Toronto has a number of burlesque troupes, but nothing like Boylesque, the all-male troupe that premieres tonight (Thursday, July 24) at the Gladstone with Boy Oh Boy!
"It's not different, at heart, from burlesque by women," says company founder Benjamin Paley, whose stage name is James and the Giant Pasty. "Just as the established tradition has women playing with female archetypes, we're doing that with male roles, and in the process sending them up."
Paley first saw burlesque in his teens, when an uncle took him to a Coney Island theatre.
"I loved that it was an art form where people could be open about their sexuality and not present it as sleazy," recalls Paley. "I'm attracted to its vaudevillian sense of humour and the fact that it's more interactive with an audience than most theatrical forms."
He's clear that Boylesque isn't a Chippendales sort of troupe but rather a theatrical company, one that explores character and comedy as well as the tease of the strip.
"We're presenting male stereotypes like the cowboy and the hockey player as well as local types, like the Bay Street businessman in the three-piece suit who's less uptight at home, or the Queen West barista with attitude.
"For me, burlesque is a send-up of everyday characters who we metaphorically and literally undress. The show takes the piss out of these people, crossing boundaries that aren't usually crossed in the theatre."
Importantly, notes Paley, the company's not composed of guys who spend 10 hours a week in the gym.
"I didn't look for chiselled prototypes in auditions. Everyone in the troupe is attractive in his own way, but no one's buff. That's part of the burlesque tradition: to celebrate natural bodies, not add to the media hype of impossible body images."
Aimed at male and female audiences, the show's hosted by red-headed Ginger Darling, with performers including Dew Lily, Bruin Pounder and Mahogany Storm.
And just as female burlesque uses nipple-covering pasties, Paley promises a male equivalent in Boy Oh Boy!
"Burlesque tradition is the tease as much as the revelation, what you anticipate as much as what you see."
Tonight's show, featuring guests Keith Cole and Sexy Mark Brown, is sold out, so the company's scheduled a second performance
Friday, followed by an after-party featuring DJs Tiger Beat and Eight Cubed.
Trust Shadowland Theatre to entrance audiences with visual imagery and toss in a bit of local history.
The Toronto Island-based company's latest show, The Light That Stands Still, traces some Toronto history by focusing on the lighthouse at Gibraltar Point, here used as a literal and metaphoric guiding beacon.
Written by Sarah Hood with director Anne Barber and designer Brad Harley, the show takes audiences across field, beach and forest in a rapid tour of the founding of the lighthouse, the Battle of York, a sideshow of energy sources from whale oil to electronic power and a final optimistic glimpse into the future.
If the humour is sometimes heavy-handed and the ecological message repeatedly thumped home, Melanie McNeill's costumes and the staging are often eye-catching.
There are a number of magical moments: the start of the show, when Lady Light (the stiltwalking Merle Harley) leads various animal characters into the audience's view; an "underwater" walk complete with whales, fish hanging in the trees and shipwrecks (if you look up at the green canopy, you can imagine you're walking at the bottom of the ocean); and the final scene at the lighthouse.
The company - mostly islanders, with a few professionals like David Langlois and Lorraine Pelletier in the cast - is full of energy, giving a true grassroots feel to the production.
One of the highlights of the fall season is sure to be KICK Theatre's production of Strindberg's Miss Julie.
Adaptor Tara Beagan sets the play in BC's Fraser River Valley during the 20s, and the gulf between the upper-class Miss Julie and her two servants becomes one of race: Miss Julie is white while the others are native.
We caught a white-hot workshop of the show last winter, directed by Melee Hutton with Christine Horne as Julie and Darrell Dennis and Michaela Washburn as the servants. Horne and Dennis are back in November's full production.
A fundraiser for the show on Monday (July 28) features a reading of another Strindberg play, The Dance Of Death,with Shaw Festival actors Jim Mezon and Catherine McGregor, directed by Vikki Anderson.