November 27, 2011

Carousel Cabaret November 2011

Frills, sequins, feather and corsets; tattoos, coloured hair and elaborate stage designs. Welcome to Carousel Burlesque Cabaret.

Being my first Burlesque show, I wasn't too sure what to expect - perhaps some seductive entertainment in the forms of dancing, maybe some singing and some lovely costumes. And whilst I did indeed get all of that, I wasn't expecting a stand-up comedian show with some performances in between, which is what disappointingly Venus Starr's Carousel Burlesque November Show was.

Before the show starts, there is a soundtrack of your typical jazzy-seductive music - what you'd expect at a show like this. The stage is set up with a big background drop of a cartoon version of a burlesque girl on a carousel pony. The MC comes to the stage with some dance moves that are well desired by some. The crowd loves him and he goes to tell us this is the one year anniversary of Carousel. 15 minutes later, he finally introduces the first act: Penny Pinns. 

Penny comes on, dressed very conservatively; acting Queen-like. Yet there's something about this conservative girl ... she wants to let loose and get her inner tease out. She slowly shows more flesh throughout her song, stripping down to her underwear, yet keeping the air of "I shouldn't be doing this, I'm a naughty girl" which is delightful. 

The next act (after another 10 minutes of the MC) is a duo sing-and-bash by Fanci and Siren. Fanci is on the hide from Siren and this act has Siren singing and bashing Fanci for being trash, while Fanci does all she can to take Siren out - in the end taking off her bra and smothering Siren with it.

The final act of the first half is Galaxy Fox, a stunning woman with long legs and long purple hair. Tonight she is performing a femmebot routine - involving cake. While well done (Galaxy Fox breaks down from the cake), I found this act was just not quite my cup of tea, though the crowd loved it. This was one for the food fetishes out there. 

I find myself feeling rather bored every time the MC is on for more than five minutes. His jokes, I feel, fell into four categories: hilarious but very crass and probably offensive; flat; regular audience related (the crowd was a feeling of familiarity and almost communal); and putting down hecklers. The latter was probably my favourite of his jokes as the hecklers were well put down, and deservedly so. 

After the interval and being charged $6.50 for a can of Red Bull (what the hell, Garden Club?), Gracie Hart is introduced. She comes on in a full length red dress and she sings for us "I Never Talk to Strangers". Her voice is just stunning and her seductive strip is well done. My favourite so far. 

Ah, he's talking again. I like you, MC, but you have been talking for another 15 minutes now. Venus Starr comes and tells him to "Get the f*ck on with it", something we all agree with. Andre Corey is up next; Wellington's famous Boylesque dancer and Semi-Finalist in the International Pole Championship. The audience goes nuts. He is the favourite - especially among the men in the crowd from all the yelling going on. Andre comes on with overalls and a swandry top. Not looking sexy at all. That is set to change while he does a strip off to "Peaches" while of course, eating peaches. Including some dried ones used as his nipple covers and down his pants. His acting for this performance has a very teasing air to it and the audience are just lapping it up.

MC is quick this time in his introductions, we're already running 30 minutes over the scheduled time for the show. The second to last act for the evening is  Cyn Furneaux. Cyn is one of maybe two of the acts who didn't give off a amateur-vibe. And while I think her facial expressions during her performance could be improved, her act was one of my favourites - as she actually did more than just strip off. She played with fire. Setting a trail on each arm slightly alight then blowing it off and eventually swallowing the fire out in a sword-down-your-throat trick. 

Penny comes out for one final act, very similar to her first one. I feel this is anti-climatic and perhaps Cyn or Andre should have been the final act.

As this was my first show, I get the feeling that if you go to another one or two, you really start to love it, especially if you are dressed up. It would be good though to see a bit more variety and a bit more circus/magic tricks as that's what I get from the title of "Carousel", but unfortunately didn't really get that on the 25th of November.

Next Carousel - 23 December
Venue: The Garden Club
Price: $35 door charge (cash)
Dates: 25 November
Time: Doors open 7pm, show starts 8pm

November 18, 2011

Wellington Home and Garden Show

There were some good stands but seemed sparse for the area available for displays.  However, this may work better for the expected weekend crowds. Whilst there were a number of interesting items exhibited, we were disappointed that there was only one flooring stand (carpet only). Several stands employed presenters with microphones - some of them rather charming, who attracted patrons to their particular exhibit. There was food to taste - cheese, wine, chocolate, salt, seed etc - along with food being made with products that were for sale.

It wasn't as good a range of exhibits as we had expected but we realised that we were comparing it to the House and Home Show previously held at the TSB Arena.  But there were plenty of opportunities to win prizes, including a 46 inch wide screen TV!

There was some discussion about whether it was worth the entry fee, if you had to pay the full fee you may decide perhaps not - but two tickets for the price of one vouchers seem to be readily available (try Pak N Save).

Venue: Westpac Stadium
Dates: 18-20 November 10am-6pm (5pm on Sunday)
Prices: $8

November 11, 2011


Hutt City Musical Theatre held the Wellington premier of Spamalot last night. The award winning show, released in 2005, is a mix of Monty Python's Search for the Holy Grail and several of their skits along with some new material. You may have seen Eric Idle discussing it with Graham Norton on his show recently. The Lower Hutt group hired all of their costumes from a Christchurch troupe who were unable to perform due to earthquake damage.

