THE SCANDELLES IN UNDER THE MINK created by Sasha Van Bon Bon and Kitty Neptune (Buddies in Bad Times). 12 Alexander. To January 21. $15. 416-975-8555. See Continuing. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Under The Mink uses burlesque techniques and a cabaret format to examine images of women in film, one of the biggest socializing forces of the past century. Co-creators Sasha Van Bon Bon and Kitty Neptune , who clearly love playing with the material, have made entertainment a bigger draw than message.
Each of the 16 numbers begins with a film clip and then shifts into live song, dance or strip. You'll recognize most of the films, from Marilyn Monroe's subway grate scene in The Seven Year Itch to Sally Fields standing up to management in Norma Rae.
There's lots of amusement here, including Van Bon Bon's silent-movie parody and strip, a French new wave dance performed by Project Sugar and a sensual duet featuring Neptune and gymnastic dancer Angie Kaizan .
My faves are a gender-twisted dance number following the Monroe clip, with Shawn Newman , Ryan Lee and Eric Bourne in skimpy white briefs, flailing the air with pieces of white material that echo Monroe's airborne skirt; a butch noir scene featuring drag king Christopher Noel and several infatuated, heavy-breathing women who only come within sniffing distance of him; and Van Bon Bon as vamp Theda Bara, both in a number that plays on the silent film star's allure and another in which she's thrust into an 80s-disco-beat 20-minute workout.
At times the evening has the rough edges of a community talent night, especially in the scene changes, but the overall exuberance is so powerful that it's impossible to leave the theatre without a smile on your face. Some numbers go on too long and others are insufficiently developed, and stronger direction would make a more solid evening.
But when Neptune and Cooter Nipplestein get off on each other as dancemates, or Nipplestein and Van Bon Bon overwhelm Noel's macho James Bond with the power of their nipple tassels, the show explodes with audience-pleasing energy. You won't find as much sheer fun anywhere on a Toronto stage.