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Robin Hood: Prince of Tease

Burlesque, Events, Reviews

April 30, 2017

It’s a cool night in late April, dark skies threatening rain, but we’re braving the weather to go to Granville Island and check out the latest offering from Toofly Productions, Robin Hood: the Prince of Tease. It’s a punny name being produced by a punny company and promises to be a punny burlesque take on the classic tale of a thief that robs from the rich and gives to the poor.

There’s something about this story that makes it persist – the idea of the rich stealing from everyone and giving to themselves has plagued western society since before the dawn of scarcity economics, and the tale of a man stealing from those wealthy thieves to give back, of fighting a corrupt system that steals everything and leaves no voice to the most helpless, is just as relevant these days as it has ever been.

So, we’re excited. Toofly is a recent invention, the dream of Alan Pronger. He wanted to create a means of producing the weirdest ideas he could find, of taking concepts too strange for other companies and making them reality. They’re a non-profit for emerging artists that specializes in exploring the absurdity of modern life.

This makes the Performance Works Theater a perfect venue for them – a place located on the tail-end of Granville Island, it was a machine shop that opened almost a hundred years ago and changed into a rehearsal and performance venue a little under thirty years ago. You might say the building’s purpose was stolen, it’s meaning gone for practical to absurd, and you would be right.

Robin Hood: Prince of Tease lives up the expectations set by both

The story takes quite a lot from the old Keven Costner movie with gender-flipped characters: Prince Joan has taken control of unspecified European country after hearing the news that King Richard and Robin of Loxley are dead. She kills Robin’s father, blinds his man-servant Winkin, taxes people into near death and spends all the money on himself. The opening set-up borrows as much from Game of Thrones as from its source material and is self-aware enough to call themselves out in, self-awareness being one of the best parts of Burlesque performances.

We then follow Robin as she escapes from BDSM land with the help of a Benny Hill sequence, meets Oddman Out, and the two of them travel together to get back to unspecified European country. They discover what’s happened in Robin’s absence, Robin recruits her people, and they start robbing from the rich and giving to the poor – but the conceit here is that everyone fights through dance, a thing that Robin excels at and Oddman Out doesn’t quite get. It makes for some cute sequences and story progressions and leads us up to the climax, where Oddman Out gets the final show-stopping number.

There’s some strong performances: anyone familiar with the Vancouver scene has seen Andrew Lynch perform, and his Sheriff lives up to the high standards his presence demands. Emily Pangburn’s Robin is graceful and cocky and her facial expressions are as perfect as the choice to cast her as the lead. Isabella Halladay’s Will Scarlet demands attention and earns it, and she’s got presence enough to make her every moment on stage count.

Of note is Katherine Alpen’s Winkin – this is her first burlesque and she carries herself with a refined dignity in almost every scene, acting as the narrator and liberally ignoring the fourth wall. She’s great. Joseph Spitale’s Mann Marian is an utter delight from start to finish, a clueless dude-in-distress caught between political machinations he has little understanding of. Finally, the dry delivery of Jennifer Doan’s Oddman Out makes her the conscience of the show and the person who grows the most, a quiet presence that shadows the rest of the story until she’s ready to take center stage in the final number.

All of the male performers took some serious risks here: Jared Arthur, Joseph Spitale, Kenneth Tynan, Matthew Fedorowicz, Andrew Lynch, and Rafael Ruiz did some amazing things with the material they were given and the routines they worked out, and fans of boylesque are going to love the things they do.

The script has some very clever one-liners about its source material, the limitations of the set, and the limitations of the stage. It criticizes itself – how do you have a Robin Hood show without bows and arrows?!? – and a strong opening sequence that sets the stage for what’s to come.

A handful of minor technical choices can be excused – with the amount of glitter being used, one wonders why we don’t just replace blood with the stuff? It would have made for a much more dramatic (in every sense of the word) performance. There’s also a beautiful silks performance that, while gorgeous, comes out of nowhere and adds nothing to the story as a whole.

Which segues nicely into one of the problems with Robin Hood: Prince of Tease – the writer promotes comedy over character and loses out on the chance for more comedy because of it. The pacing is a bit weird, and without strong enough character motivation we’re left cheering for people because of the source material rather than the characters as they stand here. Traits come out of nowhere and pay-offs come without build up, making them feel hollow.

