Becoming Burlesque (Jackie English Productions) 2015 Toronto Fringe Review

I’ve always been a big fan of the art of burlesque and when I saw that a burlesque performance featuring the ladies from Love Letters Cabaret would grace the Al Green Theatre stage during the Toronto Fringe, I was thrilled. Having seen the performance, I honestly have to say that I’m rather conflicted. The actual burlesque in Becoming Burlesque is smoking hot, however the story itself has me feeling lukewarm.

Maybe a lot of it has to do with the technicalities where the story aspects of the show happen in front of the stage while the actual dance performance is on stage. The performers don’t use microphones so their need to naturally project their lines gets muffled by being at the front of the stage. There were also moments where they had to speak over the music cue which doesn’t help.

The essence of the story is shy urban girl who starts as the burlesque troupe’s “stage kitten” (the girl who runs on stage to collect discarded costume pieces between songs). When one of the girls gets injured, the kitten is thrown on stage where she eventually finds her comfort and discovers her budding burlesque self — “Ruckus”.

You see that more in the dance numbers than through the story scenes that happen in between. Those dance numbers are fantastic — sexy and incredibly athletic. These gals throw much more into their dance numbers than most burlesque performers I’ve seen; they do far more than just reveal and their levels of raunchy risqué hit ultimate highs (especially when they brought one gentleman from the audience on stage for a very special personal performance).

I loved watching Ruckus blossom in her dance numbers, where she starts mortified at the level of near nakedness she finds herself and the raunchy numbers she’s now participating gradually leading up to her performance center stage. It was amusing watching her try to collect discarded outfit pieces during her own numbers, old habits die hard.

And the details of her story would be really interesting if only her story was more thoroughly developed. The actual acting scenes felt jumbled and clustered and didn’t take off beyond a collection of girls gossiping in the change room. When the show came to an end, I was disappointed. I mean yes, I would have enjoyed another number or two, but I wanted so much more from that ugly duckling story than was actually delivered.

And that is where I left unsatisfied.


Becoming Burlesque plays at the Al Green Theatre. (750 Spadina Ave.)

Audience advisory: This production features audience participation, smoking, nudity, coarse language, and sexual content.

Show times
July 04 at 12:00 PM
July 05 at 07:00 PM
July 06 at 03:15 PM
July 08 at 11:00 PM
July 11 at 09:45 PM
July 12 at 04:00 PM

Tickets for all mainstage productions are $10 at the door, cash only. Advance tickets are $12, and can be purchased online , by phone (416-966-1062), or from the festival box office at the Fringe Club. (Rear of Honest Ed’s, 581 Bloor St. West). Money-saving value packs are also available if you are going to at least five shows; see website for details.

To avoid disappointment, be sure to arrive a few minutes before curtain.


Photo of the Love Letters Cabaret dancers by Chris Hutcheson

One thought on “Becoming Burlesque (Jackie English Productions) 2015 Toronto Fringe Review”

  1. So happy you loved the dancing! The fringe process was to develop the choreography…. full story on a girl finding herself in that world is coming in the feature film! Email becomingburlesque@ to get updates on the movie campaign and mini-doc web series on how real burlesque dancers find their way into the art! In the meantime, catch the magic live on stage while you can ;-)

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