At the 6th birthday special of Cherie Bebe’s Burlesque Revue, held at Matt and Phreds, I was warmly welcomed into the intimate, friendly atmosphere by Bebe herself. Our table had an array of nostalgic sweets, varying from sweet to spicy, which foreshadowed the mix of the night’s talents and performances.
The compère, Jonathan Mayor, was a sarcastic, flamboyant and crass drag queen, dressed in a trophy-like outfit, that likened themselves an over-the-top ‘Tory woman’. Jonathan’s biting humour garnered howling laughter from the audience; even though it was mostly at our expense, Jonathan’s blunt delivery still provoked giggles. Although, at times, the jokes seemed to be lacking, and the long length of Jonathan’s segments occasionally resulted in them losing themselves in them, as the acts waited to start their performances.
The first act, Amber L’amour, walked fiercely onstage in an elegant, sparkly, black, mesh gown and proceeded to sing and dance to a jazz version of Beyonce’s ‘Crazy in Love’. Although I enjoyed this arrangement of a pop classic, I felt her strengths lay in her sustained note during Queen’s iconic ‘Somebody to Love’, which garnered multiple cheers from shocked audience members. She impressed further later in the night: with gorgeous red hair that reflected her sparkly red gown, which was paired with purple gloves, solidifying her transition into the renowned Jessica Rabbit.
Once again, I was impressed with her ability to sing popular songs, such as ‘No Diggity’ and ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’, in arrangements that completely changed the message and tone. It was an enjoyable performance finished off by an alluring rendition of ‘Why Don’t You Do Right?’ that left many people in awe.
The second act was Vicky Butterfly, who was ethereal. She transformed into a gorgeous swan. It was clear from the moment she came onstage that she was a trained dancer. Her movements were fluid, gentle and swift, as she spun, slowly revealing more and more of herself. It was as if she was unravelling into a majestic creature; the classical, romantic music accompanying the piece heightened her evolution.
Carrying on with the sense of evolution, her next performance caused my jaw to drop. She came onstage with a cigarette in hand and cloaked in black leather. The harsh violins of the song ‘Sail’ played as she seductively revealed areas of her outfits to us and then, after finally removing her cloak and revealing an outfit that I can only describe as ‘chain bodice’, she picked up what looked like long, white angel wings. She began to spin around; the wings had light-bulbs on them, which changed colours at key moments of the song, until it was a cacophony of multiple colours. She elicited mass praise from the audience as she spun so fast that lights became akin to that of a tornado of colour. It was simply fabulous.
Now on to the third and my favourite performance of the night, the blonde bombshell Baby Daisy. Jonathan gave a detailed and adventurous description of Daisy’s performance, being akin to ‘French spy fantasy’, which immediately excited me. I was happy to see my expectations surpassed when a sultry Baby Daisy sashayed onstage in a 60s-inspired, sparkly, pink dress, matched with a black feathered hat and boa.
She descended into a careful teasing manner, acting as if she was going to throw a glove to an audience member, but she did not, to that audience member’s disappointment. Daisy’s facial expressions enraptured me; the confidence and fun she was having within the performance was evident. She was in her element.
However, nothing could have prepared me for her next performance. Daisy transformed into a sexy cowgirl, with the customary chaps and whip (which was real!) before she jumped onstage (rather than taking the hand of Jonathan, which had become routine), to show the switch in persona. She took us on a wild ride, synchronising her whipping to the music. She also whipped the audience into the adored palms of her hands.
Finally, but by no means least, Cherie Bebe reminded us why her name headlined the event. Her captivating entrance saw her walk in slowly, veiled with an Indian-style scarf, as she proceeded to do belly-dancing movements. She brought a taste of the global South to the British North. Her slow, paced-out strip-teasing and reveals worked to create a strong sense of anticipation that drew us in. It was encouraging to see the diversity in her style and culture. Her final outfit looked as if it was made on her body; it fit her like a glove. The choice of music, ‘I Put a Spell on You’, was complementary to the 1920s theme she created. I felt bewitched.