The holidays are a fantastic time to put on your fanciest sparkle outfit, killer shoes, that beautiful fascinator you’ve been saving for a special occasion and head out to a cabaret show. You know how to pamper yourself the right way – VIP seats right up front, champagne on the table, and two hours of music, dance, acrobatics, comedy, and song. This year, Les Coquettes put on an elegant ode to Old Hollywood, bucking the trend of the traditional Christmas themed shows and paying homage to film noir, musicals, and the golden age of cinema.
Our scene begins on a darkened stage. Cue softly backlit fog…
The Company, dressed in stunning evening attire reminiscent of 40s bid band musicals, slowly emerged from the shadows. As the darkness dissipated, they raised their voices in a slow and seductive version of Lady Gaga’s Born This Way. As their sparkles caught the spotlight, I was reminded of Rosemary Clooney, decked out in glitzy black gown and glittery gloves crooning Love, You Didn’t Do Right By Me.
Silken-voiced Dante Inferno, poured into a soft white evening gown, played vocal accompaniment to fan dancing Georgie Gates. Showing her amazing vocal range, Dante took us through the energetic frenzied highs and breathy whispered lows of Björk’s slightly bipolar It’s Oh So Quiet. Georgie tried to keep up with the ever changing pace of the song, and it was both beautiful and comical to watch her perform a mesmerizing fan dance that dissolved into frustrated fits each time the tempo dropped.
It was a holiday miracle – Toronto’s own burlesque showgirl and owner of the Coco Framboise School of Burlesque regaled the audience with one of her classic routines. With a giant tassel and white fur as props, she performed a routine that showed us why so many burlesque dancers take her classes. Her striptease was slow and calculated, teasing us through layers of robe, corset, and pasties, revealing a killer body with all the right curves in all the right places. Sumptuous and seductive, this lady knows how to strut her stuff and tease the audience with just a look.
I’m a sucker for old Hollywood musicals – The Great Ziegfeld, On The Town, Meet Me In St. Louis, Gigi, Funny Girl, the list goes on and on. Les Coquettes’ man props paid homage to one of my absolute favourites in their much more erotic version of Singin’ In The Rain. Dew Lily, Le Barback, and The Carpenter performed a routine brilliantly choreographed by Kathryn Romanow. Decked out in yellow rain slickers and with signature black umbrellas, they had the audience hooting and hollering as they slowly discarded their rainy day attire – not that there was much to keep them safe from the elements; yellow hat, yellow jacket, and yellow pants. Not quite what Gene Kelly probably imagined but boy, this would have made for a much different kind of movie.
What do you do when you’re a big western movie star that’s supposed to sound all macho manly man, but all you want to do is just get out of that horrible fringed pleather outfit, put on a pretty pink mini, and just let the true you come out? We found out when Dew Lily took to the stage in his act Honky Cat. Flanked by Dante Inferno and Lilli Bubalotovich, his adoring cowgirls, we watched as he rehearsed his big Honky Tonk number in classic country & western twang. You could see the point where the movie producer’s constant pestering pushed Dew over the edge, he’d had enough pretending, he needed to be free! With the help of his cowgirls, he stripped away all that tacky c&w regalia to change into his true self. Turning the act into a reverse striptease, he seductively slithered into a pink sparkle mini and tube top, blond wig, opera gloves, and pink hat. In the blink of an eye one of the Seven Brothers turned into one of the Seven Brides.
A woman in black, a chair and a bare bulb hanging from the ceiling – this was the scene for a steamy ode to film noir. Sounds simple enough, but Billie Black knows how to work even the simplest set and make it into the most sensual place on earth. The level of erotica was heightened with dramatic shadowed lighting and her slow, calculated movements across the stage. Each discarded layer revealed beautiful smooth skin, accentuated by the single soft spotlight, all the way to final reveal. I don’t remember ever taking my finger off the shutter release during Billie Black’s entire performance. She is a true femme fatale, her charms ensnaring the audience with irresistible desire.
I’ve always been a fan of Charlie Chaplin – he could convey so much with just his expression and he was a master comic. Some of his best routines have been recreated time and time again, this time by Charity Dawn and The Carpenter in their set Silent Film. More a cabaret number, they played a duo of Chaplins acting out his famous bread rolls table dance from The Gold Rush. They did a wonderful job of not only recreating one of the most memorable scenes in movie history, but also making it their own with the addition of just enough burlesque. After all, what’s a Chaplin doppelgänger fight without some clothes getting torn off in the process?
“Curtain! Fast music! Light! Ready for the last finale! Great! The show looks good, the show looks good!”
- Florenz Zigfield
Every show needs a big zinger of a finale. Ziegfeld knew this and his Follies always had a show-stopper of a number. Les Coquettes put together quite an energetic final piece involving all the girls in a traditional music hall cancan chorus line. Aptly named Fireworks, the cancan performance included high kicks, rond de jambe, and a lot of skirt shaking. The audience yelped along with the dancers as they shimmied on and on, seeming to feed off their admirers’ enthusiastic energy. It seemed like the evening’s revelrie would never end but with one final scandalous split it was all over. The lights dimmed and the curtain fell for another glamtastic Coquettes holiday season.
A big shoutout to the talented members of Les Coquettes – La Minouche, Le Barback, The Carpenter, The Mohel, Dew Lily, Georgie Gates, Lilli Bubalotovitch, Dante Inferno, Charity Dawn, Suki Tsunami, Billie Black, Charlotte Webber, and rigger The Control Enthusiast – with special guests Coco Framboise and additional choreography by Kathryn Romanow.