This Halloween, Toronto burlesque group Les Coquettes puts an adult spin on beloved fairy-tale characters.
Talk about your happy endings. If there’s one medium that can remake a fairy tale without it feeling tired or clichéd, it’s burlesque. And what better group to put an adult spin on beloved classics than Toronto’s own Les Coquettes? A burlesque act at heart, this troupe also incorporates many elements of cabaret into their shows, placing strong vocals and impressive high-wire acts alongside electrifying strip teases. The troupe’s performance of Cabaret Enchanté (now playing at the Revival), their latest Halloween extravaganza, is delightfully Tim Burton–esque.
Led by charismatic hostess La Minouche, which, as she informed us, is French for “pussy… cat,” the show takes familiar Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen characters and stamps them with a giant “Rated X.” From Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs—yes, there was a lot of skin on stage—all the way to the Little Mermaid, Les Coquettes prove nothing is off bounds when it comes to satisfying an audience.
The tone of the show bounced between humour and the edge of darkness—though there were plenty of laughs (many of which came from an audience volunteer who, in one number, was turned into one of Little Bo Peep’s sheep and had to help undress her, naturally), there were also hints that something more sinister was at work. Perhaps it’s a natural consequence of fairy tale characters growing up (Alan Moore’s Lost Girls comes to mind), but one scene that drove this notion home was the high-flying Rapunzel. Demonstrating the wide range of the show, this well-choreographed wire act had a prince dangling above the audience from Rapunzel’s hair, before falling to his bloody demise.
What really stood out in this performance, which many burlesque shows are unfortunately lacking, was its brilliant use of the venue’s space. While it’s a dynamic setting, the Revival has its limitations. The building is narrower than traditional theatres, which means those sitting furthest away from the stage would normally get short-changed.
Fortunately, this was not the case. The dancers introduced themselves by walking through the seats, sometimes even striding along the bar itself, and often broke the fourth wall to interact with the audience (the girl sitting next to us was given a shiny red apple from a suspicious lady who later took to the stage).
Though there were a few technical difficulties with the sound, they were hardly noticeable thanks to the looseness of the show’s host. In many ways, burlesque is meant to be a parody of theatre, and these gals thankfully aren’t taking themselves too seriously. But any fans of theatre looking for solid entertainment with a blend of wit and sexiness should consider taking them seriously.