Arts & Entertainment, Theatre

THEATRE: Takin’ off

The air was filled with a sense of unholy curiosity at Player’s Theatre on Friday night. The playbill of Around the World with les Dames en Disdress unabashedly labels the show burlesque, a term that for most conjures up risqué mental images of scantily clad females and provocative striptease acts. From the first scene, the performance succeeded in fulfilling preconceived notions of the burlesque genre. The show was brimming with slapstick humor, bawdy songs and yes, striptease acts and nearly nude woman (and men!). Oh, and tasseling, lots of tasseling. That said, les Dames is worlds away from a Super Sexe style performance. In the words of co-producer and head choreographer Shauna Feldman, “while there is some nudity in the show, we focus more on the art of the tease, reminding people that sometimes it’s what you can’t see that turns you on the most.” Feldman points out that “in a city like Montreal where there is no shortage of naked flesh, it’s nice to revive an older, more traditional version of ‘sexy’.”

This was exactly the most striking feature about les Dames in Disdress. In a society continually inundated with very specific ideals of beauty and sexuality, it was a pleasure and a relief to watch a performance that used the body, sensuality and nudity to celebrate a different kind of sexy. These girls and guys do not just conform to any consumerist notion of what it is to be sexy. As Feldman puts it, a burlesque performance like les Dames “allows women [and men] to own their performance and by the nature of that performance, their own sexuality as well.” Maxime Bégine, who plays M. E. Norme, pointed out that one way in which the actors of les Dames are able to own their performances is through the huge amount of improvisation that constantly occurs on stage. Also, unlike many traditional forms of theatre, many of the les Dames’ performers are actively involved in the staging and choreography of their show. The show is brimming with highly talented individuals, many of whom are seasoned veterans in opera, dance and musical theatre.

Unlike some more traditional forms of theatre, it is blatantly evident from the beginning of this show that the performers are all fully comfortable with themselves and with each other, and as a result, have an outrageous amount of fun. The energy on stage is infectious; it took only minutes for the cast to completely engage their spectators. Small though the audience was, I have seen many a high budget West End or Broadway performance that failed to engage its audience even half as much as les Dames did. Adding to the energy in the room was the wonderful support of a live band. In a small venue, it is refreshing to experience the talents of real, live musicians, as opposed to recorded music only.

Around the World with les Dames en Disdress is a high-energy, bawdy, musical and dance performance that will leave you toe-tapping and dancing long after the music stops.This show has the rare ability to impart to its viewers an original kind of sexual energy not often seen on stage. Oh, and as an added bonus, if you sit near the front, you’ll get one genuine shot of vodka courtesy of Luci Furr, Miss Sugarpuss during the “Those Russians” scene.

Runs Sept. 21-24 at 3480 McTavish, 3rd floor. Call (514)398-6813 for reservations; tickets are $8 for adults, $6 for students/seniors. Thursday and Friday shows at 8 p.m.; Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.; Sunday at 2 p.m.

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