Review: Murder at the Burlesque, episode 1: The Mal-Tease Falcon

Improv meets burlesque meets murder mystery playing at The Social Capital Theatre in Toronto

Dames, private eyes, a dirty business, and a Red Herring, all in one burlesque club! What else can you expect from an improv sketch burlesque show? Willing to take unexpected philosophical side-trips into the nature of fish and man, Murder at the Burlesque: Episode 1: The Mal-Tease Falcon at The Social Capital Theatre/Black Swan Comedy is always ready to have fun with their material. Before I continue in this review, I will outright admit my bias: I love burlesque and I love murder mysteries. Therefore I am excited to report that the combination works (for the most part, anyway). At its heart, Murder at the Burlesque is sketch comedy which translates into a lot of improv with a touch of direction to move the story along (in this case, direction takes the form of an omniscient voice over the loudspeakers). Improv is always a bit fickle — what works well in one scene might not work in another. I attended with two others, and there was unanimous agreement that — outside of the amazing burlesque performances by Red Herring and Agatha Frisky — the villainous-seeming burlesque club owners Ephraim (played by the deeply philosophical Tom MacKay) and Puck (Kris Siddiqi) were downright hilarious. Villainy has found its masterminds and the comedic timing and one-upmanship of MacKay and Siddiqi was a major highlight. Unfortunately, the same one-upmanship that worked between two possibly corrupt business men did not translate as well among the cops. I don’t mean the police weren’t funny — there were some great lines and all three men — Harry (Kerry Griffin), Dash (Robert Hawke), and Sally (Robert Baker) — were energetic, lively, and fun onstage. My friend said it best when she suggested that they weren’t as funny as they could have been; for whatever reason their punchlines felt like they missed the mark after scenes of build-up. Personally, my biggest complaint was the lack of integration of burlesque into the show. Don’t get me wrong, the plot happens in a burlesque club but I guess I was hoping for the burlesque itself — hands-down the best part of the show — to be part of the story rather than a (wholly worthwhile) break between scenes. This complaint might prove moot by episode 2 where the plot thickens and more characters come into play. As a serial story, Murder at the Burlesque is split into four episodes over the months of September, October, and November. If you are interested, don’t worry about missing significant clues, the show was designed both for fresh audience members and those of us who will be tuning in for the next chapter. Details