Review – The Burlesque Show, Royal, Northampton, 14th January 2012

Sarah Louise YoungSix months after the Ministry of Burlesque’s first Burlesque Show at the Royal, we welcome another show of variety acts with added titillation. Our compere this time was Sarah Louise Young, one third of the current Fascinating Aida line-up and she was full of cheekiness, flair and humour. She had great interaction with the crowd including three girls she named Sister Sledge in the box, Colin in Row C and the missing Trevor, more of which later. She had some terrific songs included her suggestion for the UK’s next Eurovision song, which was all about miserable children living in poverty, and the chorus went “but we don’t care, do we”. She hit the perfect level of total bad behaviour whilst appearing completely proper.

Elle AmourThe first of our three Burlesque teasers, all of whom appeared last time, was Elle Amour, who went a little crazy for some cream cakes. She wrapped up the evening later on with another routine, although she herself was not very wrapped up by the end of it. A charming young lady.Kittie Klaw The second was Miss Kittie Klaw. Last time she was forced to undress to rid her clothes of a surprisingly large number of spiders lurking therein. This time she was dressed in a sailor’s suit and danced the hornpipe, inter alia. Mia MerodeThe third was Mia Merode, whom we saw last time under a different name (see, I did some research.) I have to commend her for remarkable fan work and ability to rotate tassels in different directions. Mrs Chrisparkle kindly took notes for future reference.

Delores DelightMusical entertainment came from Delores Delight, who I also remember from last time. In the second half she had gave a couple of gutsy performances of show stopping numbers and she really does have a great voice! The other musical performer was Elliot Mason. Elliot MasonHe has extremely funny songs about unlikely subjects such as corporate rebranding and mistaken identity, but unfortunately, he sang almost exactly the same songs in the show six months ago, so we found it more nostalgic than riotous. But he’s great at involving the audience making silly accompaniment noises and he went down very well with the crowd.

Paul ZenonPaul Zenon was back again, a brilliant magician with funny attacking patter. He did some good baffling tricks, which I loved, but then I am a sucker for magic. It was during his act that something rather odd happened – the Northampton audience became a little anarchic. Mr Zenon approached a guy in row B to come up and join him for a trick. “What was his name”, he asked. “Gary”, he replied. Within a few seconds the call of “Gary! Gary!” went around the theatre, to the total astonishment of Paul Zenon. Gary seemed to take it in his stride. “Friends of yours?”, asked PZ. “No”, Gary mildly replied. The vocal Mexican wave of “Gary, Gary” went around again. Slightly nonplussed, PZ continued and got Gary to pick a card from the pack, and show it to the audience. “Ten of Spades” shouted out someone from the back, to the huge guffaw of the crowd and the blinking incomprehension of Mr Zenon. “You’re not meant to do that!” he responded, and I felt he was beginning to get slightly irked. It wasn’t the ten of spades; but I don’t think at that point of the trick Mr Z knew that. In the end it was the ten of hearts and a jolly clever trick. But I think Mr Zenon would be the first to accept that overall it was a score draw between him and the audience.

Audacity ChutzpahOnly two acts were new to me, and they were both fantastic. The first was the brilliantly named Audacity Chutzpah, who appeared in the first half as She-Ra, Princess of Power, where she appeared to grow limbs from under her cloak; and in the second half as a Cos Lettuce eating faun who coquettishly approached members of the audience before flinging limp salad leaves around to the tune of Alexander Rybak’s Fairytale. She’s a perfect clown and made me laugh hysterically.

ElanThe other was Elan, a stalwart of the Crazy Horse in Paris apparently, and another fabulous physical comedian, in the George Carl tradition. He uses the suitcase prop superbly – it really has a life of its own; he takes on completely different appearance with a mask, and goes totally berserk bodypopping. Not a word is spoken; a wonderful act.

There was barely an empty seat in the house – even the upper circle was full, and both boxes. One of the boxes only had two people in it. Trevor couldn’t come, apparently, which was the cause of much sorrow. “We love you Trevor” came a disembodied voice from the balcony, continuing the rather weird anarchy of the evening. At one point, a note fluttered down from the balcony on to the stage. Sarah Louise Young picked it up and read it – it was Trevor’s phone number. Thus, with the use of an iPhone, and much embarrassment to his friends, Trevor, ill at home, was still able to hear the final number before the curtain came down. Isn’t technology wonderful? The Burlesque Show certainly is – a thoroughly entertaining and constantly inventive variety show. Highly recommended.

