Don’t say you haven’t been warned.
From October 28 to November 1, the Guild Hall will be chockablock with fire, brimstone, and all kinds of devilish mayhem.
In addition to its annual Haunted House fright-fest, this year the Guild is joining forces with the Varietease burlesque troupe to co-produce a music-and-dance extravaganza that’s too hot for anyone less than 19 years of age.
“ Come with a sparkle in your eye and an open mind, because we’re going to push your buttons, that’s for sure,” advises Kate Fitzgerald, one of three choreographers for Hotter than Hell, the fifth edition of Varietease.
But don’t expect pole-dancing, lap-dancing or a full-frontal strip show. That’s not what this burlesque-vaudeville show is all about.
“ Straight-up burlesque isn’t just stripping,” explains director Brian Fidler. “It’s partly stripping, but without revealing everything. What you don’t reveal is part of the sexy.”
Vaudeville, on the other hand, is a populist kind of theatre, with lots of humour.
“ We kind of mash the two together,” Fidler says. “Other burlesque is often a bit grittier than ours. We’re a little more on the vaudeville side, I think.”
Patrons are encouraged to dress up for the occasion — after all, they are part of the mise-en-scène.
“ The audience is the newly dead, and we’re putting on a show for them. Welcome to hell,” Fidler says.
As Fitzgerald outlines the premise, each of the performers has his or her own character and backstory .
“ We’re in hell, which means we didn’t lead the greatest life, and we’re stuck doing this variety show every single night. That’s our punishment. The idea is that you’re watching a sort of sexy, quirky vaudeville act.”
The mistress of ceremonies is a dominatrix – type, played by Claire Ness, who also hosted the last Varietease show in 2012.
“ She’s the one who ties it all together for us,” Fidler says. “She’s the boss and this is her troupe.
“ She’s working for the devil. Maybe she is the devil. We’re kind of playing with those layers as well.”
Fidler has been with Varietease from its beginnings in 2008, when producer-performer Fiona Solon invited him on board.
“ We went into it blind. Initially, I said I know nothing about burlesque and I’m probably not the right person for the job,” he says.
“ Fiona said, ‘Well I don’t really know much either, but let’s just try it out.’”
As a director, Fidler tries to bring humour to his projects .
“ I think people want to see beautiful bodies, but they also want to see bodies of all different sizes and type. And they also want to have humour with it.”
With more dance numbers than in previous years, Fitzgerald is sharing choreography duties with Becky Reynolds (who will also be performing) and Michelle Fisher.
Other performers include Roxanne Stasyszyn, Harmony Hunter, Jessica Garstin, Jenny Duncombe, Kyle McDonald and Allyn Walton.
Music will be provided by a live ensemble of local musicians, under the direction of Paul Bergman.
In a show where the performers have been encouraged to contribute their own characters and stories, there has been no shortage of ideas, according to Fitzgerald.
“ We had a rehearsal recently where we were trying to come up with a story within one of the dances, and the ideas were flying,” she says.
“ At one point I had to stop everybody and say, ‘Look, guys, this is a three-minute dance, and we just came up with enough material to do a two-hour show.’”
Fitzgerald is an experienced dancer and choreographer who moved to Whitehorse in 2012 — too late to see the previous Varietease show. This year, she became artistic director of the Northern Lights School of Dance.
Although she has performed with numerous commercial dance companies in the Toronto area, this is her first time working in a burlesque troupe, or with someone who takes such a collaborative approach to directing.
“ Sometimes it can be a little bit challenging for me, coming from a dancer world, where you’re often just told what to do,” she admits.
“ Like, ‘Okay, you’re the dancer. You need to do this.’ Brian never does that.”
Besides directing and performing in a few of the musical numbers, Fidler will also be contributing a non-musical sketch of his own.
“ Brian’s got a dirty puppet show, which is hilarious,” Fitzgerald says.
“ People like the dirty,” Fidler suggests, before adding his own cheeky wish for the show.
“ I hope maybe there’s a wave of babies nine months from now. Varietease babies. That would be our legacy,” he laughs.
Hotter than Hell runs nightly at the Guild Hall from Tuesday, October 28 through Sunday, November 1. Curtain time is 9:00 p.m. There will be additional midnight shows on the last two nights.
Admittance will be restricted to those 19 years of age and over. Tickets at $25 are available at Dean’s Strings.
The Guild’s Haunted House will run from 5-8 p.m. the same evenings. It is not recommended for children under 13 years of age.