BWW Reviews: The Heat is ON at Shadowbox Live's BURLESQUE: BEHIND THE CURTAIN
Jym Ganahl is looking in all the wrong places to determine what is heating up Columbus lately, as I am pretty sure that Shadowbox Live's latest Stage 2 production, "Burlesque: Behind the Curtain" is the actual culprit. The sequel to its predecessor, last year's "Burlesque de Voyage", this world premiere of the show written by Jimmy Mak opened last night to a sell-out crowd, telling the backstage tale of a burlesque troupe. The air conditioning was cranked, the cold drinks were plentiful, but nothing could stop the incredible talent at Shadowbox from creating their steamiest, sexiest, and raciest shows to date. If the standing ovation wasn't enough of an indication, the near constant hooting and hollering of both male and female audience members throughout, gave it away early on that this show was going to be a hit.
What's not to love? While I secretly wanted to scream, "Go eat some damned ice cream!" to the entire female ensemble of the cast, the Shadowbox crew has definitely been preparing physically for this show, as nearly every one of these women look like Victoria's Secret models. Dress them in costumes designed by Amy Lay, Linda Mullins, and Nick Wilson that are gorgeously erotic- sexy, leaving little to the imagination (particularly the Act I finale where the women leave the stage in raindrop shaped pasties...) and have a funky Steampunk flair- and the entire cast is total eye candy. Add to that electric choreography by Katy Psneicka that makes every scene look like a more exciting version of a striptease than the last, and it truly is temperature raising.
Leading off with "Dirty Laundry" by Bittersweet, sung by powerhouse Stacie Boord, and an eye-poppingly sensual dance number, you are quickly reminded that all these pretty...faces, can sing like nobody's business also. Edelyn Parker, Noelle Grandison, Leah Haviland, and Nikki Fagin team up for Journey's "Any Way You Want It", and anytime you put that set of voices together, it's going to blow your mind. Robbie Nance's version of "Little Red Riding Hood" by the Coasters was fairytale-gone-naughty, Fagin nailed Prince & The Revolution's "Take Me With You", Jeff Simpson did Morphine's "You Look Like Rain" justice, Amy Lay delivered a fabulously simple rendition of "Homeward Bound" (Simon and Garfunkel), and Stev Guyer did a wickedly good "Who Did That to You" by John Legend. The music is all over the place in style and period, but pulls together marvelously for this show. The only number I could've done without was a well-sung (by Julie Klein), but energy-zapping set of Beats Antique's "Roustabout" followed by "Maintenant" (Rupa and the Fishes).
Interspersed in the well-crafted script were nicely constructed subplots of Stacie Boord's former-child-star-turned-burlesque-performer character joining the troupe (much to everyone else's dismay), Amy Lay's character's father dying, and various characters' relationship changes that come with the challenges of a travelling show "family". The plot worked well and gave the characters some much-needed dimension. It also played against the troupe's on-stage skits- some hysterically funny and exceptionally witty ("Bringing In The Sheaves" in which several preachers are counseling prostitutes, "Monkey Business"- an officer interviewing the only witness to a man's suicide and she happens to be clad only in a suitcoat, and "Court of Last Resort"- where an obviously lust-filled judge decides the fate of a beautiful widow accused of killing her husband), while others such as the boxer's skit "Self-Determination" (in which a nearly knocked out and horribly defeated boxer volunteers to fight the only boxer left- himself) and a "Who's on First?" bit which were so hokey that I'm truly not kidding when I say that I saw them last used in my elementary schooler's talent show line-up. Fortunately, the potholes are brief, and read as part of the original interpretation of burlesque shows- as ludicrous parodies full of mockery- so they are forgivable.