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An Evening Of Burlesque – Civic Theatre, Chelmsford

Producer: Michael Taylor

Reviewer: Kelly McGibney

[rating:4.5]

‘All tease, no sleaze’ is the motto behind Michael Taylors’s ‘An Evening of Burlesque’ and the ladies kept to their promise. Comprising mostly of women (bar the two male performers) this throwback to a sexier and somehow more innocent era titillated the eager audience all night.

The evening started out tame with a few semi-risqué dance numbers from the four ‘Folly Mixtures’. These talented and beautiful ladies entertained the audience throughout the performance during their several group dance numbers and in their individual acts sprinkled throughout the evening. Regular burlesque or cabaret fans were not disappointed with the variety of acts presented throughout the evening. Indeed, the fundamental burlesque acts were presented including feather dances, fire belly dance, PG-rated strip teases and a hilarious twist on the classic hula hoop routine.

The two male acts were miles apart and equally as entertaining. AJ James entertained the audience with a knife throwing / balancing act and a side-splittingly hilarious prima ballerina drag act balanced the show nicely.

The production was highly polished with great care and detail given to the many dazzling and sequined costumes. The music was carefully chosen although I did recognise a few interesting versions, including the Glee version of ‘You Keep Me Hangin’ On’. The music and singing overall was very good, however I would had liked to have seen (or rather heard) more of the Folly Mixtures sing while they were dancing. With so many cabaret and burlesque groups out there at the moment (there is a huge resurgence of this vintage art form) I would had expected a bit more showmanship from their act.

Our sassy and witty Mistress of Ceremonies Ivy Paige had the audience eating out of the palm of her gloved hand from the start and she interacted with the audience perfectly. The one thing that let down the acts was the sometime lack of participation from the audience. Performing of any kind is nerve-racking, so stripping down to nipple tassels must be terrifying if the audience is at a respectful silence. Burlesque acts, particularly the strip teases, rely on and in a way require the audience engaging with the performer. The whole art form is very tongue-in-cheek and in an odd way total silence from the audience takes the cheekiness and fun out of the act and somehow makes it feel sleazy.

This is not a strip tease, you can go to any seedy strip club for that. Burlesque is a time-honoured art form that has lasted over a hundred years- and it certainly didn’t survive by the audiences being polite. I was pleased that a city like Chelmsford can programme a show like ‘An Evening of Burlesque’ and it be so well attended (the 505 seat theatre was practically sold out), however provincial audiences still have much to learn when it comes to their etiquette during these kinds of shows.

Touring across the UK until November 2013

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