First, I was invited to the event on Facebook. Then, I saw the two preview articles in Smile Politely by Dylan Health (an article about Sonia Warfel’s master’s thesis, which took place in the basement of Krannert, the basis of the performance at the Canopy Club on March 17) and Alyssa Schoeneman (which explored the various movements and reasoning for the show by Sonia Warfel). I saw posters all over town; I would pass Canopy Club and see the big sign; I would hear it mentioned on the radio.
I was looking forward to it. I knew it would be very different from our local, very active troupe. Carnivale Debauche is fantastic, and full of a lot of very enthusiastic, talented people who are active in theatre and many other areas of town (check out their next event). And comparing that to Sonia Warfel’s thesis, even if hers had been a longer performance, would be comparing apples and oranges.
With mounting curiosity, I stood around with a variety of people at the Canopy Club. The balcony was packed, and on the main floor were people of all ages, in all styles of dress. There were girls and boys in corsets, feather boas everywhere, outfits to dance the night away in.
At around 9:15, the emcee came out, locking Ginger Brûlée (Sonia Warfel) in her cage. She wandered around aimlessly, played with the large swing inside the cage, posed as cameras came around, while the emcee, Césare Cornichon (Robert Ramirez) mingled with the crowd, making jokes, swinging his cane. He explained his name came from “little pickle, both salty and sweet.”
Starting around 9:15 and ending about 10:00, the performance was fantastic. There was an opening number, introducing the girls (Bebe, Coco, Fifi, Gigi, Kiki, Lulu, and Mimi, as well as Ginger Brûlée).
Cornichon’s patter was well-done, with unending leers and innuendos. Describing Lulu as an innocent dairy maid who liked to stay home and pet her pussycat, or the “delicate petite fleur bon bon chocolate” Mimi, everything was made much more effective by Cornichon’s excellent (and immensely creepy) performance. Jordan Shevell, the only person who did not go by a stage name, was described as “the only cock in the henhouse.” He performed a great tap number, which then brought about the “educational tale of the night.”
Ginger came out holding an egg, while all of the other girls were wearing aprons, with dusters and cleaning gloves. Cornichon began singing a cautionary tale, saying that women need to do their duty and stay young and beautiful if they want to be loved. Each woman held an item, such as a baby, an iron, glass bottles of milk, a pie, a pan, and a martini shaker, while Cornichon continued singing. Ginger was locked back in the cage while the dancing progressed, and all of the yellow rubber gloves were thrown at her.
Following the “cautionary tale” was the “delicious and tempting” Gigi, who, during the group dance, got down to sparkling lingerie, and finally disrobed while strategically placed feathers and later, her hands, kept her covered.
As Gigi left the stage, Cornichon continued his creepy behavior, stuffing the nylons from the floor down his pants, and sniffing her scattered shoes. After he left, Brûlée escaped the cage, through the bars, and joined Shevell on stage. In a Fred Astaire-style dance, they combined tap dancing and old-school choreography that brought down the house with applause, particularly when the music had stopped and the tapping continued, sounding even more impressive without the background music drowning out the crisp taps.
After that came the final dance, where the other performers danced in black, formfitting outfits. It’s here that it became (even more) apparent that Mimi is a male, as he pulled off his top and danced only with a remaining choker, bottoms, and high heels.
The dancers all came down to the floor, pulling people from the crowd onstage with them. Different people crept into the cage, dancing, pulling on discarded gloves, while more and more went onstage as the DJs continued spinning. The music was pumping, the show was glamorous and well-done.
Anyone will tell you that it was well-choreographed; everyone was fantastic and it left us wanting more. But that was the main problem. It began, and was so exceptional, that no one was let down by the buildup until the end, when suddenly, it abruptly finished. There were six dancers besides Brûlée, all of whom were fantastic, as shown in the choreographed group dances, but there was only one other solo performance by one of them (besides the male lead).
I have no criticism of the show. As I said, everyone was obviously talented, all of my friends taking photographs (I believe) were satisfied, as there was a lot to see and capture on film, and the music was excellent. I guess that’s a good thing, leaving on a high note. I understand it was a master’s thesis, which I suppose would not be very long. Tickets weren’t very expensive, and it was on a week night. But altogether, it definitely left us wanting more.
Photos by Scott Weber and Joseph Hedges.