Pure entertainment and fun

An Evening of Burlesque

Wolverhampton Grand

****

BURLESQUE gets a bum rap. The very word seems to stir a bit of a kerfuffle in people. When I mentioned that I was going to see 'An Evening of Burlesque' at the Grand, people reacted in peculiar ways.

The very word Burlesque seems to cause people to become furtive, repeating the word in hushed tones as though somehow the mere mention of it was taboo. The end result being that I was viewed with a tangible air of suspicion.  

Many it seems believe it to be seedy and a posh name for stripping, yet nothing could be further from the truth. Burlesque when done well or in the case of this show superbly- is at it's very heart fun. True there is flesh on show, not for a gratuitous cheap thrill but more as a celebration of the showmanship, skill, inventiveness and undoubted elegance of the performers and ultimately the art form.  

I have see burlesque before, having seen the exceptional Amber Topaz, who while a headline act for the production was not in this particular show; so I had a point of reference though must admit I have never seen Burlesque quite on this scale.  

One felt that the audience were there for a good time and the atmosphere pre show seemed unusually chipper. This transferred into the show itself on all levels. The audience responded well to the engaging master of ceremonies A.J James who initially I must admit I found grating, but who quickly won me over.

He acted as a cheeky guide to the audience, setting the tone well with his banter to the crowd as well as showcasing his impressive athleticism, knife throwing and escapology skills to promote crowd interaction. There lies a great part of the show, it's fun filled tongue in cheek nature means that the it feels like a joke that the crowd has been let in on. 

The troupe perform individually and collectively as the Filly Mixtures and opened the show as such in the form of the U.S Air force. While the opening number was enthusiastic I would say that the group numbers in terms of choreography and timing were a little cumbersome.

DANCE EXPERTISE

Individually all of the performers excelled but for whatever reason they did not quite gel as a unit, be that the rotating cast or the sheer diversity of their dance expertise. Though it should be said that this minor flaw would not have been noticeable had it not been compared to the excellence of the individual dances.  

Each individual dancer differed in style from the others and this diversity meant that there was nice balance to the show. Felixy Splits provided a voice every bit as good as her dancing peppered with a nice, natural, interaction with the audience. While Ooh La Lou provided an excellent pastiche of the signature dance out of Flashdance.

She was quirky, fun and arguably a lot more seductive than the material to which she was paying homage. Angie Sylvia, got most of the audience hot under the collar with her fire eating skills, although I would have liked to have seen a little more of her personality shine through. Bettsie Bon Bon excelled with an almost smouldering sensuality which was really quite intoxicating. Liberty sweet entranced the auditorium with her take on the classic feather dance which was a fun and flirty as it was seamless and skilful.  

The traditional burlesque acts were interspersed with Chloe Lloyd and Jonathan Finch, two excellent flexibility acts. Ms Lloyd in particular managed moves with and without hula hoops that were genuinely jaw dropping and massively entertaining. 

There was not really a performer that was as buxom as I would normally associate with burlesque, though this may not be the case with another combination of the cast roster. This really did feel like a travelling troupe of old and somehow this yesteryear charm permeated the whole production. A nice touch was the opportunity to meet the cast and get your programme signed afterwards, which cemented the connection between performers and audience.  

The overriding feeling of the night was one of almost charming innocence. The costumes were as glamorous as those they adorned so perfectly and the music choices were fun and relevant both in terms of the dances they and the setting. The audience was largely made up of ladies (of all ages), many dressed to impress and the night had almost a family feel to it. 

Were it not for a a slightly sluggish first half, which I feel could have benefited from one more dance and the aforementioned issues with the ensemble pieces, I would give it five stars. Regardless I would encourage anyone to go and see this exceptionally entertaining art form and atmosphere that is open and non-judgemental, which all combines for a show that is pure entertainment with an almost silver-screen matinee quality to it. Go and see it.

Christian Clarke 

Home Grand  Reviews A-Z Reviews by Theatre