The Butterfly Club is the perfect venue to host Petticoat Soiree by redroom Theatre Company. As we side-stepped through the small, crowded rooms, crammed with more kitsch paraphernalia than you can possibly imagine in one place, to find the loo (an experience in itself), I stumbled across an old 60s night-light exactly like one I used to own as a kid. I was hooked. If you haven’t been to The Butterfly Club before, go. Now. The bell sounded the start of the show and I reluctantly let go of the night-light and followed the jostling, eager bodies to the tiny performance space. This was after 10.30pm, mind you; this is a burlesque show after all.
The 60 minute show, written and directed by Alister Smith, starts with The Candy Topps: Elenor Adams, Jennifer Robinson and Emma Clair Ford performing Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, Get The Party Started (Pink) and Get Happy (Judy Garland). They certainly made me feel happy. These women are a tour de force. In a way it’s a shame they start the show because most of what follows isn’t quite up to the same standard. Still, there’s nothing like stepping with your best foot forward and the rest of the show is certainly a lot of toe-tapping fun.
Smith and the redroom ensemble use the traditions of vaudeville, burlesque, and minstrels to create a highly entertaining, razzle dazzle show, cleverly drawing on historical parallels between the 1930s depression and the current global economic crisis. Andrew Ronay-Jenkings’ minstrel act, ‘Mr. Blackman’ - “the blackest white man that ever was” - had the audience feeling rather uncomfortable as he broke into a rendition of Swanee that included the lyrics “Barackee, how I love ya how I love ya, my dear Barackee!” Mr. Blackman then gave us an eclectic history lesson, which included the invention of Coca-cola in 1886 and the right to vote for black people in Australia in 1961, then ending with “In 2008 the very first black man was elected as President… And in 2009 the beginnings of true change, acceptance and the promise of a better future for all. We took our time.” By this time Ronay-Jenkings had scrubbed off his make-up to set things right. It was a powerful piece and very well performed.
Fanny Gaye Smiles’ wartime radio show, ‘Fanny’s Slot’, which included We'll Meet Again, Keep Young and Beautiful, and Wish Me Luck, was delightfully executed by Eleanor Adams, who has a wonderful grasp of the era and a sublime voice to demonstrate it. Adams also proved her physical theatre abilities in several skits where she played a bee, replete with wings and the cutest bee-behind you’re ever likely (lucky) to see. She is a classy bee for Emma Clair Ford’s bawdy bird, whose feathered waistcoat was soon flashed open to reveal a set of nipple covers and not much else underneath. Gotta love burlesque.
The weaker acts in the show, namely Jordan Bowering’s hillbilly act and Emma Clair Ford’s ‘Phyllis the Flapper’, were a result of content (too many clichéd one liners) rather than any lack of talent from the performers. The entire ensemble has a vast amount of talent; all of the performers have strong, well-trained voices. I must admit I did have a favourite though. Jennifer Robinson was the stand-out for me. She is gifted with one of those voices that make you worship her and hate her all at the same time: it’s big and unique and versatile. Her solo performance as Dame Comptess de Bousom was the highlight in an evening abounding with highlights. Her parodies of It's All Coming Back To Me Now (Celine Dion), Single Ladies (Beyonce), and Womanizer (Britney Spears) were breathtakingly good. The energy of the performance, the vocal ability and control, and the sheer comic value were faultless. She deserves a much wider audience.
Petticoat Soiree is a lot of fun. It’s perfect post-dinner entertainment. Grab a luscious looking cocktail from The Butterfly Club bar, grab a seat (I recommend avoiding the front row unless you want a serious eyeful of Phyllis the Flapper’s crotch…but then again, maybe that’s your thing), and let the ridiculously talented redroom crew entertain you!
The Butterfly Club is proud to announce a new residency by redroomTHEATREcompany
THE PETTICOAT SOIREE
Written and Directed by Alister Smith
Venue: The Butterfly Club | 204 Bank Street, South Melbourne
Dates: Fridays and Saturdays from 20 February to 7 March (six performances)
Time: 10.30 pm
Ticket price: $27 full / $22 concession and for groups of 8 or more
Duration: 60 minutes approx