The Granville strip is not where you typically see Vancouver burlesque fans lined up, but in recent years Vancouver has established itself as an international hub for burlesque and Vancouverites are now witnessing what was once an isolated scene turned hugely successful, sought after and sweeping into local mainstream night life as it was on October 11 when Blue Morris’ “Beatles Burlesque” made its debut on Granville at Vancouver Fan Club. With a worldwide resurgence of performance pieces colourfully re-imagining Beatles’ music, “Beatles Burlesque” was no exception to innovative productions keeping the Fab Four alive and well decades after their disband. The Beatles appreciation was to my delight, even palpable pre-show as I came into the venue greeted by show runner and burlesque performer Vanity Feral dressed a vintage-inspired blue bodysuit onesie, followed by my spotting of the show sweeper of the evening Voodoo Pixie proudly wearing her Sgt. Pepper marching band style jacket making her way around the crowd.
Morris’ band, fronted by the boundlessly energetic vocals of Red Heartbreaker and Miss Kiss and Blue Morris’ lead guitar stylings, was refreshing from the start; it was not just another Beatles cover band adhering to crowd pleasers for the sake of sing-alongs but rather made up of musicians for whom the Beatles are an integral part of their musical makeup as – Morris adds, “A man at the Kamloops show asked me: “Which one are you? George?” I do play the same guitar as George Harrison, but I’m not interested in impersonating the Beatles. That’s just not my thing. We are ourselves onstage, playing music we love.”
Equally indulging in the shows theatrics was the ever-comedic host Connie Cahoots, a former New Brunswick native. If coming onstage in everything from a go-go wig to then revealing herself as the Queen of England burning a bra before our eyes wasn’t amusing enough she later approached stage as Yoko Ono, reenacting Ono’s infamous performance art pieces “Piece Cut” in which Ono removed items of clothing with a pair of scissors. In true burlesque tongue-in-cheek, Connie removed her clothing with scissors but further titillated the crowd to participate by suggesting they take their pants off and photograph their bums; a scattered few in the front row did follow suit and remove their pants.
With burlesque performer Miss Fitt at the helm of the choreography, the set list included fan favourites such as “Sgt. Pepper” and “Eight Days a Week”, it also included many of the Beatles’ more experimental compositions including “Helter Skelter.” Arguably one of the most influential Canadian burlesque performers, Melody Mangler, came on energized as Mick Jagger, head-banging and shaking her floor length rainbow fringe to the tune which then enticed the crowd to move in for a closer look letting their inhibitions go. Though modern in its conception, the show did flawlessly play to our nostalgia of go-go inspired dancing days, but then just as we basked in days gone by, others took us on a more sexually liberated spectacle when the likes of Calamity Kate, a known documentary filmmaker and burlesque performer took to the stage with a belt sander pressed to her metal codpiece creating sparks that flew to the rhythms of Dizzy Miss Lizzy.
Closing, Blue and his band played two Beatles favourites “All You Need is Love” as all the dancers returned to the stage in matching sequin hot shorts and a vinyl heart-stamped records. Heartbreaker then leaned in to humbly invite the audience in a sing-along to “Hey Jude.” With the success of the show, Beatles Burlesque will undoubtedly inspire a wave of similarly conceptual shows which showcase what happens when you have Vancouver’s talented rock ‘n’ rollers play with the best of the burlesque community; when collaborative efforts are as seamless as “Beatles Burlesque,” no one is the wiser.
Leaving the venue I couldn’t help thinking that there was a first for me Friday evening; as a first time or long-time burlesque goer myself, anyone would agree that beautiful burlesque dancers undressing in our wake could’ve easily put Blue and his band at a distance to the performers upstage who were seducing us – but this was simply untrue for this production. Had Heartbreaker, with her vocal elasticity and conviction alone sung a capella one-woman show that would’ve had us captivated but along with Morris and his bands stellar musicianship and passion toward to the Beatles repertoire, it was more that the band took us, the onlookers, and the burlesque performers under their wing making us all just thrilled to be part of the band.
Morris plans to tour more cities in the spring. For more on Beatles Burlesque and other Blue Morris productions go to www.bluemorris.com
By Jess Desaulniers-Lea