The Geekenders have done well to plant roots as a burlesque institution at The Rio Theatre. This past weekend the large ensemble cast took another crossover appeal risk, this time thematically. Reaching back in the ‘geek’ pantheon with a Stephen King-inspired installment of the monthly event, The Geekenders somehow made summarizing the oft re-imagined works of the famous writer in just five-seven voiceless minutes look elementary.
Whether due to the name, ‘The Geekenders’, or their gentle approach to marketing on social media, The Geekenders have twice exceeded this reviewer’s expectations going in. One can’t help but respect the popularity and consistent turnout the group has been able to achieve as Saturday’s production We All Float Down Here marked another sold-out feather in the troupe’s proverbial cap.
On a night where the unadvertised hosts Gidget Gravedigger and Aleister Crane were exceptional individually, it was the stage chemistry shared by the duo that tied the performances together so cohesively. Gravedigger’s tireless work ethic and approachable attitude coupled with her unique arrangements have always placed her a ‘cut above’, adding her aptitude for emceeing to her sizable list of strengths is an absolute ‘must’ after Saturday night. Our city’s world recognized burlesque community has an increasingly broad pool of talent, and yet Gravedigger still manages to stand out. Between the versatile performer’s save of a number during Lunarium, her work with Melody Mangler / The Lost Girls in October, her continued involvement in the Caravan of Creeps, as well as Saturday night’s dominant emceeing with The Geekenders, the former Voodoo Pixie has had an outstanding year.
Being that the Vancouver International Burlesque Festival (VIBF), as well as The Burlesque Hall of Fame awards, are both on the horizon, Gravedigger will have been grave-robbed if she walks away void of any new hardware in the coming six weeks.
The affable Aleister Crane proved to be no joke by taking on dual roles as buffoonery-prone but alive Crane, as well as undead but Ginsu-sharp co-host to the event. The mega-fan of Sleepwalkers, Crane, was as charming as is possible for someone wearing a ‘little capelet’. Producers would have to be out of their glitter to not consider pairing up the two wildly witty We All Float Down Here hosts again.
The first performance on the night utilized Christine as its source material and featured the talented Geekenders producer Trixie Hobbitses. Impressing audiences with her interpretation of the killer 1958 Plymouth Fury, Hobbitses had more than a few tricks on a night that featured The Beatles as her soundtrack; specifically “Drive My Car.”
A quick post-performance reminiscing about the film adaptation of Christine had Gravedigger recount her most memorable pull from the movie, ‘those shitters, shit on my car’. It’s safe to say that Hobbitses’ performance was the opposite of the rather graphic imagery provided by the night’s co-host.
Androsia Wilde showed no stage rust after taking a year off of performing to be back home in the Bahamas. With the inspiration of the eight-novel series The Dark Tower as her muse, Wilde proceeded to (mock) manhandle Rear Admiral Ziggy Starbutts to the familiar western sounds of “Short Change Hero” provided by The Heavy as accompaniment.
After the (audience favourite) creepy twins from The Shining (Anita Johnson, Flash LeFox) cleared the garments strewn from The Dark Tower performers, boylesque practitioner Tylr Bourbon absolutely ‘wowed’ audiences with his take on the often slept-on short story The Mist. Having perhaps the performance of the night for the Kitty Nights tribute to Prince, Bourbon once again injected himself into the conversation for a similar label Saturday night. The art form historically dominated by women is getting a shakedown of late, thanks in large part to performers such as Bourbon and the co-headliner of the VIBF, Bazuka Joe. The deafening crowd approval after Gulcan Kaya’s “Haydar” crescendoed is proof to the contrary to any who assumed that the passion brought to Bourbon’s Prince performance was a flash in the pan; or as Crane put it ‘pubic miasma’.
