Poison Ivy? Good start. Body Heat? Let me unbutton my collar a bit…Police Academy?
Let’s face it, the 80s, especially when looked at through 2011’s ironic lens, isn’t really up there among the sexiest of chest-heaving, getting-sweaty periods in our collective history.
The 60’s had the well-appointed Mods, the machismo spewing, greased hair Rockers and even The Beatles reduced their fans to a primal shrieking mass night after night.
The 70’s had flower power, free love, mini-skirts and a little song called Let’s Get It On.
The 80’s? Lycra, mullets and shoulder pads – hold me back folks… I think I’m going to need some “alone time…”
The style of the time didn’t really have that come-hither allure and when remembering the music and movies of the 80s they were mostly at their best when dealing with “doin’ the nasty”, from a place of raging hormonic naïveté — think Anthony Michael Hall holding aloft Molly Ringwald’s cherry-print panties to the panting nerd-mass in their high-school’s bathroom, or ogling Phoebe Cates in that cherry-red bikini.
It wasn’t that sex was forbidden, or even frowned upon in the 80’s; it was just either hidden under complex outfits (how do you un-zip that leopard-print onesie?) or most of us were just too young then to know how to get some –remember when a hand under the sweater was a momentous occasion?
With the above source material to work with creating a titillating cabaret burlesque show would be a challenge at best, but it’s one met with gusto by Toronto-based burlesque troupe Les Coquettes in their latest 80’s tribute show “Where’s The Beef?”
Led by the poised and cheeky MC “La Minouche” (French for: “pussy…cat”), and with tongues planted firmly in cheeks, this talented 11-piece (7 women, 4 “man-props”) of singers, dancers and aerialists kicked off the evening in a flash of silver body suits and Whitesnake-like hair that spanned all the colours of the Skittles rainbow.
This opening number set the scene perfectly, as if to say: “just like the 80’s…tonight may not be a full on feast of the flesh, but your eyes will definitely get a bit of a workout.”
The lights dimmed and next up was a high-energy channeling of “Straight Up”, complete with gyrating Abdul-esque tap-moves, points and evocative eyes.
What’s special about this first solo number, aside from its flawless execution, is that it’s the first moment when you realize… “Wait a second, this isn’t some low-rent lip-synch job I’m seeing, this is the real deal”. Yes, these Coquettes can sing.
In fact, the entire cast’s vocal talents are one of the highlights of the night as they easily belt out their iconic numbers while poppin’, lockin’, grindin’ and (of course) undressin’. No easy feat.
A couple more numbers pass then we’re told “…it’s someone’s birthday…” and a confused looking man-prop is dragged reluctantly to the stage and fitted with a leopard print vest and flowing hair-band wig.
He stumbles his way through the opening lines of a Bon Jovi tune all the while rolling his eyes and pleading to get off the stage … but wait… something happens about 20 seconds in, a he starts to get in to it… he just can’t seem to resist the power of the Jon-Bon…neither can we.
He jumps off the stage pumping his fist in the air. Wait, where did that giant fan come from? Wow, his hair is really moving; eat your heart our Slash.
To the bar he leaps to finish us off and the crowd is left panting for more — “shot through the heart” indeed.
One of the unique strengths of Les Coquettes is their aerial displays. Charlotte Webber on aerial ring and Billie Black on silks hypnotize the audience with their athletic grace — have you ever tried to unhitch your bra while suspended in a hula-hoop 10 feet above the floor while also looking really hot while you’re at it?
Didn’t think so…
For most of the evening Les Coquettes went from strength to strength, though some scenes would have been better left out. I’m thinking in particular of the homage to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – a cartoon/movie not really known to get the pulse racing—set to The Vapors’ “Turning Japanese” complete with empty pizza boxes held bashfully to crotches.
For those looking for a night of nothing but writhing, sweaty “T n’ A” you might be left thinking that “Where’s The Beef” is an apt title, but, if think about the decade being celebrated– Les Coquettes hit all the right flashy, new-wave, head-banging notes.
Just remember, would we all have fallen so deeply in love with Molly Ringwald if she’d gotten all of her kit off in every film? I doubt it. Would you have thought that Blane was so dreamy if he’d walked around Shermer, Illinois in leather chaps and a banana hammock? Nope.
Sometimes the tease is best when there’s something left to the imagination and at its core, “Where’s The Beef” is less 9½ Weeks and more 20 Minute Workout – we all watched it, none of us got any fitter, but we sure enjoyed ourselves while we were at it.
This 80’s tribute has now become an annual event for Les Coquettes, and they will be returning with a new show this October.
For more information on Les Coquettes visit: www.lescoquettes.com