Burlesque cabaret uses psychology in such a delicious way: it is a naughty place and we feel naughty being there. So we throw decorum to the wind, having forsaken the high moral ground, and give ourselves willingly to the sensations of dance, song and comedy being paraded in front of us.
Entering the theatre at the Guild Hall to watch Varietease: The Remount, the audience decides immediately, “Yup, this is a naughty place.” We know from the smoky air and the deep red curtain and the dimly lit seating area.
Now comes the trick: the performers must take away any remaining control from the audience that may have been harboured.
How would they do this?
Ahhh, two young ladies, wearing lingerie and high heels, vamp onto the stage and pull back a curtain to let out a wall of sound from the hippest, hands-down best band in Whitehorse.
These guys are good.
Borrowing heavily from the Longest Night Ensemble, there is Andrea McColeman, Don Bishop, Colleen McCarthy, Lonnie Powell and Duncan Sinclair.
This is how the audience is tamed to the point it will let the entertainment wash over it: this smokin’ band, performers who stare right back at the audience and spotlights that shoot out from the stage are used to great effect.
Then Cyrus, the master of ceremonies played with sleazy charisma by Morgan Whibley, oozes onto the stage and tells the audience, “We know why you are here. You are dirty, but so are we, so let’s just enjoy ourselves without all of that judgement crap.”
Well, that’s not what he said, but that sure as heck was what he meant. And the audience was won over. The ladies sitting behind me (average age: 55) started laughing and didn’t stop for two hours.
The room was out of control … well, out of our control. But that’s the point, isn’t it?
Then, act after act after act, the audience was blown away by the talent of these performers.
It begins with Fiona Solon burning up the stage with a rendition of Why Don’t You Do Right.
Then there was a striptease by Andrew Stratis, who probably received more laughter than was good for his ego (the ladies behind me contributing much of it).
A highlight has to be the two sets by comedienne Roslyn Woodcock who, dressed as a dominatrix, told the truth of sexual relations to devastating effect. This is headliner stuff – big-room headliner stuff — and it’s wonderful to see a Yukoner who is so ready for greater success.
We knew her when …
But it was Brian Fidler who finally made the ladies behind me snort.
Speaking barely at all, his act was all clever, clever physical comedy as he goofed on the other performers and introduced the newest occupants of his suitcase: two perverse doll heads.
Even though there is no weak link in this production – congratulations also to the sultry Michelle Fisher and Tara McCarthy, the bellydancer Jessica Garstin, the powerful Shauna Jones, the quirky Tristan Hopper and the sexy Cate Innish – its brilliance really does begin and end with Fidler’s direction.
The scene changes were smooth and playful which did not give the ladies behind me (who started complaining of aching sides halfway through the second act) or anyone else a chance to breathe.
And way to go, Fiona Solon, for pulling this all together.
Varietease: The Remount continues to Dec. 6 at the Guild Hall. But, be warned, the Tuesday night showing I attended was almost sold out. Tickets will be tough to come by.
PHOTO: GARY BREMNER www.garybremner.com