Posted by: Necci – May 17, 2012
Burlesque at the Byrd, you say? This was a landmark event! On that very historical stage in which the Mighty Wurlitzer has prevailed for several years, there would be burlesque. It would only seem logical, no? Miss Deanna Danger of Boom Boom Basics would produce a show of tall order and high expectations. Looking at the extensive pre-show line, which wrapped itself way beyond Coppola’s at the end of the block, one would say the interest was high, and that people were anxiously waiting for such an event. Looking across the crowd, it was evident those same individuals wanted to class it up as well, showing off their period threads from the 20’s through the 50’s. It was a nice sight to see, and only proved the support Richmond has for this beloved art form.
“I’ve never been to one of these, but it seems exciting,” stated an elderly woman in line. Nods of approval from peers all donned in period garb could be seen through the passing crowd. What a roar in the street when the girls passed through to get to the theater--it was as though Marilyn herself had been spotted. Maybe I’ve been watching Smash too often, but that was the kind of electricity in the air.
The Byrd was packed. It was as if there was a midnight showing of Star Wars. The bouquet of popcorn filled the theater, and I was reminded that there was no alcohol being served. It seemed a bit out of place. Despite how packed the theater was, I found a seat near the front right with my two companions, neither of whom had never seen burlesque before. I’m always excited to bring new people to a show. Having stated this, I had high expectations; it was as though you'd taken your mom out to eat at your favorite restaurant, and you can’t wait for her to try your favorite dishes. On the screen some old flicks were shown, including footage from Charlie Chaplin films, Cabaret, and Chicago. It was a nice touch to set the mood for the eve. The lights finally dimmed… and here we go!!
Mark Slomski hosted the show, and came out singing “Pure Imagination” beautifully. The beginning of the show had some technical difficulties, which disappointed me. There were issues with lighting and mics not working. It would have been nice to hear Cherrie Canary belt out “All That Jazz” as it was supposed to be heard, while her Dainty Dolls looked spectacular in their sparkly black and silver outfits. Quickly making up for it was the most delectable Deepa De Jour. Deepa was meant for this stage, and although I’ve seen her perform her Mata Hari act several times, this night, with her alabaster skin all aglow and her jeweled adornments placed in all the right places, it was just gorgeous. It is one thing to tease an audience by taking off your clothes, but to put them on is a whole other feat and requires timing.
Adding comic relief were the Filmroasters, Eric Vinyard and Brandon Bates. Their banter with Mark Slomski was cute, and they had some really humorous moments in Waldorf and Statler fashion. As somber as this may sound, I longed to see Phil Slomski on that stage this night. He and Mark together would have devoured that stage. Alas, we shouldn't speak of such things, but it was a thought that did pass through my mind.
Baltimore’s Maria Bella saluted Gypsy Rose Lee with all kinds of wow! A trumpet?! And she can play it! It was an energetically charged act that was sexy and fun. I loved her marching girl outfit and her smile just lit up the entire room. There’s something that comes from burlesque performers that separates the professionals from the hobbyists. Maria Bella was a star on that stage and she got the audience going. Following Miss Bella was Scarlet Starlet. Batons. Twirling burlesque. Need I say more? She’s just so adorable and talented!
Act One was complete. The audience was pretty receptive, but I wanted more. I wanted to be blown away. We’re talking burlesque at the Byrd! After intermission, Cherrie and her Dainty Dolls were back with a tribute to A Chorus Line. Hearts aside, it’s an ambitious endeavor and I felt it could have been rehearsed a smidge more. Then… Miss Deanna Danger took the stage. With a tribute to Theda Bata, her silk “wings” danced all across the stage. It was a beautiful performance, and well done. Deanna does not disappoint, and her dancing skills are apparent when she takes stage. Miss Danger is just that--you feel dangerous watching her operate with an audience. It’s dark and mysterious at times, knee slapping funny in other instances, but she always exudes a passion for her art.
Paco Fish. Not one enjoyable Baltimore resident, but two! Paco Fish comes out looking like some flea bag pervert in his raggedy overcoat and leers at the audience. He makes you feel almost uncomfortable as he writhes his tongue at the audience and pseudo touches himself. And then IT happens. The clothes are shed to reveal a sequined get up including suspenders and a top hat. Paco captures his prey. Everyone is clapping in approval and THEN… the nice gentleman becomes the devil, complete with horns, wings and a red velvet get-up that would make Lucifer himself blush. Amazing. It helps that Mr. Fish is easy on the eyes and knows how to work a stage. That was what I was looking for, and as though my thoughts were heard, it was delivered, spoon-fed dazzle with devilish delight!
It is difficult to follow that, but Miss Lottie Ellington took the stage in a banana adorned skirt and her rump shaking soon mesmerized her onlookers. It is rare that I attend a burlesque show and don't see someone’s clothing come off. I sometimes enjoy the lack of clothes-shedding when it's part of a good show, and at this show in particular I expected to see a variety of entertainment. Indy Go-Go was absolutely adorable as Mary Poppins. She captured the enchanted British nanny perfectly, in my opinion, and it was a memorable performance. Charlie would soon take the stage doing “GiGi”. It's a simple, classic routine, but Charlie's always a merrymaker. Skye Sinclaire created Star Wars magic going from Stormtrooper to Slave Leia, equipped with light saber and all.
Wanderlust Agreement--this is what I want to see when I go to a show. This is the dish you order for your mom at Edo’s Squid. It didn’t take me long to recognize The Muse and The Red Huntress. These women, onstage… they dominate. They are fortunately choreographically inclined, and they do it well. The spot-on chair routine, along with the red sparkling dresses and black bobbed wigs, was a delight to watch and a fitting finale to Byrlesque At The Byrd.
It is not an easy feat to produce a show like this one, let alone perform in it. Deanna Danger’s effort and heart were evident, and despite some technicalities, it was a great first run of burlesque at the Byrd. I would like to attend more of the same in such a venue, as I feel that to utilize this space Richmond has is not only a historical mark but also an effort to keep the community alive and its denizens involved. Richmond wants this. It was unmistakable, from the comments heard in the lengthy line outside the Byrd, to the efforts people put into their attire for the evening, to the roar and approval of the crowd. Now that’s entertainment!
Words by Jo Ann L. Breaux
Images and Video by Todd Raviotta