Review – The Burlesque Show, Royal, Northampton, 3rd July 2011

This was a complete leap into the Unknown. What would “The Burlesque Show” involve? The theatre’s website promised us a top magician and an exotic dancer. Well we certainly got them, and a whole lot more. So what is Burlesque? Well, from having seen just one evening’s entertainment, it’s largely old-fashioned variety with some titillation thrown in for good measure. But it also seems to have some retro style, and judging from the audience, seems to appeal to women more than men. Doing a bit of online research it looks like it’s a growing cult entertainment, with a considerable following. Well it’s never crossed my path before, but then I have led a sheltered life.

Kiki KaboomAnyway the good burghers of Northampton know their Burlesque as the Royal was packed again and the audience were in an extremely good mood! Our hostess was Kiki Kaboom (it didn’t take me long to realise some of these performers work under a Nom-de-Burlesque). She is a bright funny lady who got us warmed up with her rendition of “I’m a little girl from Maidstone”. She had great interaction with the audience and kept the whole evening going at a good pace and with an endearing warmth.

Elle AmourOne aspect of a burlesque evening seems to be that you get attractive young ladies taking the majority (but not all) of their clothes off. Far be it from me to judge which of Elle Amour, Kittie Klaw and Dani California did it best; but they were all entertaining, stylish, and performed with coquettish humour. Kittie KlawI particularly enjoyed La Klaw’s battle against a seemingly endless supply of spiders nestling about her body, which (of course) required the removal of clothing to get rid of them. Dani CaliforniaElle Amour did two routines, the second of which was particularly edifying as it involved quite a lot of bottom shaking. The interesting thing was how the whole thing really was done “in the best possible taste”.

Mat RicardoIt wasn’t all titillation though. There were some really funny and entertaining variety acts too. For example, we had Mat Ricardo. He’s a juggler – incredibly skilful, with very funny patter, a likeable personality; and he did two routines, both of which were ace.

Elliot MasonThen there was Elliot Mason, a singer of comedy songs about the most unlikely subjects. Two of his really funny songs were about corporate rebranding and the delight in finding sufficient washing up liquid left on the sponge in order to wash the cup that was left out of the dishwasher. He has a great attacking style and involves the audience so that it’s impossible to resist singing along with his ridiculous songs, even though you can’t. Great fun.

Dolores DelightWe had the singer, Dolores Delight, who really came into her own with her second half number, Moon River, performed alongside the most massive balloon you’ve ever seen (hot air balloons excluded). The balloon took on the appearance of the moon and it was a really charming performance.

Fancy ChanceYou couldn’t get more different from Dolores to Fancy Chance, who had two thoroughly memorable routines. In the first half she did a perfect parody of Prince (the “Squiggle” singer), in what I guess is the absolute true spirit of Burlesque. It was amazingly funny. Her second half performance was an homage to North Korea, which quite simply involved a bit of everything. It was just extraordinary!

Paul ZenonTop of the bill – in a sense – was the magician Paul Zenon, who did two excellent tricks; one which Mrs Chrisparkle says she has seen before (I don’t know who she was with because it was new to me), where he spun a full pint of Newcastle Brown around and around while it was perched inside a snooker triangle. Fantastic stuff. Even more effective was another routine where he invited a gentleman up from the audience who was wearing a smart jacket, got him to remove said jacket, whence he proceeded to stab a hole in the back of the jacket and pull endless bits of lining out of the hole he had made, right in front of the poor jacket owner’s nose, then only to present the jacket back unharmed. We spoke to the jacket’s owner on the way out – he said that although he was within inches of the trick being performed he had no idea how Paul Zenon had done it.

Jim DevereauxOne final act was Jim Devereaux; he starts off being a stagehand and ends up being an Elvis impersonator. He was brilliant! I’m not a great Elvis fan but he did his very best songs and it worked extremely well. Would you believe he is the grandson of Ed Devereaux of Skippy fame? Now there’s quality.

This is not in any way meant as a pejorative comment – quite the reverse – but I found the entire show to be the absolutely best “End of the Pier” night you could possibly imagine; or alternatively, the tip-top in cruise entertainment. If you’ve ever been on a cruise ship and seen really really good variety, you’ll appreciate just how excellent this show was.

The only thing that slightly confused me was the advisory age restriction notices placed outside the theatre. Not recommended for the under 16s. 16??? All you saw was one nipple and even that was due to a wardrobe misfunction. The language was milder than most other comedy acts we have seen. By contrast, when I was 13 I saw “Birds of Paradise” at the Garrick Theatre, where Miss Moira Lister was in charge of five rather lovely young working girls, who went topless for the majority of the second act. No one raised an eyebrow at the sight of a 13-year-old in the front row. The only raising was done by the 13-year-old in question. I do feel the age restriction for the Burlesque Show was misplaced and unnecessary.

Nevertheless, it was a really terrific night’s entertainment, which went down a complete storm with the audience. I definitely hope this becomes a regular feature; the Royal is the perfect environment for this sophisticated variety show.