When I enter The Revival on College Street, I’m greeted by the illustrious Frenchie Fatale., her red lips bewitching, her eyes sparkling with excitement about tonight’s show, Les Follies Tres Bare. I introduce myself as a writer and a former stage kitten. She says, “oh yes, you’re Rebecca!” I nod. She smiles, “I always remember people”. Much like her stage persona, in person, Frenchie is enchanting. It’s hard to keep your eyes off her.
The lights are dim. Performers wander out from the curtains occasionally, mingling with press and crew, nervous energy palpable. Finally, doors open at 8 and audience members begin to arrive. The room is buzzing with excited chatter. I take my seat near the front of the room in the press section. A man in a charming chapeau introduces himself to me as Paul, a photographer. He shakes my hand and tells me about his typical burlesque experience, since he’s been to shows before. “I take pictures of the show, but of the audience too. I love that for burlesque shows, people get dressed to the nines”.
One of the things I love best about burlesque is its ability to bring out the theatrical, old Hollywood-esque style in everyone. This thought makes me wonder about the other reasons why I love burlesque, as well as why I’d recommend you go to a show…
The very dapper emcee [Photo by Paul Hillier Photography].
The room errupts in cheers as the very dapper emcee, clad in a top hat, jacket, boxers and men’s garters introduces the opening act, featuring all four Glamour Puss Burlesque dancers. For half of the number, the girls wear full costumes (afterall, Dita Von Teese says burlesque is all about the tease!). It’s an inventive, ethereal number involving ballet and peacock feathers. The audience squirms deliciously in their seats when the first glove is peeled! That’s the second reason to see a burlesque show: it’s incredible, how sensual removing a single glove can be.
The bar smells pleasantly of cupcakes, cologne and alcohol. Candy girls work the floor, flirting and delivering sweets, lingerie-clad. Seeing so many people in a state of undress, completely at ease with their bodies, is so moving. Reason number three to see a burlesque show: you’ll be inspired to love the skin you’re in.
“This is nothing in this world sexier than an accent!” proclaims the emcee. He continues, “The French accent is like butter!”. He calls three audience members to the stage to say something, anything, in French, trying to be as smooth and sulty as possible. The audience howls with laughter, and he waves them back to their seats. “Now get off my stage, all of you!” Comedy is constantly present in the burlesque theatre, and embraced fully by performers and audience members alike. That’s the fourth reason to see a show! It’s a genuine good time.
Rubie La Framboise performs as a tantalizing French courtesan, followed by a set featuring Lady Adele in her wiggle dress and elbow-length gloves, caressing the microphone stand and singing jazzy ballads. The audience loses it when she begins running her hands up and down her body while belting the lyrics. “If you can’t take the heat, then take off your clothes!” shouts the Emcee as he returns to the stage. He then dances with Kinky La Femme. Very hot! This brings us to reason number five: sex, sex, sex! I’ve never felt so comfortable with my sexuality.
In one of my favourite moments of the night, The Matador bursts onto the stage and tears off ‘his’ clothes, hat and mustache, revealing Frenchie Fatale dressed as a bull, complete with horns and panties with the word “Ole” printed on them. In another, Lady Adele sings a breathy, Marilyn Monroe-style happy birthday to Kinky La Femme.
More of the night’s highlights: Paralee Peal dances a Cinderella-inspired number. She’s playful, demure, full of longing and sex appeal all at once. Baldini and Kazam mystify the audience with their magic, then Frenchie and Carlos Caliente perform “a true tale of betrayal”, followed by 2011 Burlesque Hall of Fame star Jett Adore in a captivating solo act.
Finally, all the Glamour Puss girls take the stage for the grand finale, “All That Jazz” from Chicago. Kinky and Lady Adele wear crimson, sparkling dresses and captivate, their voices filling the theatre. As the last note is sung, the room begins to vibrate with applause.
While the curtains have closed on Les Follies Tres Bare, the neo-burlesque movement dances forward. Be on the lookout for a burlesque show in your city (or check out Glamour Puss if you’re ever in Toronto)– you’ll be in for a treat.