Saturday, 17 October 2015

The Burlesque Special

Last night I did something totally out of character: I accepted an invitation from an old high-school friend to see a burlesque show in town.  Being middle-aged with a family I had thought my clubbing days were over but when Rob mentioned that it would make good material for a blog, my curiosity was piqued.  Additionally, since he volunteered at the club he could get me in for free.  How could I pass that up?

Unless one knows exactly where to go, it's easy to miss the venue, which is located above a strip bar on one of the city's main boulevards.  The show is known as Candyass Cabaret: formed in 2012 by a petite but bubbly woman who goes by the name Velma Candyass, the troupe performs on the third Friday of every month.  There's little advertising save for a Facebook page and a web site; word-of-mouth is their primary method of gaining new viewers, who are termed "virgins".

This iteration was titled Number 41, and there was no shortage of strange personages in the club, Rob included.  He claimed that his wife "volunteered him" to help out, and so he does whatever is required of him - usually helping to set up the sound system or to film the shows.  Thanks to him I got a rare glimpse of the dressing area (which is normally off-limits to the public) and had brief chats with Velma, the stage manager Francesco, and a few of the performers.

Each show is unique, with both regular and itinerant characters.  One of the fixtures is cheeky Chibi the stage hand, whose costume struck me as being a parody of Sailor Chibi-Moon with the colours inverted.  Dancer Claire strutted through the audience serving chocolate-coated rice krispie balls and popcorn.  And the colourful emcee Jimmy Phule is unshakable; he didn't slow down despite a wardrobe malfunction at the beginning of the show, and was even casual about it: "If you don't got it, fake it".

Highlights of the show included: two dancers taking turns popping balloons to gradually reveal the costume underneath, a trio featuring a singer accompanied by double bass and accordion, a knife juggler performing progressively more complicated stunts to get his aloof girlfriend to notice him, an athletic dancer who twirled a hula hoop around different parts of her body, and a belly dancer who on this night was costumed a la Cleopatra and was balancing a candelabrum on her head.  Jimmy reminisced that he had hired her to perform at his wedding and she was "the second most beautiful woman in the place" - eliciting laughter and catcalls from his wife in the front row.

Contrary to what many people might think, burlesque is not about sex at all.  The closest any of the dancers got to nudity was a girdle with fishnet stockings and nipple patches.  This is edgy adult entertainment where the artists are careful to leave something to one's imagination, while at the same time indulging in their own passion for performance.  Any money they might earn is negligible - but that's not the point: they perform because they love it.  Some even have spouses who routinely attend the shows or help with the production.  Velma's own husband acts as a cameraman and spotlight operator.

It was great fun and I certainly recommend the show to adults who are looking for some racy fare on a Friday night.

No comments:

Post a Comment