Even worse is the queer-coded villains; Mann Marian being forced to marry the fabulous Sheriff and being in horror of it and then being rescued by the female Robin is played for laughs, sure, and there’s an attempted rescue of the concept with a gay marriage between Little John and Marian’s manservant, but it feels like a last ditch effort to cover a mistake. Marian’s efforts with Robin are stymied by sexual fluidity, which comes off as a bit of bi-erasure.

Neither issue is large enough to mar the performances or the show as a whole. We’d recommend seeing it – it’s funny and a good time and the few flaws are evidence of inexperience more than maliciousness. Toofly Productions is still maturing as a studio and will continue to do so – and if this is what they’re early efforts look like, well, we can’t wait to see where they end up.

A word of warning: if you are going to see this (and if you like musicals, burlesque, or Robin Hood, then you should), reserve a table. The Performance Works Theater has limited seating and looking for a place to sit can be difficult. We’d recommend trying to get a seat in the center aisle – there’s a shower sequence that happens towards the back at the end of the second act that you’re going to want an unobstructed view of.

You can learn more about Toofly by clicking here, more about Robin Hood: the Prince of Tease by clicking here or buy tickets by clicking here, and learn more about the Performance Works Theater by clicking here. The show runs from now until May 13, 2017, with each show starting at 8pm.

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877

Geekenders’ Nintendance at the Odyssey

Burlesque, Culture, Events

April 18, 2017

It’s a warm Vancouver night, clear and expectant, and I’m walking towards one of the most storied venues in the city. The Odyssey was opened in 1987 and continues to operate as one of the city’s most prominent gay bars and that makes it the perfect spot for Geekenders to expand into.

A line had already begun to form at seven o’clock, the curious and familiar of both venue and troupe coming to see what the official mingling of both would result in. The answer was a smashing success, with a good crowd that was hot and ready for everything the Geekenders had to offer and a Geekenders crew fully prepared to take advantage of everything that their hosts had on hand.

People got settled, got drinks, got comfortable, greeted old friends and made new ones before the show began. The Odyssey provided a host of Nintendo-themed drinks and entertainment, including several iterations of Mario Kart and Smash Bros., letting the bar fill with classic remix video game tracks that set the stage for what was to come.

And what came? Veronica Vamp and the incomparable Stephen Blakley took the stage as Jesse and James of Team Rocket fame, accompanied by stage kitty Chantini. The two set an immediate rapport, riffing off the game and the cartoon and one another as they set the tone for the acts to follow with typical Geekenders flair.

Dee Luscious set things off as Bowser, King of the Koopas, prancing out to Amy Kurcharik and Friends’ Like a Boss and showing everyone that she had come up with an ironclad plan to finally conquer the Mushroom Kingdom: kidnap Princess Peach and put her in a castle. Dee made the stage her castle and every last audience member was captivated by her performance. It was a strong showing, equal parts funny and sensual, and it set things at ease and relaxed the crowd for whatever was to come.

With Princess Peach out of the picture, Jayne Fondue stepped up as Princess Daisy and let us know why she should be the new ruler of the Mushroom Kingdom and not just Luigi’s heart. Rocking out to How to be a Heartbreaker by Marina and the Diamonds, her facial expressions let everyone know that they were watching royalty – and when she came into the audience to thrum along with her loyal subjects, we were surprised to find her take someone on stage with her. This lucky player two was fed the freshest sort of block-fare, turned from another face in the crowd into the most famous plumber this side of Mario. The two of them stepped off, triumphant, and everyone’s heart went with them.

Artemis Lark had a difficult act to follow, but she managed. Coming out as the Kaepora Gaebora- the Great Owl from the Legend of Zelda games – she took a wild breath and claimed the space around the stage, flapping her wings and moving her head like an owl to Who Are You? by the Who, an inspired choice that Artemis turned into the ultimate audio/visual pun. Her facial expressions were, once again, perfect, and she became the show’s twilight princess as attention focused from performer to crowd.

The fine folks behind the upcoming Robin Hood: Prince of Tease were given a chance to strut their stuff while hosting the Geekenders costume contest. They’re performing an entirely gender-bent take on the classic fable and will be at the Performance Works on Granville Island from April 28th to May 13th. You can find out more by clicking here.

We were treated to two separate contests, a Nintendo-themed and a non-Nintendo themed follow up. A man wearing a full on Pikachu costume claimed the former, while the birthday-celebrating Draco Muffboi and companion Ginger Femmecat shared victory Hogwarts-bound Sailors Uranus and Pluto. Their victory was greeted with a rousing chorus of Happy Birthday sung at Draco, and a Happiest Birthday to you.