The venue, a neighbour of the Hutt Repertory Society, was arranged in cabaret style seating with a limited bar and BYO. The small space was decorated well with hanging flags and wall coverings, if it hadn't remained cold throughout you might have forgotten you were in an old hall. A live band was squeezed in next to the stage, interactions with the actors ensured they were never merely part of the furniture.

The show included all the necessary elements; a King, a Diva who was "off stage for too long", a rescue, singing, dancing and, a wedding. The singing was, for the most part, excellent and far better than I had expected. In some places singers battled to be heard above the music as did the accented narrator. Arguments about kingship and democracy ("I'm King of the Britons." "I didn't vote for you.") seem particularly fitting so close to our own election, it is a shame that local references were not added here. Surprising modernisations included the Lady of the Lake and her Laker girls, the Knights Who Say Ni singing Mmbop and the revelation that you need a Jew to stage a good Broadway musical (there was an entire song about it). One surprising omission was any reference to the current popular usage of the word spam. The surprising addition was Always Look on the Bright Side of Life but I should have expected it as it is the song Monty Python are most well known for - even if it doesn't really fit in this show.
Of course it was good, it was Monty Python, you stupid twit! And all the better for being an amateur performance. It looks like this will sell out like the groups rendition of Grease. They only do one show a year so don't miss out.

Price: $27.50 you can buy tickets here
Performances: 10-12, 17-18, 24-26 November
Venue: Epuni Community Hall, cnr Oxford Terrace & Mitchell Street, Lower Hutt
Performers: Hutt City Musical Theatre (find them on Facebook and the web)

November 9, 2011

Drowning in Veronica Lake - 2 reviews

I grabbed a coffee, presented my ticket and entered into the darkened theatre to watch the performance of Veronica Lake, apparently the story of the life of an actress who was thought of as a star at one time but faded in later life.

In front of me was a figure in a white dress with a skirt that spread out by two metres or so around it.  Funny I thought, how is this going to work?

As I settled back to sip my coffee, the figure moved slightly; then I realised that the figure in front of me was real!

When the lights dimmed down and the spotlights came up the music started and the figure began to move and sing and slowly turned around to face the audience.  I was sitting in the front row so I had one of the best seats in the house to view the performance.

Alex Ellis was brilliant, telling the story of Veronica Lake from “her” point of view and that of her mother, as well as a number of other characters who appeared over the period of her life of fluctuating fortunes!  The delivery was strong, forceful when necessary, and the changes in character quite believable, especially whenever the mother “appeared” on stage.  Alex’s changes in accent, delivery, and mannerisms all helped to make us believe that the mother was speaking.

Veronica was “fixed” to the centre of the stage but still managed to move around to portray the principal character in various stages of depression and under the influence of alcohol.

Veronica Lake was a one “man” performance by Alex Ellis, very well performed and most enjoyable, something I would recommended to any lover of theatre.

I thoroughly enjoyed the play. It was well  staged and beautifully portrayed with the help of appropriate music and lighting.

Alex Ellis captured the essence of the true Hollywood starlit of the time with her alluring stance, movements and speech. This was shadowed by the time of  hopelessness and depression of her declining years. She was at times totally alluring, at others angry and, still further, pathetic and wasted (in more ways than one). Her change in character and in the lighting when she was portraying her mother was distinctive and such a contrast to the young confident starlit.

A one woman show which did not leave the audience a moment to lose concentration, with many times of anticipation. Well done Alex, the script was well written and the music most appropriate for the differing stages in the life of Veronica Lake!
Dates: 1-12 November, 7.30pm
Price: $22-30
Location: Circa Theatre (web and Facebook)

November 3, 2011

Carnival Hound

Downstage is known for staging alternative shows and Carnival Hound does not disappoint. I read several articles about Carnival Hound before the show but attempted to push them to the back of my mind so I could make my own interpretations. I needn't have bothered, even with my prior knowledge I had no idea what was going on.

It was surprising to find the cast were already on stage when the audience filed into their seats, they never really left, merely faded into and out of the background. The scenery was simple but the lighting certainly wasn't - it created windows, dramatic shadows and was almost a character or narrator. The music changed from militaristic, to polka inspired, to rock, and there was a little music box tune.

I recognised Maria Dabrowksa from Monster Burlesque, not from her appearance but from the certain way she has of flinging her arms around her body when she dances, it must be a signature move of hers. The choreography used a lot of interaction; pushing and pulling one anothers bodies with feet and hands - using them like puppets and shields from bombs. Dead bodies moved differently from live ones but still occasionally moved on their own.

I don't know much about dance, if I did I may have enjoyed this more. It's probably not something to take your male partner to unless they are interested in dance. It was visually interesting but intellectually confusing or perhaps it was just over my head. I think it was partly about possession of objects and other people. There were people like floppy dolls, strange synchronised dancing, chair fights and mannequin parts.

The show runs for just under an hour, if you like dance or something alternative go have a look - them come back and tell me what you thought it was about.

Venue: Downstage Theatre (find them on the web and Facebook)
Price: $20-25
Dates: 3-5 November 8pm