Review: Welcome To The Neighbourhood (The 2016 Toronto Burlesque Festival)

Photo of Dirty Martini courtesy the Toronto Burlesque Festival The Toronto Burlesque Festival opened with a bang at the Revival Bar and continues this weekend

I walked through the doors of the Revival Bar, feeling incredibly underdressed in a summer dress and sneakers. All around me everyone was donned to the nines, with perfectly curled hair, bold dresses, and painted red lips. I got my yellow wristband and moved through the crowd to my seat, taking in the glitz and glamour around me. I was at the opening night of this year’s Toronto Burlesque Festival. The show was called “Welcome to the Neighbourhood”, and what a welcome it was!

I was lucky to attend a Toronto Burlesque Festival show all the way back in 2014. I was younger then, and had no idea what I would see. This time I knew what the Toronto Burlesque Festival was capable of, and had expectations. I am by no means a burlesque-connoisseur, but they had put the bar up so high a mere two years ago. I went to Thursday’s performance, and was not disappointed for a minute. My guest and I agreed, it was a perfect night out.

The night began with a trip to the bar and a walk to the second floor, where there was a makeup booth and a set-up for a photo shoot. In our excitement, my guest and I posed for the camera, letting out our inner pin-ups. I will try not to feel embarrassed when the photos show up on their Facebook page, because the photo shoot was a fun way to get people to feel as good as the stars of the show.

The show started with a sly, but sweet, performance by the hostess Laura Desiree. Sporting an old-fashioned nightie, she sang “I Touch Myself” by Divinyls. The performance finished with her holding a Magic Wand and assuring the audience that the excitement of the night was just beginning. Desiree was a fantastic hostess, singing and joking between sets, dealing smartly with some of the drunker and rowdier guests in the front row. At one point, she ripped off her wig revealing a shaved head. The audience gasped and cheered as she fanned herself. For a show that involved a lot of stripteases, that reveal was the most shocking.

I can’t divulge the entirety of the show and the abundance of sex appeal, so I will mention some of the most memorable moments. Bianca Boom Boom, known as the Triple B with the Double Ds, sang a number about not wanting any more attention, while coyly stripping and winking at the audience. At her final note, she dropped down into a split so fast I immediately cheered. There was Teo, who stunned with a performance on the aerial silks. He did this performance in jeans and a tank-top, although that was eventually torn in half and slid off when he was dangling upside down from the ceiling.

There was Zyra Lee Vanity, who came out to “Nants Ingonyama”, or as most would recognize it, the opening song for The Lion King. Zyra strutted on stage with a robe and a staff with a mirror in the shape in the continent of Africa. She put down her staff and took off her robe to reveal another robe beneath it, this one was purple with the word “Flawless” written across the back. The song switched to Beyoncé’s song of the same name. Zyra, stripped, danced, and had reveal after reveal, jamming an incredible amount of skill and style in only five minutes.

For the finale, there was Dirty Martini dressed in beautiful lingerie on one side of her body and covered up on the other with, surprisingly, a massive puppet of a swan, whose neck and beak was controlled with her arm. The performance was a nice allusion, and a nicer edit, of the myth of Leda and the Swan. It was cheeky and made all the more comedic by the fact that my guest has a fear of birds, and was at a loss on how to react. Other wonderful moments included producer Ava Noir’s futuristic costume, producer Sauci Calla Horra pulling rose petals out of her bra and tossing them in the air, and Ray Gunn’s impressive and unsettling performance that revealed two gigantic googly-eyes stuck to his butt cheeks.

What impressed me the most about the Toronto Burlesque Festival is how inclusive it has proven to be. This show was called “Welcome to the Neighbourhood”, and it truly felt welcoming for all types. While burlesque is typically seen as a female-driven act, the show had several performances by men. Performers varied in age, body-type, and style, presenting the audience with their own meaning of sex appeal. I thought the organizers made sure that the festival was fun for everyone, and not just a few.

As an example, a stand-out moment for me was when Johnny B. Goode sang “Beauty School Dropout” from the musical Grease, along with two harmonizing angels. There is a well-known line that goes “Well they couldn’t teach you anything/You think you’re such a looker/But no customer will go to you/Unless she was a hooker.”At that lyric, Goode stopped to say that they refused to sing that lyric, because they respect sex workers. The interruption received uproarious applause.

The artists were incredible. The atmosphere was fun and friendly. The perks that were offered, including deals by the sponsor Nickel Brook Brewery and a booth selling nipple tassels, were just icing on the bedazzled cake. Different artists and attractions will be happening at the upcoming Toronto Burlesque Festival events, but if the opening night gave any indication of the quality, each event will impress.


  • The Toronto Burlesque Festival has three more events spanning between Saturday, July 30 and Sunday July 31, 2016.
  • Glam-A-Ganza is happening on Saturday July 30 at the Virgin Mobile MOD Club (722 College St). Doors open at 6:00 pm and the show begins at 7:00 pm. Tickets range from $30-$60 and can be purchased online or at the door. Special VIP and group packages available.
  • Stars of the Screen is happening on Saturday July 30 at the Virgin Mobile MOD Club (722 College St). Doors are at 10:00 pm and the show begins at 10:30pm. Tickets range from $30-$60 and can be purchased online or at the door. Special VIP and group packages available.
  • Rebel Yell is happening on Sunday July 31 at Revival Bar (783 College St). Doors are at 8:00 pm and the show begins at 9:00 pm. Tickets range from $25-$40 and can be purchased online or at the door. Special VIP and group packages available.

Photo of Dirty Martini courtesy the Toronto Burlesque Festival