Toronto Burlesque Festival 2014: Day 1
July 24 , 2014
Revival Bar, Toronto, Canada
I have to say that the Toronto Burlesque Festival managed to really outdo itself this year with their opening night show. A themed piece – the audience became guests and voyeurs to the goings on at the Hotel Tryst, where guests meet for clandestine nocturnal games and the staff, when not stripping, is at times annoyed, bored, and ineffective at their duties. A nice touch to complete the illusion – patrons were given keys and told to have a great stay. Nice prop! I truly felt like a voyeur, watching the entire show through the peephole of my lens.
We meet the staff as the harsh whistle of Armitage Shanks, concierge and host, keens through the crowd: Leelando the ever-present bellhop, Pastel Supernova and her staff of maids, and Albert Cadabra the janitor. One by one, we greet our guests as they come down the center aisle, suitcases in tow: there’s Dr. Lucky the fortune teller, Obskyura the high class socialite, Suki Tsunami (shhhh… she’s really a thief), the drunk Mansfield Brothers, dashing mobster Knox Harter, impeccable beauty Ruby Moon, and the nerdy Fargo-esque coupon-gifting couple of Coco Framboise and Dew Lily – these final two weaving their way throughout the storylines of each hotel guest, bringing some fabulous comedic talent to each scene.
Let’s peek in on what naughty fun the guests got up to, shall we?
Ruby Moon is all lounge – and who doesn’t lounge in red glimmering ballgown with opera gloves and heels to match? She’s got a fiery itch that only a burlesque polework mashup can scratch. Slow and sensual, there’s something to be said about her skill in the art of striptease – there was more sexual tension in the room watching a fully-clothed Ruby slide slowly down the pole to hook her glove behind her neck than I’ve ever seen in any unclothed act. Add to that her polework and posing and this gal is a tall glass of oh my!
Knox Harter is one of the most versatile performers out there. As her mobster takes center stage, you feel like you’ve been thrust into an Old Hollywood B movie. The suit, fedora, the wingtips, and the smoky cigarette complete the perfect picture – and with the single low spotlight it’s all old school glam. The striptease is all angles and intimidation, letting you know who’s boss. The point is driven home when she drags a razor across her throat – we get it, we get it. We won’t tell anyone how awesome you look in your green bra and bikini… The razor comes in handy in the final reveal to cut off those pesky bra straps, and her cigarette never went out the entire act. One of my favorite acts of the evening.
Adding to the intrigue of Hotel Tryst, apparently they have a ghost. The lovely Poisonne, dressed in white and sporting a somewhat creepy mask (yeah, not a fan of things clown-ish, they creep me out – no offense, Sketchy,) she took to an aerial hoop and performed a fabulous and haunting set. She wasn’t the only aerialist we were treated to. Our little thief, Suki Tsunami, stole our hearts and made her getaway on a set of red silks. Her poses were beautiful and she rained a shower of glitter down upon us. Both of these ladies are some of the best aerialists Toronto has to offer and I’m always in awe when I get to see them perform.
I’ve always known that Dr. Lucky is a fabulous host and performer, but I had no idea how great her psychic skills were. In her all-pink fortune teller outfit, she picked out an audience member to do some mind-boggling guesswork. Who knew she would pick out a burlesque performer to use her powers of deduction on? Lucky for us, Karen was a true sport, even during the mentalist bump ‘n grind.
It must be some truly boring work being a maid at the hotel – or so it seemed from watching them just sitting around, popping gum. Until Pastel Supernova got her girls dancing up a storm with a super sexy chair dance. If you’ve never seen Pastel perform, I highly suggest you get out there, anywhere she’s performing, and pay whatever you need to watch her act. She’s a trained dancer, choreographer, and dang, it shows. Her act was energized and acrobatic – you almost didn’t need to have a reveal at the end, but her, why not? The things she did to that chair, you could have auctioned it off at the end of the night.
Albert Cadabra. You can just say the name alone and people will probably nod their heads in understanding. Yeah, you know what I’m talking about. His fire act had me both amazed and scared as to how he was creating fire with, well…various body parts. All his assistant Leelando had to do was hold the baton close to his mouth (or his butt) and boom, flame. How he did that we’ll never know (it was dark). Toronto loves you, Albert Cadabra!
I felt like I was intruding a bit when watching Lucky Minx and James and the Giant Pasty… but it was worth it. It’s not like I *saw* anything, really. They were already getting out of bed, obviously having had a fabulous night. In what I can only call a double-reverse striptease (is that a thing?) James spent the entire act trying to convince Lucky to come back to bed first by not letting her get dressed and then by romancing her back out of her clothes. These two have such fabulous chemistry together. You could imagine this being their morning routine, every day, all the time. Lucky bastards.
Now, I want you to close your eyes and imagine this: she’s wearing an oversized t-shirt that has a woman’s body in a bikini printed on it, blue rolled up pants, running shoes and a fanny pack; he’s wearing a baseball cap and all beige blah. As they talk you feel like you’re in a Cohen brothers movie. Yeah, doesn’t seem like Coco Framboise or Dew Lily at all, does it? Our lovable couple has come to the hotel for a special weekend and we find, underneath that nerdy exterior, that they’re just latex junkies at heart. It’s amazing how we can be so different in the bedroom, eh? Their striptease is hot, hot, hot and we find their bodies covered in bondage tape patterns. Who knew? These guys, for me, made the entire show. Their “interfering” throughout the evening with their coupons and questions glued the storylines together and brought perfectly timed comedy relief.
I’ve watched Leelando Calrissian’s burlesque talents grow from when he was “Barely Legal” to what he is today and it’s been a fabulous ride. His under-appreciated and over-frustrated bellboy was another character at the hotel that wove all the storylines together. He took all the craziness and kookiness in stride until he finally broke. His sexy lip synch striptease was a highlight of the night as he showed us that he’s more than just a bellhop – he’s a diva, he’s a pinup, and he’s fierce! He also looks fabulously hot in high heels.
Obskyura’s socialite showed us how much fun you can have in a fur coat, mesh, and the widest spaced fishnet on the planet. She’s got one of the hottest bods in the city and to be invited to watch her do a stripshow for her mobster companion in her hotel room was an opportunity no one was going to pass by. It was our very own peepshow and it was sultry and naughty. I was caught up in all the skin and sweat right up until she was arching up on the bed in her barely there costume. Truly an after-sex-cigarette worthy act.
Every time I talk about them, I can’t say enough about the Mansfield Brothers. Is it the beards? Is it the goofy overall look? I feel like I’m watching a burlesque version of Oh Brother Where Art Thou? when they’re on stage and I LOVE it. At the Hotel Tryst, their hotel room became a quiet space where they could get away, relax, and feel free to be themselves. They could kick off their jackets, grab their feather boas, and do a killer comedic striptease that ended with them actually doing a pretty decent assel twirl. Kudos!
Oh and those little keys they gave out to the patrons? Not just cute little props – they were keys to raffle prizes. How fun is that.
I want to congratulate the Toronto Burlesque Festival on putting together a truly creative themed show. I was happy to be a guest at the Hotel Tryst and partake in the peepshow. This was a great indicator of things to come for the rest of the festival weekend.
All photos ©Olena–Photolena–Sullivan for Burlesque Beat. Performers may use shots for promotional purposes, but please credit properly with photographer’s full name and a link to this piece. All other requests please contact us to acquire permission.