Hearts Ablaze Entertainment last night set my heart on fire with their phenomenal Valentine’s Day production, “Vices and Valentines.” The show gave you an introspective look on the types of vices we all indulge in- or most of us anyway- using the of course everyone’s preferred medium of choice (hint: it’s burlesque). The show was at the Shakespeare Tavern, which was my very first time being there
Let me first say this about the show: what a venue! How often do you get to see a burlesque show on such a dynamic stage? Multiple entrances and exits alone are exciting enough in any venue; adding a character element to the space makes the whole thing extra spicy!
I am not going to be able to tell you every single number I saw– every single one was marvelous to say the least, but I definitely had favorites.
So, what were my vices of the evening?
The first act was full of amazingly sparkley costumes, hot-hot-hot women, and Tippy Tappage’s creepy and stunning skeleton tap dance. Let me go ahead and say THAT. TAP. DANCE. made me want to take tap lessons so hard. Not only did Tippy Tappage tap tenaciously, she rose from the dead, wooed the acappella-singing Jack Calico, and died again. Also, she made music with her feet.
That is a skill, people.
However, the tapping itself wasn’t enough to make the dancer within me squirm in my seat. Tippy Tappage’s broken and skeletal movements as she moved and musicked were truly what wrapped the piece up in a cohesive whole. On top of that, the bedazzled skeleton costume underneath her death dress caught the light perfectly and winked out surreptitiously. I would have loved to see the full skeleton costume itself, but I suppose stripping the dead of their last earthly items would be rude. And a different vice.
What really almost made me die during the first act was the group choreography with Talloolah Love, Ariel Allegro, and Roula Roulette. It’s hard to even begin describing what about it made me love it so much, but I’ll try.
First, it was a group chair dance choreography. I love chair dances, especially really well done chair dances that show off muscle control, balance, and overall skills with a chair. Co-Dependance had all of that. It was a beautifully modern piece. Honestly I was floored. The piece did that thing that modern pieces do where not every single person is on point– sometimes there is a slightly different movement going on in each dancer, sometimes there is a peel off of movements, sometimes a dancer will just sit there and be emotional while the others continue on.
To say the least, I feel like the choreography itself was a very good representation of its vice. It was definitely not a number you had to think too hard about in the sense of how-this-could-mean-what. It was what it was, which was fantastic.
Flame Cynders put on a hot and slow peel. “I Put a Spell On You” played twice, two different versions, and during the first version all she took off were her two sparkly red gloves. At first I thought she was just going to take off just those off and leave us with that. I will tell you honestly if the entire number had simply consisted of Flame Cynders’ sexy and sensual glove peel, I would’ve easily been satiated. The first half of this number was so strong that the simple glove removal made me feel like I was already seeing her naked.
But of course she didn’t stop there. She let us see every bit of her fantastic costume, which felt like a magic trick unveiling. When she finished her act, we had an intermission break to sit and think on the whole thing. As Pam from Archer would say, “Sploosh.”
The number that made the crowd erupt more than any other number that evening-
– and with good reason– was Nina Charisse and Jack Calico’s duet: Passion.
Look, everyone knows that tango is sexy. But to say that this piece was simply “sexy” is grossly underrating its impact. Keep in mind, this was not just tango– this was tango with reveals. I know I have a severe weakness for any number that is dance heavy, but this number made me feel like I had just had sex in the house of Shakespeare’s Tavern and come in the most climactic and possible way.
Nina and Jack’s chemistry on stage is something to die for. The way they interact with each other is really what makes this piece so incredibly scintillating. To quote the famous Internet phrase: “I can’t even.”
I wish I could have rewound the universe just to rewatch that piece (sci-fi genre tells me this is a bad idea). The dancing was sharp, spot-on, and gorgeous. The dancers were sharp, spot-on, and gorgeous. I will Crush on this couple until the end of time.
Ursula Undress silenced the crowd during her number as she addressed the intimate and sensitive topic of depression. She walked onstage, announced as “The Late Marilyn Monroe,” and sang “Happy Birthday Mr. President.” Ursula’s voice was beautiful and sad: a perfect set up for the piece.
Watching Ursula do such a moving number as the night that Marilyn died felt much more revealing than any other burlesque piece. When she stripped down to her pasties, it was with great effort that we cheered for her onstage. It felt that at that point, that was just what you needed to do. The whole piece was incredibly sad and I think anyone who loves Marilyn Monroe couldn’t have left that number dry-eyed.
HONORABLE MENTION: BLAZE BABES CANDI leCOEUR, NINA CHARISSE, AND TIPPY TAPPAGE
It really should be noted that what kept the entire show thematic and together were the wonderful “Blaze Babes.” In Athens, we call them Prop Tarts and in the general Atlanta area, they are called Kittens. Hearts Ablaze adopted Blaze Babes as the pronoun of choice into their show.
Truly, the entire night would have just been a variety show if it weren’t for Candi LeCoeur’s set-and-strike performances working with Vice, the gorgeous no-faced creature that teased her and helped her succumb to said vices of the show (played by Nina Charisse and Tippy Tappage).
The entire show was fantastic. It is difficult to regale every single piece and explain how each one was perfect for the vice given it. Talloolah Love’s “Curiosity” reminded me a of Pandora’s Box, just with a Victorian twist (and yes, we got to see that wonderful orange costume of hers that frames her butt cheeks beautifully); Ada Manzhart’s bratty piece that exhibited the cutest temper tantrum onstage, as well as an enormous stuffed animal which is always a winner in my bookl ; Persephone Phoenix did a sexy stocking peel trick upside down and in the air that I really really want to borrow if I ever get a chance; Roula Roulette’s adorable “Fixation” number was too cute and touched on some important parts of our Body-Shaming culture (a mindset that we are all trying to overcome, no matter what size you are).
The show was wonderful. Unfortunately, all I have is a cell-phone picture to show t
hat I was there, but if you go to Hearts Ablaze’s Facebook page, I sure you will get to see a little bit of what I experienced.
Hopefully, we will get to see these numbers again in other venues in the near future.