Choo La La is a burlesque franchise that started with 6 women in a hall; it now has outlets in Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and is shortly, according to the compere, to expand to further capital cities in Australia. It has blossomed into a safe place for women of all ages, shapes and sizes to go and learn the basic moves of the Burlesque world and if last night’s performance is a litmus test, a handful of men. As with all schools it has a captive audience, and they were out in force on Saturday night at Woodville Town Hall.
Woodville Town Hall is the perfect venue for Burlesque cabaret. It has been recently renovated back to all its Art Deco splendour, and you feel like you are stepping back in time into a place where scantily clad and even naked ladies performed burlesque routines that convinced you they were about to reveal everything to you that you were forbidden to see. Burlesque at its height produced Gypsy Rose Lee and more recently we have seen the rise of such phenomenal artists as Dita Von Teese and on the male side of things the talented all-male Burlesque company Briefs. One senses that there are a few women that aspire to this on stage, and one or two in the handful of men on show, but the majority of this group are justifiably there to have a good time.
The numbers are effective if a little crowded, and the feeling is that if everyone is on stage you won’t notice that the sexy moves are mostly done by rote and lack the really sexy drive that makes burlesque so titivating to watch; it is only present in a gifted few. It needs an element of tease to be effective and I found this to be mostly missing from this regimented and rather dull 2-and-a-half hours of watching the same moves in a different order.
It is my general attitude to reviewing that I should always find the good points to concentrate on if the show is slightly under par and encourage the artists performing to carry on and build their expertise. It is my hope that there were artists onstage tonight who will see the benefit of some honest feedback and look to improving their expertise towards a professional career. I saw some very promising burlesque artists onstage hidden in the midst of performers who had barely scratched the surface of their capabilities, and there is always safety in numbers. It would surely benefit the development not only of the artists but the Choo La La business to perhaps put the occasional really strong committed and more professionally developed performers onstage in a really clever solo routine, and maybe intersperse the big company numbers into the show more occasionally, not one big number after the other. As an ordinary run of the mill punter I was expecting a much more professionally developed performance from all the schmick publicity. All I really got in the end was a rather shabby end of term school show that was under rehearsed and very poorly supported technically.
I felt for a lighting operator who obviously hadn’t been given a clear briefing of what was happening. There were one or two very interesting lighting moments or should I say darking moments when the women on stage were obviously moving in the light spill from the wings. It did add an element of tease but not quite in the spirit of Burlesque. Too often the lights went out before the number was finished or the compere stood in a blackout asking for the lights to come up. At $35 a ticket if I had paid for a ticket from what the advertising promised I would have wanted my money back.
Finishing on a positive note: the costumes were very impressive, though the fans do need to be bigger, and there were some very courageous, strong performers on stage giving it a go. Keep at it, grow and prosper as artists.
Reviewed by Adrian Barnes
One Night Only – season ended