With that island of calm behind us, we returned to the world of burlesque with Kitty Glitter proving that everyone loves a dinosaur. Appearing as Yoshi, she gobbled down every last morsel of attention with a fun and energetic showing that had the Odyssey in good spirits and ready for more.

The crowd was rocking and rollicking and feeling the passion of that performance, and so we were treated to an intense tournament of that most skill based of challenges: rock paper scissors. Contestants were culled from the crowd, their glory to be claimed or lost on stage for all the Odyssey to see. The battle was fierce and the prizes for victory mighty, with the final winner taking home the Master Sword.

You could take that prize home, maybe. You should come to one of these shows.

Donna Jazz flounced on stage to bring us back to the show as Kirby. She started things innocent, with some light instrumental that led to a nice rendition of Don’t Put in Your Mouth, the songs following the action as Kirby, of course, ate something… and we all know that Kirby takes on the power of those that are eaten. The music was swallowed and so was Donna, allowing her to transform into a very different kind of dreamland resident, Beyoncé’s Partition marking this as the perfect song to sum up the stunning performance as a whole.

As Kirby ended, the King returned: one can’t keep a bad Koopa down, and one does not turn away from a second showing from their King. The debuting Johnny Wildcard eschewed the stage entirely, showing as incredible athleticism as he swung along and pole-danced to Ain’t no rest for the Wicked by Cage the Elephant. Johnny hit every beat perfectly, ruling the land and the world and making the Odyssey his kingdom, and by the time his performance ended and we had managed to pick our jaws up off the floor we were certain we had seen the show-stopping number.

We were wrong.

Saffron St. James flew out from Ottawa to take part in this show, donning the yellow cap and crooked mustache of Wario. She stepped on stage and, like Wario, was greedy for our attention – but unlike Wario, she knew how to hold it once she had it. Setting herself to Crown by Angel Haze, she brought the house down, a perfect presence that proved that majesty comes from so much more than a crown.

Jesse and James saw us off and kicked off a massive dance party mingled with video games and good times, as the crowd that was there stayed and new faces showed up. A good time was had by all, and Stephen Blakley gave us some magic as he took the stage to reprise the Han Solo routine from the Star Wars burlesque. What else was he going to do? Maroon 5’s Moves Like Jagger was playing. The Geekenders crowd knew what was up, and the new faces from the Odyssey clued in quickly.

Geekenders continues to break new ground and expand their venues and fanbase. This was an awesome show with a great turnout for a Sunday night, and there’s sure to be more to follow both at the Odyssey and elsewhere. We know for certain that the Geekenders are returning to the Rio this May the Fourth (and the Fifth~!) with Star Wars: The Empire Strips Back. For our new friends that saw tonight and want more, click here and grab some tickets.

You won’t be disappointed.

All photos provided for by Zemekiss Photography, who you can learn more about by clicking here. You should do so; Zemekiss Exanto is awesome people and will capture your event with class and skill.  

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I was “murdered” by burlesque troupe and I would happily do it again, Geekenders “We All Float Down Here”...

Burlesque, Events, Reviews

April 1, 2017

If you haven’t been attending the Geekenders 2016/2017 Season you are missing out on events that are innovative and life-changing. I was floored when I saw their stage production of The Rocky Horror Show, I could not get over how amazing Batlesque was, and I wouldn’t have thought that something could beat them but We All Float Down Here proved my happily wrong.

Our horrifying hosts for the evening were Gidget Gravedigger and Alistair Crane and they were adorable, creepy and chocked full of Sleepwalkers trivia. Their story of the evening was the unfortunate but understandable murder of Alistair by Gidget and, in a typical King plot twist, having the body buried in the Pet Cemetary, only to have him come back to life and then turn into the Night Flier, was so silly and creepy. A+.

They were helped by their stage kitties in the first half of the show, Anita Johnson and Flash LeFox. The two crept and delighted the audience as The Grady Twins from The Shining. I would also like to make special note that I really appreciated that there was recognition that Stephen King writes about disturbing things and therefore an appropriate warning was said before people got in too deep. It shows that Geekenders cares about their audiences and stays true to their mandate of being a progressive troupe of performers.

The first performance revved the engines of the audience as Trixie Hobbitses as Christine danced and murdered her way around Kitty Glitter and Seamus Fit-It-In to the perfect song, The Beatles Baby You Can Drive My Car. She delighted. She KILLED. Her use of the classic balloon pop routine was a great treat and her use of headlights was top notch.

