For those who think there aren’t enough events in the world encouraging attendees to participate and get (un)dressed and wear (in)appropriate clothing, there’s Varietease: A Burlesque Carnival.
The first show, Varietease: A Burlesque Cabaret, was held last year with the second show happening shortly afterwards, Varietease: The Remount. This time around, it’s a burlesque carnival and, for producer Fiona Solon, it’s good to see her brainchild grow up.
“Everything is brand new and we’re trying to just freak people out a little bit,” said Solon.
After two years of being held at the Guild Hall, Varietease will be happening at the Yukon Arts Centre, and with more room comes more work and more audience participation, all the while happening with very little clothing.
“To me, burlesque is all the elements of vaudeville: it’s not only striptease; it’s not only pasties and panties – that’s a big part of it – but we just decided we would throw a carnival in there so we could kind of give ourselves a bit of an outline,” explained Solon, who said the first act will include games like a “Test Your Love” strength machine and “The Strongest Woman in the World”.
The idea of Varietease stemmed from a conversation with Yukon Arts Centre technical director Patrick Matheson, last year, when Solon was simply looking for a challenge, something different, and decided to put on a “girlie show” to spice things up.
Feedback for the show has been phenomenal with the last two stints of Varietease being sold-out before the shows went on. Every time around, auditions are held, whether or not people have been in previous shows – simply to keep it fresh.
There are about 25 people in the show including the dancers; the band, made up of Andrea McColeman, Jordy Walker, Lonnie Powell, Kyle Cashen, Ryan McNally and Duncan Sinclair; and comedian Andrew Stratis.
“They’re just people. They’re not crazy thespians or whatever; a girl who works at a coffee shop will be a dancer; a girl who works at Photovision will be a dancer; the guy who works at the glass shop will be the comedian.
“These are people who have never been onstage before or have very little stage experience, and they get to hang out with people who are amateur, novice and totally professional,” expressed Solon.
Since the people in the show are so diverse, so is the crowd and everyone is guaranteed to at least recognize someone onstage: “Sometimes it’s your Dad and you’re wearing pasties, but whatever,” said Solon with a chuckle.
At the last show, audience members showed up wearing everything from pillbox hats to feather boas and, although it’s not mandatory, Solon said it’s encouraged and interesting to look around and at times not know who’s in the show and who’s in the crowd.
“They’re already going to be a part of the show, anyway, and if they’ve been, then they know that; and if they haven’t been, then they best get ready. But we don’t force it on anybody; we don’t force audience interaction, but beautiful women are going to be walking off the stage touching people … To me, that’s interactive,” she said.
The people are what make the act. Solon said it wouldn’t be what it is now without director Brian Fidler, without Matheson’s lighting designs making Whitehorse turn into the Vegas strip or without the people with varying body types and heights and tastes that dance and carry on.?Michelle Fisher choreographed the whole show while still teaching ballet classes to four-year-olds and hip-hop classes to teenagers. And Jessica Garstin’s due date is on the opening night of the show, but she still believed in it enough to choreograph a dance for the show while pregnant.
“I think that goes to show something about this show, that people who can’t physically be on the stage still want to be a part of it, so much, and that just blows my mind and I feel the love. That’s just one example. I could come up with another 10, right now, but I won’t.”
Solon will be moving to Vancouver on Christmas Day, but there are no signs of stopping the Varietease tradition, yet, and always with a different idea.?The shows will run until Nov. 28, at 9 p.m. nightly with midnight shows on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 27 and 28. And, for the first time ever, the show will be taken on the road to Dawson City, on Dec. 5, at Diamond Tooth Gerties.
Tickets are available at Arts Underground and the Yukon Arts Centre Box Office. ?For more information visit www.varietease.wordpress.com.