Elegant skill in a helping of fun

An Evening of Burlesque

The New Alexandra Theatre

*****

AS REGULAR readers of this site know I am a big fan of burlesque, for its humour, its elegance, its glamour and skill. But most of all for its ability to entertain and enthrall through embracing beauty in all its guises. 

A regular feature at the New Alexandra theatre An Evening of Burlesque arrived for another short and sweet one night run.  

The troupe have something of a fluid roster meaning that you never know who you are going to get, which I think adds to the show.  It is to their credit that despite always having a different personnel make up the show never loses its slickness.,

Audience participation is positively encouraged and many punters came to the show dressed to the nines, which added to the vibrant atmosphere. 

There was a best dressed section although this amber topazdid seem to be limited to those on the front couple of rows, unless you were lucky enough to be plucked from the darkness to tread the boards as one gentleman was.  It would be nice to find a way to include other members of the audience, maybe spotting them in the lobby.  

The show was opened by Kiki deVille who, as you would expect from someone who impressed on a BBC homed talent show, had a cracking voice and a warm stage persona. 

Headliner Amber Topaz

The quality of her vocals adding to the value of the show and the overall experience.  The only aspect of her compering that I did not like was her inclination to put herself down on occasion to make a joke at her own expense.

  As an accomplished and glamorous artist in her own right, I would have liked her to do as burlesque does so often and celebrate her uniqueness a little more.

Often Burlesque shows start with a crash course in burlesque etiquette, when done well this lays a foundation for natural but enthusiastic audience participation.

While Kiki did take the audience down this well trodden path of initiation, for me the signposts were not that clear and it never quite clicked.  As a result the audience never quite came alive. Although they were often impressed they were unclear of what outlets of appreciation were available to them unless explicitly prompted by performers. 

Every burlesque show that I have ever been to has had a healthy dose of inquisitive newcomers, all of whom benefit from been schooled in when and how to show their appreciation appropriately. 

This may seem like an odd thing to say, but unlike many other art forms burlesque does not benefit from awe inspired silence, for it to work it needs some good old fashioned whooping and hollering.

The dancing portion of the show was literally kicked off by the dancing troupe – The Folly Mixtures, comprising of Ella Boo, Angie Sylvia and Oh La Lou, though usually they would be accompanied by one or two fellow performers.

This reduction in numbers was not catastrophic, but it did leave them with a lot of stage to fill between the three of them.  In their four routines, which bookended the production well, they performed with great energy, good timing and despite a few mishaps good clasp management.  They are a very good introduction to burlesque for the uninitiated, easing you into the genre in a way that is familiar but fun.

After some more banter and impressiveAngie Silvia vocals from the engaging Kiki, Ella Boo returned to perform the classic balloon dance.  While her timing was slightly amiss in terms of her popping, her audience participation really helped to ramp up the fun in the auditorium.   

Ladies don't come much hotter than Angie Silvia

The variety show feel of the evening was cemented by the arrival of Christian Lee, a very funny magician who had a very collaborative style with the audience, that allowed them to feel part of the show even before an audience member was invited onto the stage as a magician’s assistant. 

Overall he worked the crowd well and exploited this with aplomb when he returned in the second half for a ballerina skit, that while a little too long for this reviewers liking, it did play very big part in keeping the audience energized, not least by getting four men up from the audience to dance.

The headliner of the night was Amber Topaz, who has a heady mix of excellent burlesque skills, a fantastic voice and polished comic timing.  This was the only performer on whom my girlfriend and myself disagreed. 

My girlfriend felt that she had too much comedy in her act and that on occasion this detracted from the undoubted quality of her act and some truly sublime skills.  To me Topaz, odd as it sounds, was evocative of a beautiful and beguiling Tommy Cooper.  She expertly harnessed the skill required to perform exquisitely while interspersing deliberate comedic acts of failure perfectly, which only added to magnificence of her set.

Whether it be her take on Jessica Rabbit, which always has a fine mix of comedy and glamour or some more traditional burlesque, Amber Topaz is one of the best in the business.

The show had a good variety of sets, which provided something for everyone.  Angie Sylvia performed a Fire eating dance, with amazing grace and sensuality and having seen her before I should say that as a performer she is clearly growing in stature.

Isobella Bliss was excellent as she performed the classic champagne glass dance, with a poise and smoothness that was genuinely impressive.

Ooh La Lou literally sent sparks flying with a fun and energizing Flashdance routine, although for cinematic accuracy it would have been nice to see a bucket finale.

Overall the show was very entertaining and two Burlesque virgins seated next to me were full of praise.  The performers were skilled and sassy and it reminded me why Burlesque is such an inclusive and fun evening.  With a little tweak or two in terms of audience education and one or two Folly mixtures and this would have been a five.

Christian Clarke

12-09-14 

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