Next up was Androsia Wilde and Rear Admiral Ziggy Starbutt in a sexy homoerotic tango inspired by King’s epic The Dark Tower series. The routine turned into a violent pas de deux of fisticuffs and undressing while Short Change Hero by The Heavy.

Our first boylesque number of the night was Tylr Bourbon performing The Mist which was visceral and mesmerized the audience with the lush and disturbing images.

Fanny Oakley then gave us a sanguine belly dance sensation in her interpretation of Salem’s Lot complete with drinking blood on stage and bearing all as Take Me To Church by Hozier played.

Our first international act of the night came from a good friend of the Geekenders community who had performed in the Weird Al Burlesque: Violet DeVille, fresh from a performance date in Texas, possessed perfect comic timing in a The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill number. She made SPACE GOO even more awesome than it already was. A nice touch was using Catch A Falling Star by Perry Como and the Thunderstruck cover by Steve n’ Seagulls.

Secret Window, Secret Garden is one of my favorite King works and Ginger Femmecat and Draco-Muff-Boi’s take on it was perfection. The Nine Inch Nails song The Line Begins to Blur was the right choice for this performance and story. The visuals of Draco and Ginger transforming into each other was executed with precision and disturbing beauty.

The best part of The Shining is seeing a family descend into madness and the horror of knowing that the place that the world you live in is out to get you. Riannaconda showed us a trifecta of narratives transitioning from Wendy Torrance to Jack Torrance to the Overlook itself (complete with the iconic carpet). Also, two words… Glitter Axe.

Full disclosure: I am a Miss Dee Twenty fangirl. My opinion of her work is possibly slightly biased, but I checked with everyone else I could talk to and we were all in agreement, she is a rockstar. Her Needful Things act was a classic Miss Dee performance. Great music selection, Satan Takes A Holiday by Tommy Dorsey Orchestra and Artie Shaw’s Nightmare along with her trademark narrative opener tells us a story of how when you make a deal with the devil you will be exposed. The Half and Half is a classic burlesque routine and Dee does it in full.

I enjoy a good period blood joke. Most beings with uteruses know the body horror of menstruation and Carrie was a formative and terrifying story of how women are shamed for their natural body functions. Fanny Oakley’s second number of the night explored that by using a montage of images from the movie and her own dancing which beautifully crescendoed into the crowning blood red glitter bath glory.

“She can’t be dead, MISERY CHASTAIN CANNOT BE DEAD!” is how I felt at the end Seamus-Fit-It-In and Kitty Glitter’s Misery number. The glitter axe made its second appearance as the couple showed how deep their love goes for wheelchairs, torture and Kathy Bates

I love it when performers take concepts from classic burlesque and turn it on their heads. Violet DeVille’s second number of the night was a reverse tease. Drawing inspiration from Silver Bullet, a story of a small town terrorized by a werewolf, Violet came out in her wolf form and danced in a barely-there nude costume with wolf mask and tail, then slowly added human elements of dress to a cover version of Bad Moon Rising by Mourning Ritual Feat: Peter Dreimanis of July Talk. It was a well-crafted comment on how we hide the dark animal inside our selves by covering it up with what we see as civilized.

The antepenultimate act was a huge and wild ensemble piece. One of the best things about Geekenders’ shows is that you will never be disappointed in a floor show style group “everyone take off your clothes” piece, and this is no exception. Veronica Vamp led Fanny Oakley, Faye Havok, and Tylr Bourbon in the ritualistic torture of Trixie Hobbitses and Seamus Fit-It-In with Rear Admiral Siggy Starbutts reprising her roll of Death in an epic retelling of Children of the Corn. Set to Go Kindergarten by Lonely Island featuring Robin, it was spicy like the Gingers that menaced us on stage.

With the reboot of IT coming to theaters and the recent upswing of creepy clowns standing on the edges of towns with balloons, having a clown with a balloon stand in the lobby of The Rio who encourages you to take photos of them with your friends is inspired. Brandy Snifter is, in fact, one of the most inspired performers I saw that night. If you ever had a raging crush on Loonette from Big Comfy Couch, then Brandy Snifter performing to Killer Klowns by The Dickies and the Goldfinger cover of 99 Red Balloons is your dark grown-up fantasy. We were so blessed to have Brandy visit from LA, because she is an international burlesque gem.

