By Leif Conti-Groome
Having not been born in the 60’s, it can be hard for me to follow a conversation between two hippies (not that I get caught in that situation often). But after watching Les Coquettes present The Long, Hot Summer: A ’60s Cabaret, I was taken back to those rebellious days. With some sensuous displays of free love, lava lamp styled lighting and an abundance of peace gestures (I’m not kidding here) this show really captured the essence of a decade, great music and all.
If not at all evidenced by the title, the format for the evening at Bread and Circus was a cabaret show. If you don’t know what that is or have not seen the movie of the same name, it’s basically a night full of dancing, singing, tease, humour and burlesque.
Our host for the night was La Minouche (most performers go by their stage names) and she’s probably the biggest reason to go see this show. Her emcee skills are without comparison as she combines innuendo with an overall passion for burlesque. For instance, she promised “We (Torontonians) are not actually having a long, hot summer but we’re going to present you one tonight.” For the most part, the troupe lived up to these words.
I’ve been to many of Les Coquettes’ shows and choreographed group numbers that feature most if not all of the cast is one of the things they’re known for. Cheesy sixties dance moves, black afro wigs for all and an excellent closing act to some songs from Hair were some of the highlights of these numbers. And, what better a time to simulate the slow eroticism of the era than with multiple bodies writhing together.
However, some choices like having performers in the aisle or the yoga inspired exercise session that went on too long were not as good. Other areas that could use improvement were lighting during burlesque numbers where the performers were unintentionally shrouded in darkness and hiccups in the set order (two songs back-to-back disrupted the flow).
My complaints are minimal due to the excellent humour and music that were presented. Burlesque is an art where the ultimate goal is to entertain and tickling the funny bone is a guaranteed way to ensure that.
There was a cute number between the Carpenter (most male stagehands/performers were referred to as man-props) and Gina Putineska where he chased and she coyly retreated. At times they switched over to using stuffed animals as puppets to continue their game with amusing results.
Strangely enough, there were two doctor skits and both were quite funny. One featured Albert Howl as an expert using a female compatriot for ‘sexcalogical’ research with sexy results. The other featured man-prop number 2, the Mohyl, a hippie girl who obviously loves love and some birthing near the end. I’ll leave it at that not to ruin anything more.
The songs played during the night were all fan favourites. My brother, Isaac, was singing along to a bunch of songs and really getting into it. He told me that he really like the acoustic segments covered mainly by Jeff Giles on guitar and Jamie Drake playing a box for percussion.
There were a lot of singers (even the performers) and unfortunately some numbers lacked any sort of hook or power that comes with instrumentation. Still, with artists like Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and CCR it was hard not to feel the spirit of the sixties coming alive.
Psychedelic projections were used as well to channel that mystical sensation. It was amazing how colourful squiggles made some group numbers super groovy or a star cascade made one of the acoustic numbers feel like you were on drugs of some sort.
The best part of the evening really came from two solo numbers by the founders of Les Coquettes. La Minouche, proving that she’s more than a great host, did a sultry number where she somehow made a tilted newsboy cap erotic. Lily Bubalotovich, who also is the choreographer for the troupe, came out in a funky pantsuit with a goldfish bowl to collect the audience’s keys and hearts.
There are currently two more nights remaining of the show and each night features different special guests to bring their own unique flower-power to the performance. Even armed with my review you still will get some surprises along the way. I’m actually disappointed that I’ll be away for the weekend because I really am tempted to go again.
Especially on Saturday night where after the final act of their run, Les Coquettes will be the guests on a talk show hosted by Albert Howl, who aside from appearing in my show is a local funnyman. There will be special guests and interviews and other stuff that really make me regret leaving town this weekend. Les Coquettes: After Dark will take place at The Bread and Circus at 11:30pm on Saturday August 8th with a cover of $10.
I find it hard to sum up the experience in one sentence so I think I’ll steal it from Isaac. “It was a lot of fun; it was sexy but not oversexed.” I couldn’t agree more with my brother so get your pink flower sunglasses out and catch The Long, Hot Summer: A ’60s Cabaret.
– The Long, Hot Summer: A ’60s Cabaret is playing at Bread and Circus (299 Augusta Avenue).
– Show runs from August 6th – 8th at 8pm (doors 7:30, arrive early because the venue can fill up)
– Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door
-To reserve tickets, contact http://longhotsummer.eventbrite.com/ (tickets for Les Coquettes: After Dark are $10 and available through this site as well)