Heavenly BurlesqueReviewed by Alison Little
The Paramount (Bookings: 04-384 4080, www.paramount.co.nz)
16-18 Feb, 23-25 Feb, 2-4 Mar
9:30pm (90 minutes + afterparty)
The show begins at 9.30 in the foyer, moves into the theatre around 10, and back to the foyer at 11. No two evenings are the same; the performances reviewed here were enjoyed the evening of February 17th.
When I tried to look up info on Heavenly Burlesque, my computer simply refused to go there. It the screen flashed in bold blue letters that there had been "porn detected," and that this site contravened my workplace's Internet policy. Okaaay, I thought, if the promo is considered too hot for office workers in the lunch hour, the actual ‘vaudeville cabaret’ is going to be pretty darn wild.
And so it was – but more arch naughtiness than anything overt, with the ensemble cast happily playing to the show’s burlesque framework.
The show began with a half-hour long preamble in the foyer. When I arrived the atmosphere was oddly like that of a church just before a slightly louche wedding. Everyone was dressed up; friends were enthusiastically meeting and greeting, with organ music being improvising pipily in the background. The impression was slightly skewed by the relentless cute and perky types in heels and bustiers and the deranged headdress of the organist. Next in the pre-show entertainment was "Baguette" by Chantillian Lace, featuring girls with a squeezebox. Their synchronised slow leg waving was as strangely insectile as it was sexy, despite some explicitly, erh, explicit attention given to the eponymous baked goods.
Then it was into the theatre proper for the main event. Throughout the show, from the edge of the stage and from various points around the room, a supporting cast of angels, bimbettes and stray dancers joked between themselves and with the on-stage performers, as well as dishing out occasional lollies to a grateful audience.
First up, a short film ‘The She Devil’s Furnace’ depicting Ed Davis’s enticing vision of hell (pizza oven section). Despite conspicuous consumption of the sponsor's product, all the bodies on display seemed in fine writhing shape, tickled rather than tormented by the flames of damnation.
The MC for the night, Kim Potter, gave a wonderfully sleazy interpretation of every bad magic show you were ever dragged along to as a kid, to a suitably Vegas-sexy sound track. Later he was the subject of a small but perfectly formed operetta from a blue-haired houri, who was apparently overcome by his manly charms. Although interplay with the rest of the cast was sometimes lost in the background clatter, he kept the show moving along nicely, the gleam of his teeth only outdone by the shine of his suit.
The night featured some great dancing to music from 40s, 50s, 80s, beginning with a motor cycle gang who disrobed into a vintage French style dance act. There was a truly excellent washing powder commercial, and finally, a delicious boy band (heavy apostrophes around the boy part, natch) lip synced their way to a medley of 80s pop, just like the real boy bands used to.
Along with the magic and musical dance acts there were two stylish ariel performances, both definite highlights of a pretty packed evening.
There’s a long list of potential prizes on offer at the Fringe this year, but Best Use of PowerPoint in a Trapeze Act isn’t one of them. Incentua Consulting should be nominated anyway, for managing to be simultaneously funny, skilful and very sexy. The other ariel performer, Tom Beauchamp, also wrung entirely authentic oooos and ahhhs from the audience. This was not only when he whipped his shirt off, but also as he dramatically spun and occasionally plummeted from what appeared to be long white curtains hanging in twisted skeins from the stage ceiling.
Sara Standring gave a sharply lit taste of her Bat’s show ‘Don’t Feed the Models’, with accented Japanese, Irish and American fashion world character vignettes.
The Heavenly Burlesque ended with a raucous cancan involving all performers, who appeared to be having an appealingly fine time. Well, I say ended, but the entertainment just shifted back out to the foyer, as the audience mingled with the cast at a Fringe Frenzy after party, with live music and DJs. And it all continued, late, late into the night . . .