Last month it was the 5th anniversary show of Enchanted Burlesque, which started off at the Flapper as the Silk Stocking Striptease Show. The team that run the event laid on a dazzling night, inviting back old friends and providing an exciting evening of entertainment. It was sad, however, that Angel LaVey was unable to perform.
In some respects it would be right to call it their gala show, breaking out the best talent in a grand celebration. This included bringing back Mysti Vine and Mr Joe Black, who are both talented, intelligent, sometimes challenging, performers. Terms of Unnervement, Joe Black's new burlesque double act performed two short skits, both challenging and slightly sleazy, though what left the most impression on me, aside from the cleverness of the acts was how well Aran tucks! Joe went on to perform some of his own songs later on in the show, an area that he's focused on a good deal more recently. I think some of my fellow audience members were a little perturbed by the cry of 'sing or I'll fucking kill you', but what do you expect from a man who sings gleeful little songs about kicking babies down the stairs?
I must confess that burlesque dancing leaves me a little cold. After the first couple of turns I start to get a sense of deja vu, spotting the same moves repeated over and over. I appreciate you can't really throw in anything that different; the human body only does so much after all, it just all gets a bit, well samey (I'm not sure if I get kicked out of the male half of the human race for saying that, but oh well). Perhaps this is why I appreciate performers like Mysti so much, the routine she performed for the5th anniversary show, silhouetted behind a screen seemed innovative and interesting, whilst her pimp routine was funny and provocative. Its a mark of a good burlesque dancer, in my opinion, when their performance goes beyond just taking off their clothes and into something else; fortunately this is something that Enchanted Burlesque's performers have been excellent at achieving, dating back all the way to the days at the Flapper.
This isn't to say that Enchanted Burlesque hasn't come a long way, whilst the quality of the dancers they attract has stayed more or less the same, their productions are definitely better now than they were five years ago. The cabaret is the area that has really improved with the move to the Old Rep however. Silk Stocking had navigated a narrow course between the good and the abysmal, featuring racist comics and a guy with a guitar who (barely) sang rockabilly songs. Enchanted Burlesque however attracts a far better range of cabaret performers, I don't think you could argue that opening a show with a performance from Drag's lead singer is in anyway comparable to the rather anemic offerings of a few years ago. It remains risque but, well, I don't miss jokes about 'pakis' or a guy in a bunny suit trying desperately to make an indifferent audience laugh. Tellingly, however, the organisers aren't afraid to take risks, as evidenced by the Frank Sinazi performance at the first show they held at the Crescent Theatre. I feel that this is an important part of the way they operate, always moving forward, innovating. Recently they've really raised the game, attracting international stars like Cherry Shakewell.
The show officially changed hands at the time, from James to Angel LaVey and the ethos of the show quite plainly changed at that time. It became perhaps slightly camper, safer, and comported itself with more of a knowing wink. The change of MC has probably helped. Dapper as the Decadent Gent was, funny as was Al Grant was, they weren't really suited for a theatre audience. In contrast Joe Black and Mister Meredith have the advantage of not only being performers themselves (useful for when you need a little time to establish props) but they also have the skills and charm to sell themselves as risque but ultimately safe, (even when dragging members of the audience up on stage to effectively molest them for comic effect).
All in all the show continues to go from strength to strength, I feel it's safe to say that in the next few years Enchanted Burlesque will become one of the big names amongst burlesque shows.