Titillating is not a word I use very often; it is, however, the perfect word to describe a burlesque show I recently attended, so I am using this opportunity to not only use it, but to also use it as the title of this entry.
The Spiegel Show is part of a current resurgence in Burlesque culture, known as the Neo-Burlesque movement. This sultry, low-top, variety performance was held in an authentic 1920s Belgium cabaret tent down at Toronto Harbourfront Centre. The Spiegeltent, as it is called, is a portable tavern; adorned in stained glass and dark wood it creates a mystique which adds to the environment of the festivities. Patrons are encouraged to sit with strangers, drink heavily and hoot and holler at the scandalous affair going on around them. Our seats were directly next to the band, who in turn were directly in front of the stage, and this left us with at times an excellent view, but at others a frustratingly obscured one.
Hosted by Brad Hampton, a gloriously gay MC whose wacky antics, observations and commentary on the night kept you smiling if not laughing all the way through, the night began with a group of dancing girls known as the Spiegelettes. Dressed in revealing outfits they hit the stage with great energy, leaving behind them a pile of clothing and a lot of smiling faces.
During the night, the main acts varied greatly. Overall, there was a great deal of talent on display. This being said, by talent I am not only referring to sexy lasses doing strip-teases, but also to an impressive array of acrobats, singers, comedians and even a figure skater — that’s right, a figure skater, in a tent, in the middle of summer.
Highlights of the night included a couple of incredible jazz and blues numbers by singer Terra Hazelton. Her booming voice had the audience hooting for more as she belted out her smoky lyrics to If I Had You and the blues classic Long John Blues. The strip teases and dancing numbers were sexy, revealing, and tasteful, leaving much to the imagination. Ribbons and swings hung from the tent roof allowed for several acrobatic performances by both scantily clad men and women. Death defying feats mixed with the beautifully lit tent gave these acts a very artsy feel, reminiscent of Cirque du Soleil. My personal favourite of the night were two contortionists named Aygul Memet and Gulnar Wayit, who performed an act called Bougie Nights, a clever pun considering their act. The two girls displayed many Yoga-like poses while clutching and balancing candles with their hands, feet and atop their heads. The night ended with the Burlesque staple, The Can Can, performed to Iggy Pop’s Lust for Life by the Spiegelettes closing out the show.
Overall, the show was great. All six of us who went together loved most of the acts, with only a couple of us not overly impressed with one or two of them. Running at over 3 hours, the show was well worth the $25 admission. Per minute, that works out to a great deal. Although the show has ended its run in Toronto for the summer, I would highly recommend taking it in if it returns again next year. My only complaint about the night was the terrible food and service, which is only a side note when you are there to be titillated.