’Tis the season for teasin’
Chico Cabaret lives up to its fun and sexy reputation
Chico, CA 95926
Perhaps it’s to be expected of a theater company best known for annual productions of the hedonistic classic Rocky Horror Show, but the players at the Chico Cabaret seem to have a hard time keeping their clothes on.
The Christmas season is the reason for the teasin’ this time around, as the Cabaret launched its latest, the sixth annual Holiday Burlesque and Vaudeville Comedy Show last Thursday night. But the Cabaret doesn’t seem to need much of an excuse; Rocky was bookended this year by this production and summer’s The Little Bo Peep Show, proving they’re all for staging the type of action notoriously libertine theater types generally save for cast wrap parties.
This is not a bad thing, especially when it’s well done, and the Cabaret has a knack for doing bad good, or, er, well. They’ve found a groove, albeit a dirty one, and the burlesque show is a highly entertaining, sensuality-charged, hilarious romping good time.
The production is presented in classic variety-show fashion. Though many characters return throughout the show, there is no attempt to impose some sort of forced narrative, and the freewheeling format works well. A healthy rhythm between shorter and longer sketches, songs and striptease segments is established early on and (mostly) maintained throughout.
Mark Cunha-Rigby and Greg McAvoy, the show’s MCs, do a good job ringleading the sexy circus, and all of the players perform quite magnificently. The show’s lecherous, foul-mouthed Santa (Quentin Colgan, billed simply as The Real Santa in the program) is a standout, with one of my personal favorite sketches involving substitute reindeer.
The show features two entertaining prerecorded bits, one an olde-timey piece about a bathing suit and the other an advertisement for a collection of Frank N. Furter’s favorite Christmas songs (starring the Cabaret’s latest resident Frank, Matt Hammons). Both are well-integrated into the live show and add a greater degree of variety.
Among the genre’s devotees, there is an ever-raging battle of what constitutes burlesque and what is just plain striptease, and these kinds of people could argue for hours over what the dance segments of this show qualify as. A simple answer is that some are well-done strip dances and some more resemble the traditional burlesque tradition.
I only mention this because, no matter how nit-picky they are, anyone with such strongly held opinions would have to shut up and take wide-eyed, slack-jawed notice of Lauren O’Connor’s solo dance. In two minutes she summed up everything burlesque is supposed to be with her phenomenal physicality and tassel mastery, her routine a perfect blend of eroticism, humor and art.
Another standout was April Standafer’s solo dance. I’ve been to strip joints from Ensenada to Vancouver, New York to Newport Beach, and seen dozens of burlesque performances, but I have never, until last Thursday, seen a woman throw in some step-dancing while disrobing. Instant nerdgasm.
But some of the absolute best moments in the show were not delivered courtesy of nubile young beauties, nor were they rife with raunchy jokes. Featured performer Buddy Charles, a charming elderly gentleman, stole the collective heart of the room the moment he shuffled onstage with a spirited rendition of “Makin’ Whoopee,” proving people had the same things on their mind in 1928 (when the song was penned) that they do today.
There were some missteps in the show. For one thing, it could have been a little shorter and some of the gags excluded—Chuck Norris jokes, a Rick Astley moment and anything else that was funny on the Internet three years ago would be a good place to start cutting. Conversely, the more contemporary “Occupy My Vagina” gag elicited more ughs than aaahs.
All told, the Chico Cabaret’s Holiday Burlesque Show is a great way to beat the blues during this trying season. You may not walk away feeling smarter, but you’re likely to leave feeling satisfied.