SEATTLE REVIEW: Can Can’s FEMME FATALE Takes What’s Good In The Formula, Elevates It

Published on August 9, 2018 by   ·   No Comments

Time for the obligatory Seattle Spoiler Warning: since most of my readership is in the Midwest, I’m going to be talking about this show in pretty good detail, including what some people would call “spoilers.”  I have never minded spoilers, especially for a show I probably won’t get to see (and as good as it is, most of my ND/MN peeps aren’t going to hop a Delta flight to the Emerald City to catch this burlesque show based on the enthusiasm of this review), but since I do know some folks from the greater Seattle area who like live theatre, and because sometimes life takes us to unexpected places, I’m warning you about the spoilers in case you decide that you want to see the show.  It’s a burlesque show, so there isn’t really a story to speak of, but you may want to be wowed with the costumes and spectacle like it’s the first time, so consider yourself warned.  XOXO – Miss Jaye

Can Can 01I love a good burlesque show.  At this point, I think I’ve been to 6 productions by the Can Can: Flamingo, Ice Cream, and Bananas, three summer shows; a Valentine’s treat called French Kiss; Wonderland, a celebration of holiday glamour; and now Femme Fatale, their newest production based loosely on the life and adventures of Mata Hari.  The Can Can always puts on a fantastic show: the dancers are top notch and host Jonny Boy is positively delicious (I stand by my conviction that he’s going to be my next ex husband!), the costuming is very well done (sometimes I find myself distracted from the entertainment trying to figure out what kind of stones they used or what sort of material an outfit is made out of!), and the food is amazing and some of the best available in the Pike’s Place Market.

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I love going to the Can Can because it feels familiar – I know what to expect when I see a show there.  It’s not that it’s the same show with a new name and theme tacked on top, but they definitely have a sort of formula that they know works for their little 3-act confection, and they tend not to stray too far from the standard elements.  I know that about three, four songs into the show, host Jonny Boy is going to do a very sexy, slow burn number with sensual and almost borderline violent choreography with one of the female dancers – I do my best to control my jealousy and remind myself that it’s just theatre!  I know that there is going to be some audience participation with a hopefully game straight guy who will be lured into performing in one of the more upbeat numbers after showing off his bump and grind during an earlier break.  In most of the shows, there is at least one comedy number, often involving gender-bending with Jonny Boy in ridiculous drag and a female dancer sporting a firm banana in her crotch, and probably at least one number where Jonny Boy shows off his gymnastic prowess on a twirling rope or spinning cage.  There are lots of variations, and every time I see a show at the Can Can I’m always surprised and delighted by what they’ve cooked up for me, but I don’t go there looking for something completely new and revolutionary.  I go because I’m going to get a reliably fantastic burlesque show with some classic and entertaining, if predictable, elements.

CanCan JonnyBoy

Femme Fatale is different, and yet the same, and it is easily the best show I’ve seen at the Can Can yet.  Many of the elements from the formula are still there, but they’ve taken what they know works and they’ve brought it to the next level.  It’s all of the things you love about the Can Can, with a few genuine surprises thrown in.

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One of the biggest changes is the inclusion of performer Prom Queen in the role of Mata Hari.  She wrote and performs much of the music that happens during Femme Fatale, and having her appear throughout the show definitely elevates the overall impact.  They’ve had live singing before (Jo-el from Personnel used to do a number or two…damn, he’s another hot man that I miss seeing in next to nothing!) but never as deeply ingrained with the performance as a whole.  Even if Prom Queen is not at the center of the performance on stage or on the catwalks, she is often nearby, singing and playing various instruments.

CanCan 13Jonnyboy once again does a very sensual number with one of the female dancers (I think it’s Shadou, but I could be wrong – with the Mata Hari wigs, she and JJ Jones look very similar!), and it has the same sort of sexy, dangerous feel, but hearing Prom Queen’s original music takes it to another place.

The audience interaction piece also gets a fun upgrade.  In most of the shows, except Wonderland, they used the “Grease Megamix” in some variation that ends up with either a bachelorette/birthday girl on the stage in a chair and Jonny Boy and the random straight guy in poodle skirts (occasionally the straight guy will be in the chair instead), and then Jonny Boy (and often the other male dancer, if there is one) will strip off his rainbow trunks with his back to the crowd, swinging his junk covered in what appears to be some sort of weighted sock.  I’m not a straight boy or a bachelorette, so I only have side views and imagination to go on (once again, I’m trying to control that jealousy!).

In Femme Fatale, however, Prom Queen and new male dancer Jordan (who is extremely toned and smooth in an early 2000s Playgirl sort of way – I would lick ice cream off those pecs like it was my last meal!) sing a big band-inspired version of Khia’s dirty little ditty, “My Neck, My Back” – here’s a sample:

Jonny Boy and the random straight boy, this time a jovial sex therapist from Denver with friends at the Can Can for his bachelor party (have you ever heard such a hipster thing in all your life?!), came out with tiger hoods on to gyrate for a tipsy bride to be and a slightly less enthusiastic birthday celebrant.  It was familiar, but it came together in a way that was just so much more coherent, and the vintage styling with the blue material made for the perfect complement to the rest of the show.

Jordan also got his moment to be sexy, sharing the stage with JJ (again, I think…) but appearing in silhouette behind a sheet, pushing and pulling the material around her to cover and reveal in a way that was so simple and yet looked absolutely stunning.  Prom Queen provided a song and accompanied herself on an accoustic guitar.

Prom Queen is definitely more of a singer than a dancer, but she did get this really beautiful moment to shine, doing a subtle Marilyn-Monroe-on-the-grate number, standing on a fan in a billowing skirt while singing a song that was sad and wonderful, while the other two women knelt on either side doing small, complementary moves.  The chorus was something like, “I gave my heart away in pieces, scattered on the ground, lost in a hurricane, and now I’ll never be the same.”  It was so simple and elegant and just perfection.  The audience participation is fun, but that’s the number I really wish I had video of!

Jonny Boy and Jordan....ummm, 3way please?! LOL

Jonny Boy and Jordan….ummm, 3way please?! LOL

Overall the show is also a lot sharper and definitely more athletic.  There was a lot of focus on the overhead bars above the catwalks, lots of lifts, plenty of acrobatics and spins on various pieces of equipment.  In a number that seemed to reference RuPaul’s Drag Race more than traditional burlesque, the women traded ostrich feather fans for simple, wood-spined options, clacking them open like they had tea to spill!

If you’ve never seen a Can Can show, this is definitely one you will want to hit – it sets the bar high.  If you have seen a Can Can show before, this is the perfect opportunity to go back and see some things that may feel familiar done in new and revved up ways.  You won’t be disappointed.

Mata Hari as a historical figure is complicated and sometimes troubling, but this show feels smooth and effortless, and it’s impossible not to get swept up in the sensuality and the intrigue.  On a side note, I was also so excited that one of the meal options on the night I attended included a creme brulee – my favorite dessert in the whole world, and one which I had just found out a day ago had been taken off the menu at one of my standby restaurants, the Pike Place Bar And Grill.  I was able to get that brittle sweetness and the rich decadence hiding within, and then I also got to have a really kick ass creme brulee.  I didn’t get to eat it off Jonny Boy’s ass, but hey – you can’t win ’em all!

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Femme Fatale is running at the Can Can through September 30, and you can buy tickets at the Can Can website.

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