Whilst I have seen my fair share of cabaret shows, I cannot say that I have seen a classic cabaret burlesque style show. Complete with musical numbers and showgirls dressed up in sequins and feathered headdresses. Well, thanks to The Palms at Crown and Boyd Productions, a new show offers exactly that. Titled Cabaret de Paris: A Burlesque Extravaganza, this production has a special drawcard, Australia’s leading lady, Rhonda Burchmore.
Opening with a showgirl performance, the six long-legged dancers made their way around the Palms stage. Complete with tall, feathered head dresses, the scantily clad ladies danced and kicked their legs high into the air. Soon, they were joined on stage by three male dancers and another girl, this time with an even larger feathered head piece. Jazz music was playing as they danced around stage. I found my eyes searching for a live band, to my disappointment I could not find one.
After the initial introduction to the show, the moment the packed theatre had been waiting for was finally here. Rhoda Burchmore bursts onto the stage in a stunning, long, sparkling gown. Burchmore treated us with a stunning rendition of ‘Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend’. Rhonda then welcomed the audience to the show, describing how she loves all things French, reminiscing of her favourite cartoon Madeleine, and the times that she had spent in Paris. Rhonda even got the audience involved, requesting that every time she would say “Merci, Melbourne“ that we would respond with “Ooh la la” and patrons happily obliged.
Between musical numbers, the showgirls returned to the stage to dazzle us. Or at least for me, it seemed like a distraction and filler to allow Rhonda time to change off stage, giving us something to watch as we eagerly awaited her return. The vibe in the crowd seemed to shift when Rhonda was not on stage. They were unsure if they should clap or cheer the dancers on stage. ‘Oh, is it finished? Do I clap now? I don’t know what is happening’ kind of vibes. It was weird. But when Rhonda finally returned to the stage, the mood lifted again. It was clear that Rhonda Burchmore is this show. It would be nothing without her.
As lack lustre as the in-between acts are, there is one performance that impressed me the most. A lone female contortionist performer that I unfortunately do not have the name of as it is not in the programme, was not stated during the show, nor is it on the show website. I was blown away by how she was able to twist and turn her body into positions that made my back hurt just watching. Later in the show, she returns to put on an amazing pole-dance performance.
Because the show is titled ‘Cabaret de Paris’, I found myself trying to find the so-called French connection in each of the acts. None was more confusing that the sudden surprise of an illusionist performance by producer Michael Boyd. Having seen him perform before in Celtic Illusion (which I thoroughly enjoyed), I was confused as to why he was part of this show. It made sense with Celtic Illusion, because it was within the title, magic was a given. But a French themed cabaret show? It was like I was tricked into watching it. Whilst the magic itself was actually good and entertaining, it didn’t fit the show’s theme and came across as disjointed.
In fact, the only thing about this show that was consistent were the showgirls and Rhonda Burchmore’s fantastic musical numbers. Each performance was accompanied by another stunning costume change. Even in a tuxedo suit, Burchmore looked absolutely stunning. I swear, the woman could make a potato sack look glamorous! Her crowd work was natural and fantastic, making her way into the audience, singing to some lucky patrons, and even pinching a Malteser from one table. Burchmore is an incredible entertainer and arguably one of the best in the industry.
Vocally, Burchmore is flawless. From cheeky cabaret numbers to a ground shaking rendition of I am what I am from the musical ‘La Cage Aux Folles’, there is nothing that Burchmore cannot do. I have said it before, I will say it again. Without Rhonda Burchmore, this show is nothing and I am sure that everyone in the audience were there for her and would agree. I certainly was! I just had to endure the in-between whilst I awaited her return. I just wish they gave her a live band, even a three-piece jazz band would have worked. But as the true professional that she is, Burchmore took what she had to work with and absolutely knocked it out of the park.
Cabaret de Paris: A Burlesque Extravaganza is described on The Palms’ website that it is suitable for all ages. This I would argue, due to the showgirl performances. Yes, they are all covered, but barely. Tight thongs and bejewelled bra tops are nowhere near suitable for a young audience. There were even some moments of the male dances running past and slapping the female dancers on the rear that made myself and other patrons uncomfortable. It may have fit the burlesque narrative, but I didn’t like it. However, all the women are stunning and have the dance skills to match. It can’t be easy to balance those feathered outfits and dance at the same time. So, they should be commended for that.
Overall, I only enjoyed the moments where Rhonda Burchmore was on stage. This theatre and cabaret queen is faultless! Everything else, especially the illusion act, felt disjointed. And for a show that is only 90 minutes, plus interval, it felt incredibly long. I found myself checking my watch halfway through the second act, waiting for it to be finished.
Am I glad I saw it? Yes, but only because I got to see Rhonda Burchmore sing and perform. The rest was just okay. The show definitely needs some tweaking. One quick fix, please add a live band as it will make it much more exciting!
Cabaret de Paris: A Burlesque Extravaganza is performing for two nights only at The Palms at Crown Casino in Melbourne before continuing their national tour. With the final performance on Saturday the 20th of May, there isn’t much time to grab your tickets.
If you are a fan of Rhonda Burchmore, like me, and are willing to endure the time in between her great moments on stage, definitely grab yourself some tickets. Otherwise, give this one a miss.
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Photography by William Hamilton-Coates.