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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Theatre review: Shine: A Burlesque Musical is charmingly naughty without being too challenging

Once it gets cookin’, Shine: A Burlesque Musical a strangely fun show, with a great big heart.

The Wet Spots are the brilliantly salacious singing duo of Cass King and John Woods. Over the course of a two year tour they met a lot of “freaky-fabulous” variety performers, many with ties to the burlesque scene. They admired these unabashed drag queens, strippers, and other novelty acts and set out, along with Sam Dulmage, to create a show that paid tribute to them.  The result is Shine.

Shine tells the musical story of an old burlesque theatre, The Aristocrat, in danger of being shut down because of the stock market crash. If it closes, the artists that work there, and appear to live there, will be out on the street.

The manager of the club is the drunken sexed-up Shine Mionne, played with hedonistic swagger by Cass King. She owes Chad the banker a “shitload” of money and if she doesn’t pay he will take the club. At the same time, a university student named Grace, a shrill and giddy Allison Fligg, arrives to write her thesis paper. Also new to the club is Frankie, played by Frankie Cottrell with a powerfully great rock voice, a new performer who doesn’t know what is expected of him. Along with the other club citizens, they all start to wonder why they are no longer getting paid. In walks Richard Suit, a bemused yet stoic Theo Budd, who has come to produce the show. Shine responds: “you couldn’t produce a milky discharge.”

Director Diva Macdonald, who also plays Violet Applebottom, has assembled some up-and-coming musical theatre performers, along with a couple of veterans that lift the songs with show stopping power.

Musical director Blue Morris conducts a tight rock/pop score, and while the sound mix was a challenge with the band being placed so close to the audience that they often overpowered the actor’s microphones, their energy and infectious fun was contagious.

But this is theatre by way of burlesque, and it is charmingly naughty without being too challenging. The script is set in a world of gags, songs, plot contrivances and stylistic randomness and although act one has got a fair bit of filler and lacks drive, act two comes alive as it’s central themes come into focus.

The purpose of the show was to celebrate sexuality of individuals who are uncompromisingly themselves.  As the plot machinations give way to numbers like “Large and In Charge”, sung with joyous bravado by Danielle Lemon, “The Perversions of Yesteryear”, and “Humpin’ A Dream”, that love for the weird endears and captures the audience. As a result, we forgive the awkward sight lines, we ignore the meandering story, excuse some of the under-defined characters, and really do get swept up into something that is “arousing, astounding, and profoundly disturbing”.

It’s the music, the singing, and the dancing (there are five choreographers credited) that make this odd little show fun. Besides, any show that has Seth Little in drag is worth seeing. And even while it doesn’t always do it clearly, it certainly does have some Shine.

Shine: A Burlesque Musical by Sam Dulmage, Cass King and John Woods. Presented by The Wet Spots and The WISE Hall. On stage at the WISE Hall (1882 Adanac St, Vancouver) until July 16. Visit for tickets and information.

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