Whitehorse’s underbelly bares all

Every year, busloads of grey-haired tourists file into town to enjoy the family fun of the Frantic Follies.

Every year, busloads of grey-haired tourists file into town to enjoy the family fun of the Frantic Follies.

If only they knew of the unspeakable acts happening on the other side of town.

“This is classical burlesque,” said Jessica Thiessen co-producer, of Varietease.

“There’s the clean version of the show that’s suited to a very specific audience … and then you’ve got the underbelly.”

Burlesque was born in the late 19th century as a way for the working class to poke fun at vaudeville and high society.

The concept still works well today.

For instance, the cancan performed in Varietease is very different from the Rendezvous standard.

“It’s an anti-cancan — it goes against all of the rules of cancan,” said Thiessen.

“The cancan skirt is supposed to have lots of colours, we’re using silver, white and black,” explained co-producer Fiona Solon.

“You’re expecting a regular can-can and then all of a sudden — BOOM — flesh explosion!”

Varietease has everything that a sexual deviant could ask for in a variety show.

There are dirty limericks and ribald comedy, sultry singing and Sinatra-esque crooning and it can, at times, even be educational.

There are lessons teaching the audience the art of kissing … as well as other less than innocent signs of affection.

“We’re hoping that it will push people’s boundaries a little bit,” said Thiessen.

“Somebody might be a little uncomfortable with some of the content of the show, but we’re excited about that.

“I think the discomfort is part of what makes it hilarious and what makes it exciting.”

Thiessen and Solon came up with the idea to put on a burlesque show during a stormy night listening to the sexy music of Lovage.

“We wanted to see burlesque — we wanted to see flesh — and we figured that we should create it ourselves,” said Solon.

“Otherwise, it wouldn’t happen.”

“We were a little disappointed with how burlesque was portrayed in Whitehorse during rendezvous,” added Thiessen.

“We wanted to reassert the idea that burlesque is about real women enjoying and being proud of their own bodies.

“But it’s also about so much more than that. It’s an opportunity for social satire in a lot of different contexts.”

The ladies formed Tang Productions — a name they got by setting out a hat at a party and asking friends to throw in suggestions — and began to look for a production team.

Even before they received arts funding, Anthony Trombetta had agreed to be stage manager and Rebecca Reynolds offered to do the choreography, said Solon.

“Having these two really skilled, talented, professional people really made us realize that this was happening.”

When the ladies heard they received the funding, they recruited Brian Fidler as director and an actor in the show.

“Everyone in this world has a lot to learn from Brian Fidler, but he’s so humble,” said Solon.

“He was the only person that I wanted to direct the show.”

“We had ideas for scenes and Fiona and I spent months and months just brainstorming scenes,” said Thiessen.

“We kind of spewed those ideas out and (Fidler) took them and wrapped them up in a nice little package.”

A call for dancers was put out and answered, if somewhat sheepishly, yielding performers aged 21 to 52.

“We hope that next time that we do something we’ll get more people that will have seen this show and seen how fun it was,” said Solon.

“And that they didn’t have to be naked.”

It’s the first time on stage for many of the participants, including Thiessen.

“I’ve never been on stage before and I’m just going to preview with no clothes on and hope that the community doesn’t think that I’m a sex addict,” she said with an innocent giggle.

Along with all the new performers, audiences might be surprised to see some familiar faces — although in a raunchy new light.

“I mean, everyone in Whitehorse has probably seen Cate Innish on stage — but have they seen her in a leather teddy?”

The show begins on Wednesday and runs to Saturday with a special midnight show on Friday.

Tickets are on sale at Well-Read Books and the Adult Warehouse.