More dirty puns than you can shake your stick at.
By Eva Bowering
The art of burlesque and vaudeville in Toronto has expanded beyond what many people would expect. There are at least half a dozen burlesque troupes and individual performers in Toronto alone. Burlesque and vaudeville can be a positive alternative experience for just about anyone; there’s no pinpointing a specified audience – burlesque can be found in many crevices these days. It comes in different shapes and forms, and could even appear at your next corporate function.
I attended a show for the first time in early February at the Bloor Cinema’s Forbidden Broadway: The Naughty Naughty Review. This event was a combination of a variety of troupes and performers from the Toronto area, set to a film noir and vaudeville motif, with the likes of burlesque, music, and comedy.
The Bloor was the perfect venue. Originally built as a vaudeville theatre in 1905, it was first known as The Madison. It was later transformed it into a cinema in the 1940s, when the popularity of movies came in and the art of burlesque and vaudeville went out. Hosted by Miss Pynky Love and Frankie the Fox, Forbidden Broadway was a cabaret conglomeration of performances from local groups The Harlettes, The Shameless Dames and Skin Tight Outta Sight, as well as independent performers including Miss Mitzy Cream and Tanya Cheex, plus psychobilly throwback music by Big Rude Jake with Blue Mercury Coupe.
As a newcomer to the burlesque scene, I wasn’t sure what to expect. We were greeted by classic cigarette girls handing out free lube, condoms, and candy, and the turnout seemed massive – we were packed into the small hallway waiting to take out seats before the show even started.
What surprised me was that the audience was a mixture of young and old, from about 19 to 70. Sitting right in front of me was an elderly woman, who was just as entertained by the whole ordeal as I was. Despite the blatant imagery, burlesque manages to appeal to a vast audience: the shows aren’t targeted towards the likes of men alone.
My favourite performances of the night had to be The Harlettes and their amazing choreography and naughty nuances. I’ll definitely see them again; the nostalgic aura alone was worth the $20 at the door. Also not soon forgotten: the feathered fans of Miss Mitzy Cream, the shock factor of the Blue Angel.
I’ve never seen so many pasties in my life, but it was one of the most fulfilling and enjoyable nights I had been to in a long time.