I didn’t really know much about the format of this show before I went. I had the idea that it would tell the story of Burlesque, combined with actual performances of the art. As to what that art actually is, I wasn’t too sure. So, prepared to be enlightened, I made my way to Soho. I wasn’t disappointed – by the show that it is. The venue left a lot to be desired, particularly in the way that the clientele were treated. I could elaborate on that, but I have decided to concentrate on the positive in this review, and there is certainly a lot to be positive about.
Burlexe was hosted by Kelly Le Roc, whose powerful upbeat vocals meant the audience were soon in the palm of her hand and receptive for what was to come. Apart from her songs, the show was a combination of Burlesque performances and monologues based on the stories of real-life Burlesquers. Each act flowed seamlessly into the next, and the atmosphere got better and better, and the audience more appreciative, as the night went on. This was a true variety show, with far too much content for me to detail it all, but what follows should give a flavour of it, and point out some of the highlights.
All of the physical performances in Burlexe were of a very high standard. Luna Rosa moved beautifully, her arms sinuous and sensual and her dances were polished and professional. Fancy Chance’s “Alice” was a treat, both in terms of movement and comedy. Aurora Galore did a wonderful routine with fans and black feathers. But the best Burlesque performance of the evening for me was by Bettsie Bon Bon, whose sheer exuberance and pink and white flounces brought a smile to everyone’s face.
As mentioned, the dancing and singing was interspersed with monologues. These were all heartfelt: some tragic, some comic, some both; but all delivered with sincerity and believability. Each of the actors played several disparate characters, demonstrating their versatility and range. Chloe Ewart played a number of vibrant roles, the most memorable being a young Mexican girl who lost her inhibitions to Richie Valens’ “La Bamba.” Kiki Kaboom’s delivery was sensitive and natural, particularly as the “two Cheris” – a representation of the conflict her character felt about Burlesque. Gillian MacGregor is obviously a strong actor, and I loved her “banker by day, burlesquer by night.” Burlesque icon Jo King made a guest appearance and treated us to a friendly, genuine tale of an American girl called Angel with some very famous friends. The final piece, and the highlight of the night was delivered by the talented and accomplished Dympna Messenger. Slightly confusingly, Dympna was telling Jo’s story of what Burlesque means to her. Her delivery was both uplifting and powerful. She told us: “I’m 52, I have broken veins and cellulite, my tits are on that long journey south. I have lumps and bumps in some good places, and some in places I’m not supposed to have them, and I am still to this day the sexiest woman I know!” It made me feel proud to be a woman.
As well as to the cast, much credit is due to director Jayne Hardy and the rest of the creative and production team. I found this show to be enlightening, life-affirming and exhilarating. If I didn’t have such a bad feather allergy, I would be enrolling myself in Burlesque school!