidden within the chaos.  The next show will be on Thursday, June 9th at The Jewelbox Theater/Rendezvous in Belltown and I highly encourage you to check it out.

It's fun y'all!
Fosse Jack

Saturday, April 16, 2011

"Let My Bunnies Go"

Last night I had the opportunity to volunteer at "Let My Bunnies Go" a show produced by Miss Indigo Blue (The Academy of Burlesque) and Heidi Von Haught, featuring Dangerous Curves from NYC.  The show, combined (loosely) elements of both the Jewish Passover and the Pagan/Christian Easter celebrations with acts from Dangerous Curves' spring  tour.  Hosted by Miss Indigo Blue, the show was equal parts irreverence, raunchy humor, and sexy fun.

Dangerous Curves, the troupe consisting of GiGi La Femme, Anita Cookie, Clams Casino, Darlinda Just Darlinda, and Minni Tonka presented a variety of pieces both neo and classic, comedic and sexy.

Anita Cookie's first act fit in with both Orthodox and Catholic traditions of Easter (though it wasn't presented as such) and Lent.  Mixing dough on stage, flour, sugar and beer, Anita indulged in sensual preparation of a staple of life, only to reveal to the audience that it was a guilty pleasure a thing she longed for but was for her a forbidden thing (just ask anyone on a no-carb diet).  Taking a real life situation and finding the sex and the tease in it, Anita's act was, in my opinion the most clever of the evening.

Anita would return to the stage later in the show with Clams Casino, to perform what was definitely the funniest act of the night.  Re-enacting the sex/pottery scene from the movie Ghost, these two ladies quickly won the crowds approval.  Slow, sensual and hilarious (especially considering the Charlie Brown ghost costume), the act was an excellent pop culture reference.  Then taking a page (perhaps unintentionally) from Family Guy, they turned it on its head by adding a bit of Ghostbusters (and Minni Tonka) into the act.  Fortunately for the audience, the Ghost won, and the pair teased once more while going in for the girl-on-girl kiss only to break away to bow to the house.

Another crowd favorite was GiGi La Femme's second act, a fetish piece that left her cheeks red.  GiGi's simple but sexy costume came off fairly quickly, for it was the reveal of the leather paddle and its intended use that was the climax of the act.  GiGi teased the audience by teasing herself, making good use of the typical burlesque goers voyeuristic tendencies.  My one suggestion to GiGi is that she can slow her choreography down.  While stripping her movements were frenetic, and while well timed seemed nervous.  Sometimes less is more.  She has a great figure and stage presence, and it would have been nice if they could be better appreciated; the audience allowed to savor it just a little.

Another "tease the audience by teasing yourself" act was a performance by Darlinda Just Darlinda, and was, in my opinion, the most intriguing (and dirtiest) act of the night.  Her gown, open in the back, displayed her assets nicely, and was a beautiful nod to early modern dance.  Her isolations, chair work, and later floor work were all beautifully executed and when she was done, I felt as though I had just watched Martha Graham masturbate (vigorously) on stage.  That being said.... I am glad that I have never actually seen Martha Graham masturbate on stage, but I did actually enjoy Darlinda's performance.

It was evident that the Passover/Easter theme was contrived by our local producers, and at times it felt that the acts performed were forced into place, even to the point of adding bunny ears to a performer's costume just to fit the theme.  The major exceptions to this were a performance by The Schlep Sisters (sp?), Darlinda Just Darlinda and Minni Tonka, that enacted through comedic interpretive dance, and simple strip tease, the Exodus of Israel from Egypt, a piece that felt custom tailored for the show, Indigo's Seder Plate piece, and Heidi Von Haught performing the "passion" of Jesus to "F*ckin' Rock n' Roll". (Which was a surprising mix reverence and irreverence; a nice balance and that more then impressive.)  While it did not detract from the show, and Indigo made good use of non-sequitur to keep things flowing, it was not expected and threw me at first.

That being said, Let My Bunnies Go was an entertaining introduction to East Coast Burlesque, and was well received by the audience. If you did not get a chance to see Dangerous Curves last night, I understand they will be performing at The Pink Door this evening, and some of them will be modeling at Dr. Sketchy's on Sunday so you may still have the opportunity. :-)

Fosse Jack

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Sinner Saint Burlesque Presents "POP CULTURE"

After a month of being super broke (meh) I finally made it out to another show! Yeah.  Of course, the fan boy that I am Sinner Saint Burlesque was my destination, and just in time because opening night of "Pop Culture" was a really fun show.

The evening was hosted by guest comedienne/actor Adra Boo, who shinned on stage in all her curvacious glory.  Adra's banter with the audience was both excellently executed and very well received.  She stayed focused, filled time, and did all of the other things you expect a good host to do.  Sinner Saint lost a gem when Nicole Lucas moved to Texas, but Adra is a beautiful jewel to help decorate the SSB stage, at least for this run.  I am excited to see how various guest hosts work with the team as they progress this year.

(Ok so this review is turning flowery quick.  I apologize if my language turns all Cyrano on you.)

As one might expect "Pop Culture" covers a wide expanse of material.  Touching on music, dance, technology, celebrity, television, and even childhood memories, this show has quite the variety of performance.  One critique is that such diversity makes an arc or flow difficult to maintain.  It is the danger of "themed" shows, either they mesh really well together or they feel a little disjointed.  Pop Culture walked the line between the two, but this balancing act be no means distracted from the performances.

As for the performances themselves, I will highlight four of them.

As the first act of the show Dona De Cuori brought back to the stage a number I have reviewed in the past.  As Terpsichore, the Greek Muse of Dance, Dona took the audience on musical history tour of popular culture.  I feel that this number has greatly improved since I first saw it, the flow was smoother, and the motivations leading to reveals were more clear.  As a performer Dona has grown a lot this past year, and I have enjoyed watching this creative journey!

Polly Wood's first number of the evening started the ongoing banter about "sexting" that would provide a tenuous but well used arc for the show.  Appearing on stage as a stripper more interested in her cell phone and texts than in removing her clothes for the audience, it takes a rather special message to get her excited about both.  A friend of mine once said that the difference between burlesque and "stripping" was that strippers perform for the audience while burlesque perform for themselves.  Well in this number Polly stripped for the audience but the texts for her alone. :-)

Lady Tatas presented an act that wins "Most Disturbing Performance" of the evening, and likely one of the most disturbing that I've seen. Period.  Tatas comes out on stage in a long sleeved, short skirted ensemble, bedecked in sequins and performance a slightly awkward dance piece to Britney's Like A Circus.  At first you're like...WTF? But then down she falls, and out comes Polly Wood as the "quintessential" stage mother, and as money dangles just above reach, and Tatas goes from princess to stripper you realize just what she is commenting on, and while the audience laughed...I shuddered.  Well done Tatas, this was a great number, and as social commentary it was excellent.

Evilyn's second piece, proved that as with all aspects of pop culture... not everyone gets the reference, in this case hit television show LOST, Evilyn's number was wildly popular with the crowd, but unfortunately... I didn't know the show well enough to get it.  However, after I described the act to my boy, he filled me in, and in retrospect I applaud Evilyn for hitting the nail on the head.  I won't ruin any surprises, but if you are a Lost fan, you should definitely see this act.  For those who don't know Lost, take a friend who does so they can fill you in. :-)

Sinner Saint's Pop Culture is an evening of performances referencing things well known, and esoteric, obvious and obscure.  From favorite childhood Disney films, to Liz Taylor, to Tron... The Sinner Saints cover a lot of ground.  It's a ride with several scenic detours, but the journey is both enjoyable and informative, and the destination illuminating.

Fosse Jack