Is it for the broad-minded? Well, yes, definitely, says Chichester’s Dawn Gracie as she takes her Starlet’s Burlesque Show back for a return visit to Worthing’s Connaught Theatre on May 23.
“This time we’re pulling out all the stops with multi award-winning acts and top UK cabaret performers,” Dawn promises. “Some of the acts are costing more than the hire of the theatre. This will be the top deal. You really will be getting really world-class performers.
“We did our debut there in September last year. I have been doing cabaret shows and burlesque shows to run alongside my teaching, but I decided to take the plunge into the theatre world. It was very expensive and very risky. I am the producer and compere, and it was quite a big commitment, but the fact that I teach in the area really helps.”
And the audience responded, inevitably predominantly female: “We did get a few chaps coming along, but they were usually brought along by their partners. The feedback from them was great, but the chaps were saying they were glad I didn’t get them up on stage.”
“It’s all very interactive. That’s the whole point. There is no fourth wall to this. It is not like coming to the theatre where you are required to sit there and listen and just to clap in the right places. My job as compere is to really get the audience involved.
“Burlesque is a form of theatrical entertainment which is supposed to be highly amusing and highly entertaining, and it can be very surprising as well. It’s a celebration of the body, not necessarily just the female body. But you must have seen Gypsy at Chichester Festival Theatre last year. She just had to flash her shoulder, and the crowd went wild. It’s that kind of thing. That was a very early incarnation of it. It always involves tease with clothes-removal right down to the tassles.”
But, no, no nudity. Pasties keep the dignity intact. Not as in Cornish pasties, but pasties pronounced as in pasty-faced. Little bits of material that effectively preserve the final frontier.
“The reason for them is that originally nudity was not allowed, so if you covered your nipples with pasties, then that was OK.”
Even so, as Dawn makes clear, you still need to be definitely in the broad-minded category to enjoy the show: “I did the show at the Alexandra Theatre last month, and it certainly did push some people’s boundaries. The language is a bit colourful, so it does require audience members with rather stronger stomachs than you would need to go and see something like Sweet Charity! This is a modern type of burlesque, and the idea is it definitely does push the comfort zones a bit!”
It’s certainly pushing the budget. As she suggests, Dawn has pushed the boat out in terms of the performers she has got on board for her latest venture in Worthing.
“It should be a really great fun evening,” she said.
Dawn will be back in action on home territory when she offers an evening for this year’s third Festival of Chichester.
“Dawn’s Vintage Do returns to the Festival of Chichester with a bigger and better show on July 11! We have changed venue to Westbourne House School, doubled the capacity and added on vintage catering and side entertainment!”