AN EVENING OF BURLESQUE AT THE NEW ALEXANDRA THEATRE, BIRMINGHAM
Theatre Run: One Night Only at New Alexandra Theatre, Tour Ongoing
Performance Reviewed: Saturday 28 September 2013
Reviewed by Kyle Pedley
Burlesque as both a concept and an art form is one that has undeniably grown in popularity and awareness of late, and yet despite this, the abundance of differing perspectives and opinions on what exactly constitutes Burlesque, coupled with external influences such as the insipid 2010 movie of the same name (from which this production thankfully only lifts the movies highlight, it's opening number), continues to lead to some confusion. Many read it as being nothing more than stripping and adult entertainment set to music, others conjure up images of elaborate costumes and spectacle toe-dipping into almost carnival, circus-esque levels of flamboyance.
In actuality, the core origins and meaning behind the word and form are derived from parody, caricature and comedic extravagance, and it is this true spirit of Burlesque, if such a thing can be pigeonholed, that permeates through the wonderfully camp slice of naughty, mischievous entertainment that is An Evening of Burlesque. A saucy, risque concoction of variety, vocals and va va voom that injects just enough diversity in its acts to keep things fresh and entertaining without becoming meandering or unfocused, it is a definite recommendation for hen parties, girly nights out and the like, as the audience most definitely reflected.
Hosted in sassy, almost hyper-MTV-stylised fashion by mistress of ceremonies Miss Frisky (think Davina McCall’s devilish twin sister) and for this particular performance featuring Burlesque routines from stars of the show quintet ‘The Folly Mixtures’ who each also gave their own solo performance, as well as some magic, genuinely impressive hula hooping (one of the evenings biggest crowd pleasers and highlights), singing and even some flying sparks and you get a measure of the campy yet undeniably fun spectacle and amusement on display. Operating on a mantra of ‘all tease and no sleaze’ this is decidedly adult content yet without any full nudity or vulgarity - think tassles, strategically placed accessories and a whole lot of bottom shaking, as is perfectly in fitting with the nature of the art form.
One of the shows biggest achievements is in how it refused to autopilot with repeat defaulting to the Gypsy Rose Lee school of how-to. The Burlesque acts themselves were suitably diverse in era and approach, including a Vegas-Egyptian closer to the first half, a 50’s style diner girl routine, and of course a suitably boa’d and frilled up finale which finally hit upon those traditional Burlesque sights and sounds with relish. These were complemented by the guest acts, including a deadpan but amusing magic routine which had the wit to preface itself with false expectations on the audience, and a real highlight being sizzling Burlesque bombshell Amber Topaz who impressed as both a knowing, self-deprecating comedienne and a ferocious and irrepressible explosion of energy and elasticity with a brilliantly frenzied and flexible set of song, dance and strip routines. The Folly Mixture solo acts each impressed in their own ways, in particular the stunning Bettsie Bon Bon who threatened to steal the show by bringing a real injection of glamour and raw sex appeal to her solo performance towards the end of the night, bedecked all in red and proving a fiery, incandescent delight all of her own.
An Evening of Burlesque catalogues a number of acts, and even hosts, meaning the experience is likely to change from venue to venue as the tour continues, leaving some of this review potentially redundant to readers. However, overall there is a winning approach to providing a cheeky, fun, naughty but measured evening of variety that serves as a very fitting and welcome introduction to Burlesque for those unfamiliar. If I were to offer any criticism then in a larger theatre venue such as the New Alex where this particular performance was reviewed there were repeat sections of the show where the acts moved out into the Stalls, leaving the Dress and Grand Circles unable to see and essentially twiddling their thumbs for a few minutes. It wasn’t a major complaint personally, but several audience members around me grew jaded and even complained at times, and it isn’t difficult to see why, though this can of course easily be remedied by booking Stalls tickets should they be available. Stalls also seem to be the ideal location for the show given that in the loftier confines of the Circles some of the spectacle can be lost or seem a little trivial in comparison to the usual musical and theatrical extravaganzas housed.
Overall though, with a cheeky but good-natured tone to the evening and plenty of sex appeal and ‘celebration of the female form’, An Evening of Burlesque comes highly recommended for a slice of good old fashioned crowd-pleasing variety with an adult twist and lots of giggles.
Click HERE to go to the An Evening of Burlesque website for more information on the show itself and for details of its tour dates and locations.
Press tickets for this performance of An Evening of Burlesque were provided courtesy of the New Alexandra Theatre directly. (A)musings Media gratefully acknowledges their generous invitation.