SHINE: A Burlesque Musical (Review)

SHINE: A Burlesque Musical is not so much a traditional musical as it is a bawdy version of TV’s old variety shows.  Think of a cross between burlesque and an adult-only Muppet show.  The show is a reworked version of an improvised one-act, originally known as By the Seat of Our Panties, presented at the Vancouver International Burlesque Festival in 2008.

The book by Sam Dulmage and The Wet Spots is thin, but works nevertheless.  Theatre owner Shine Mionne (Cass King) and her troupe of burlesque performers are approached by a producer who promises to revitalise the ailing show with buckets of money.  Various hijinks, gags, and word-play ensue.

shine-flare

Cass King as Shine Mionne in SHINE: A Burlesque Musical

The original music by first-time musical theatre writers the Wet Spots (John Woods and Cass King) has some bright spots and a tonne of potential, but isn’t given the full opportunity to shine as brightly as it should.

The female cast is full of incredibly strong personalities and they almost completely overwhelm the male contingent of the show. Michael Smith as wealthy producer Richard Suit is nowhere nearly up to the challenge of matching the stage presence or vocal abilities of his female co-stars.  Both of Smith’s songs, “When You Deal With A Suit” and “Matinee Crowd” fell unfortunate victim to his weak singing voice and weren’t given a fair airing.

The tempo of certain songs (“Everybody Wants to be A Star” and “Rocky Horror”) could also use some reworking to better steady the pace of the overall show.  There were too many slow numbers.  SHINE’s score would also be better served by the use of live music as opposed to the current pre-taped backing tracks.

None of these criticisms should take away from the overwhelming positives of SHINE.  I went in not knowing what to expect, but was completely won over.

Cass King is a natural performer and brings to life the “Perversions of Yesteryear.”  Her speaking delivery is peppered with shades of Katharine Hepburn and she periodically channels various other classic stars of the silver screen.

“Broadway Love Song” wryly spoofs a musical-theatre ballad and makes for a strong closer to the first act.

The chorus/ensemble comprised of Violet Femme, April O’Peel, Calamity Kate and Sister Madly, Keri Horton and Fairlith Harvey provide a rock-solid backing to SHINE; there’s not a single weak link in the bunch.  Choreography by April O’Peel and Melody Mangler is inspired and sinfully fun.

Gemma Isaac as an overeager grad student and Teddy Smooth as an aspiring young actor make wild and dirty magic in “The Nasty.”  Noelle Pilon as Lulu Von Doozy, the resident diva, is a force of nature and sells all of her numbers with relative ease.

SHINE is chockfull of clever moments and snappy dialogue; it will absolutely and thoroughly entertain you and leave you wanting more.

SHINE: A Burlesque Musical is presented by Screaming Chicken Theatrical Society and The Wet Spots and plays from August 12-22, 2009; Wed-Sat @ 8 PM, at the Waterfront Theatre, 1412 Cartwright St, Granville Island.  Tickets are available online or call 1-800-838-3006.  SHINE is an adult-oriented show which contains nudity and themes of healthy sexuality and is not suitable for those under the age of 18. Age restriction strictly enforced.

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