In my family, we have a “no shower curtain when taking a bath” rule. The Shining and specifically room 237 is the horror movie incident that inspired this rule. Anita Johnson, who is a gosh darned genius, used my fear of shower curtains and bathtubs against me in her Room 237 number where she stripped off her rotting flesh to Splish Splash by Bobby Darin. Jeebus the whole thing gave me a queasy but happy feeling in my stomach.

We all Float Down Here was a freaky, creepy, scary, unnerving delight. Successfully selling out the Rio and showing the city that Horrorlesque is a viable and popular genre of burlesque. If Geekenders gets any more amazing it is going to be hard to get tickets and that means that they are going to have to get support from their fans to find larger venues to accommodate the needs of the community that adores them.

We All Float Down Here Setlist

Christine – Drive My Car by The Beatles

The Dark Tower Series – Short Change Hero by The Heavy

The Mist – Haydar by Gulcan Kaya

Salem’s Lot – Take Me To Church by Hozier

The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill Catch A Falling Star by Perry Como

The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill Thunderstruck by Steve n’ Seagulls

Secret Window – The Line Begins To Blur by Nine Inch Nails

The Shining – How Deep Can I Go by Hairy Soul Man

Needful Things – Satan Takes A Holiday by Tommy Dorsey Orchestra

Needful Things – Nightmare by Artie Shaw

Carrie – Red Dress by MAGIC!

Misery – Love On The Rocks With No Ice by The Darkness

Silver Bullet – Bad Moon Rising  by Mourning Ritual Feat: Peter Dreimanis

Children of the Corn – Go Kindergarten by The Lonely Island Feat: Robyn

IT – Killer Klowns by The Dickies

IT – 99 Red Balloons by Goldfinger

Room 237/ The Shining – Diana by Paul Anka

Room 237/ The Shining – Splish Splash by Bobby Darin

Room 237/ The Shining – Rebel Rouser by Duane Eddie

Room 237/ The Shining – Charlie Big Potato by Skunk Anansie

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297

You’ll Take a Shining to Stephen King Burlesque at Vancouver’s Rio Theatre

Burlesque, Events

March 20, 2017

Geekenders, Vancouver’s ‘cult sensation’ (Vancity Buzz) burlesque

troupe celebrating fandom, pop culture and alternative beauty, has announced a new

burlesque spectacular celebrating the work of Stephen King.

In the past four years Geekenders shows have drawn over 40,000 audience members

to shows ranging from a musical comedy take on the Portal video games to a cabaret-
style show exploring the world of Doctor Who, as well as consistently appearing in ‘Best

Burlesque Troupe’ lists all over the city, and shut down pop culture conventions with

packed houses, and changed the face of Vancouver’s theatrical community, making

theatre and burlesque accessible to an entirely new demographic of people.

In that tradition, Geekenders’ brand new burlesque variety show, ‘We All Float Down

Here: A Burlesque Tribute to Stephen King’ at the Rio Theatre on March 25th. ‘We All

Float Down Here’ is a burlesque, dance, and comedy show celebrating the oeuvre of

Stephen King through a vaudeville lens, creating a world where the horror writer’s films

collide in a Ziegfeld Follies-style explosion of glitter and showgirls.

Featuring FIFTEEN of Vancouver’s biggest nerdlesque names!

RIANNACONDA!
REBEL VALENTINE!
JAYNE FONDUE!
FANNY OAKLEY!
VERONICA VAMP!
TRIXIE HOBBITSES!
TYLR BOURBON!
SEAMUS FIT-IT-IN!
KITTY GLITTER!
ANDROSIA WILDE!
REAR ADMIRAL ZIGGY STARBUTTS!
GINGER FEMMECAT!
DRACO MUFF-BOI!
MISS DEE TWENTY!
ANITA JOHNSON!

“We pick the things we do to coax people out to see live theatre or burlesque, people

who might not have been previously interested,” says Geekenders artistic director

Fairlith Harvey. “There’s so much to see, from body-positivity and exclusively feminist

content, to gender blind casting, LGBT-friendly shows, goofy humour, and intricate

dance routines.”

Geekenders’ production of the Vegas-style nerdlesque revue ‘We All Float Down Here:

A Burlesque Tribute to Stephen King’ runs Saturday, March 25th. Tickets are available in

advance at riotheatretickets.ca. For more information about Geekenders, visit

geekenders.ca or facebook.com/Geekenders

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