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Wednesday, 26 September 2012

An Evening of Burlesque at Manchester's Palace Theatre: Local Girl (Thankfully) Keeps Clothes ON

Now then, let's be honest about this: Manchester, much as I love it, does not always make it particularly easy for its residents to feel sexy. Take any night last week, for example - even the most cursory of glances at a random selection of Mancunian timelines would have indicated beyond any reasonable doubt that Manchester was pretty much at home, in its pyjamas, on the sofa with the heating on, drinking hot chocolate with brandy in it. To many of these Mancunians, even the thought of taking their clothes off long enough to jump into a hot bath seemed HIGHLY unpalatable.

Let us spare a moment then, to ponder the fortitude, bravery and downright selflessness of the plucky ladies and gentlemen performing at Manchester's Palace Theatre last Friday night in An Evening of Burlesque. This was a filthy wet night - cold, showery and miserable (although Mr Liz did manage to convince himself it was weather enough for a cheeky banana gelato at the nearby Fresco Freddo's beforehand) - yet here they were: suspenders jaunty, corsets laced, tassels poised, purely for our entertainment (and that was just the MEN).

I have to be honest and say I didn't really quite know what to expect from An Evening of Burlesque, basing my imaginings on a vague awareness of Dita Von Teese and a recent visit to the Faerie show at Paris' Moulin Rouge. And perhaps it was unfair to judge the show based on this admittedly rather sketchy body of existing knowledge, but the first half was certainly something of a disappointment - a mish-mash of traditional variety-style acts, fire-eating, singing and suspenders. It lacked any kind of cohesion and left the (clearly well-oiled) audience of hen parties and birthday celebrants baying for more; it seemed very tame and - dare I say it - a little unprofessional. A confused, slow version of Ice Ice Baby performed by compere Ivy Paige pretty much summed this half up for me - a little dull, a little wrong, a little, well, odd.

What a difference an interval makes. The second half was fabulous: Ivy Paige won us over with a VERY funny section involving an audience member who was supposedly stalking her; the Folly Mixtures quartet of burlesque dancers, kept exceedingly under-wraps in the first half, were finally allowed to show off their beautifully sparkly and strategically placed tassels in a series of group and individual pieces which were far more engaging than their earlier equivalents; and the star of the show, Amber Topaz - the original "Yorkshire Tease", as seen below - got to show off her full range of considerable talents (by which I mean that she sings beautifully, as well as being funny AND sexy - get your minds out the gutter).

So overall, a good night - if the first half had been up to the standard of the second, I would have been so overcome with burlesque spirit that I may well have treated my fellow travellers to a quick strip on the bus on the way home, inclement weather or not. As it was, I kept my clothes firmly on, and hurried home to turn the heating on, don fleecy pyjamas and have a nice cup of hot chocolate...

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