The Rio Theatre’s most eye-opening performer during We All Float Down Here Fanny Oakley, also happened to be the busiest. Going solo for Salem’s Lot (Hozier,“Take Me To Church”) and Carrie (MAGIC!, “Red Dress”), Oakley breathtakingly joined Jayne Fondue, Veronica Vamp, Bourbon, and a host of others for The Children Of The Corn (Skunk Anansie, “Charlie Big Potato”) number.
Making the trek to Vancouver from having just performed in Texas, Seattle-based performing duo Violet DeVille successfully took on the obscure The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill.
The unmistakable industrial tones of the Trent Reznor project Nine Inch Nails served as a backdrop for the duo of Ginger Femmecat and Draco-Muff-Boi’s take on Secret Window. While the 2005 With Teeth single “The Line Begins to Blur” overmodulated the Rio Theatre sound system with its bass, on stage Femmecat and Muff-Boi were as dynamic of a duo as their names together would suggest.
Never has Shelley Duvall’s character from The Shining been performed with more allure than when portrayed by the renowned alternative dance performer and Moz Hair Studio hair stylist, Riannaconda. In the role of Winifred Torrance, Riannaconda joined by Anita Johnson (as the infamous bathtub lady) brought to life the famous King novel in a much more enticing fashion than I recall anything surrounding room 237 in adaptations past. With Hairy Soul Man asking “How Deep Can I Go” over the speakers the recent Catwoman (Geekenders / Batlesque) drove the crowd to cat-calls and voracious swooning while proving that some innuendos are better left alone.
Miss Dee Twenty’s selection of “Satan Takes A Holiday” by Ralph Flanagan & His Orchestra was appropriately bumped up against Artie Shaw’s “Nightmare” for a Needful Things homage that embraced one of the more classic horror-film type ambiances on the evening.
Choreographed to “Love On the Rocks With No Ice”, by The Darkness the combination of Seamus-Fit-It-In and Kitty Glitter teamed up for an ankle breaker and put the audience through anything but Misery.
Rounding out the evening was a second helping of Violet DeVille in their Silver Bullet reimagining set to a cover version of “Bad Moon Rising” by Mourning Ritual Feat: Peter Dreimanis of July Talk fame.
The crowd-charming character and promotional poster marketing angle Pennywise was portrayed by the LA-based Brandy Snifter. Performing to (what else) “Killer Klowns” by The Dickies, Snifter scared (and no doubt scarred) many a Rio Theatre customer essaying the role from It of the clown responsible for instilling a fear of the painted circus performer into an entire generation.
We all Float Down Here was as successful of an undertaking as a production as The Geekenders are as a whole. The sold-out Rio Theatre crowd was louder with support for the lovable troupe than ever before. With the Geekenders track record of late, is it too early to wonder if a larger venue is on the horizon? A testament to how mainstream burlesque is becoming, nobody would have dreamed just a couple years ago that the drastically crucial and amazingly supportive of burlesque Rio Theatre might be ‘too small’ to host any of the city’s cabaret style events. Certainly, loyalty to the venue that has given so many a stage would need consideration before any serious talks of change should be considered.
Complete We All Float Down Here Setlist
Drive My Car – The Beatles
Short Change Hero – The Heavy
Haydar – Gulcan Kaya
Take Me To Church – Hozier
Catch A Falling Star – Perry Como
Thunderstruck – Steve n’ Seagulls
The Line Begins To Blur- NIN
How Deep Can I Go – Hairy Soul Man
Satan Takes A Holiday – Ralph Flanagan & His Orchestra
Nightmare – Artie Shaw
Red Dress – MAGIC!
Love On The Rocks With No Ice – The Darkness
Bad Moon Rising – Mourning Ritual Feat: Peter Dreimanis
Go Kindergarten – The Lonely Island Feat: Robyn
Killer Klowns – The Dickies
99 Red Balloons – Goldfinger
Diana/Splish Splash/ Rebel Rouser- Paul Anka & Bobby Darin & Duane Eddie
Charlie Big Potato – Skunk Anansie