Presenting: The Toronto Burlesque Festival with Kitten ‘N’ Lou (aka: Poutine and Pool Lounging, eh?)
Can we talk about the Canadians? WHAT MAKES THEM SO NICE AND PLEASANT?! Is it their socialised healthcare system? The fact that they’ve had marriage equality for a while now? That their national ‘dish’ is essentially a pile of French fries with cheese blobs and gravy all over it? There’s a lot to be smug about up there.
We’ve been treated like royalty and smothered with gravy – oops, we mean love – at every Canadian festival we’ve performed at, and Toronto was no exception. This festival is a BEAST, with five big shows over four days plus workshops, and we were so impressed with the level of heart, soul, and flawless execution involved.
From the moment we landed we were greeted by the sight of our amazing new pal and driver Teddy Mickey: dapper ALL the time, friendly and helpful beyond expectation, and a beloved fixture in the Canadian burlesque community for good reason. He’s the friggin’ best. We checked into our fancy pants hotel which had a rooftop pool and a blazing waterfall of fire in the lobby… AS EVERY HOTEL SHOULD.
Thursday Night Opening Bash
We were thrilled to kick off the weekend by getting to just sit back and enjoy the first night of shows. The place was packed but the festival had a front row table reserved for its headliners, which is always appreciated… standing for three hours in high heels isn’t cute! Highlights of the evening included:
- Laura Desiree as the legs-for-days-takes-no-prisoners hostess. Smart and sexy, she was fabulous to look at and listen to. At the end of the festival she declared to us that we were adopting her, and we were now her official parents. How two little stump-a-roonies like us could produce a long-limbed gazelle like her, we’re not sure, but we sure are proud!
- Lucky Minx did a surprising and totally charming ‘fan’ dance, but the fans were two dresses on hangers that she couldn’t decide between. Clever idea, gorgeously executed. She also looks like a movie star from 1962.
- Suzanna Tease was an adorable little firecracker direct from Switzerland. Although a newer performer, you could just see the joy and exuberance oozing out of her pores.
- Vicky Butterfly closed the night with a gorgeous dying swan act… magical feather fans that unfolded and swirled in an otherworldly way. She’s one of those performers that can completely transport you to another time and place into whatever world she’s creating with her act.
The next day a few of us had brunch with one of the lovely producers, Sauci Calla Hora, and her adorable teeny tiny mother who was in the front row at all of the festival shows, with a huge smile on her face and a feathered something on her head. It’s so fabulous to see that kind of family support in our scene, and explains how Sauci became one of the founders of Toronto burlesque. We squeezed in some pool time and then got ready to enjoy another night of being an audience member, hooray!
We grabbed a drink and a bite with host Bastard Keith and Vicky Butterfly before the show, and let us let y’all in on a little secret: those two are a couple of major NERDS with a capital N (which they’ll admit to proudly no doubt). We drank wine and smiled politely while they went down an obscure foreign film wormhole about the nuances of 1970s Indian cinema. Meanwhile we’re basically like: “Our favourite movie is Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, sorrrryyyy!” It’s nice to meet new friends who can LEARN ya something!
Friday Night Theatre
The Friday night show was a fully conceptualized theatrical presentation called The Lost Toys, the brainchild of Coco Framboise, TBF producer and all-around goddess. It’s really exciting to see this kind of production happening and making an effort to break the classic variety format. Highlights included:
- Pixie Trix as the endearingly adorable yet bizarre troll doll who needed a home and who essentially guided us through the show’s story.
- Dew Lily’s gorgeous and intense puppet/rope act to The Smiths… soooo good!
- Coco Framboise as a melancholy Mr. Potato Head – so sweet and funny.
- Mahogany Storm’s bombastic and stripper-iffic ‘Tetris’ act, in which he built the rows by depositing the segments with his dong. And yes, he used that Tetris music we all know and love to hate.
- Aurora Galore closed the show by becoming the real live version of the doll that had been on stage all night. Fire, booty, fans, fierceness… she blew the roof off, AS PER USUAL. Girl knows how to put on a show.
Saturday Night Showcases
The next night was a double header with two big shows back to back. Major kudos to host Bastard Keith for maintaining stamina and momentum through the whole night. He managed to keep it fresh and exciting for both shows, keeping in mind that much of the audience would be there for both. We love how he smartly toes the line of pushing buttons, whilst always ‘punching up’ (something he talks about in his excellent hosting workshop that we popped into). We were performing in both shows, so didn’t catch some of it, but here are our highlights from what we did see:
- Lou Lou La Duchesse de Riere: she does classic, and DAMN does she do it right! Gorgeous costuming, great musicality, and sex sex sex sex sex pouring out all over the place. P.S. You’ll want to be mad when you find out that bod just had a baby like 5 minutes ago, but you won’t be because YOU GET TO FEAST YOUR EYES ON THAT BOD.
- Vicky Butterfly stunned the audience once again with her dark and dazzling LED cape act. It had carefully choreographed lighting tricks and changes, that she revealed from an epic black cape in a Blade Runner inspired fantasy. How many incredible swirling costume pieces does this woman own?
We didn’t get to see much of the second POP! themed show as we were getting ready, but of COURSE we had to run out of our dressing room the second we heard Jeez Loueez’s name introduced. She performed the crap out of her now infamous Rufio act to Michael Jackson’s Bad, and set the room on fire with her combination of amazing dance moves and hilarious attitude. We LIVE when she mouths the lyrics “who’s bad?” and then points at herself, staring down the audience.
Our best pal Teddy of course managed to find us some Poutine on the way home at 2am, because as mentioned before Teddy is the best.
Sunday was all about workshops and the Champagne Smash, which closed out the weekend with a bang. There was a ton of fun stuff that night, including a charming and sexy construction worker act by James & the Giant Pasty (aka the performer who breaks the most hearts when people find out he’s straight), but honestly it was harder to remember anything that happened after the Japanese tsunami of awesomeness that is MURASAKI BABY DOLL took to the stage.
Words cannot express how cute, weird, and wonderful this crew is. We could not even begin to try to explain what was happening in their act, but it was exciting and hilarious and perfect and exploding with energy. We love that they come to North American festivals and are just like, “we are going to do these acts that are so intensely Japanese and none of you will understand what is happening but you will love it”. The audience lost their minds and basically wanted them to never leave the stage ever again. MURASAKI BABYDOLL FOREVER!!!
We had an early flight so headed back to our room to pack and drag our exhausted asses to the airport, spent from the explosion of fabulousness that was the Toronto Burlesque Festival. Major thanks and love to Sauci, Coco, and Ava Noir for creating an event that is well produced, well attended, any getting bigger every year. And thanks to Toronto for the curds.
Quoted in major international newspapers and held in high esteem and affection by the international burlesque community, 21st Century Burlesque Magazine has documented the contemporary burlesque scene since 2007. Founded and edited by Holli-Mae Johnson.