Burlesque Classique’s A Midsummer’s Burlesque Dream promises “a sexy, silly romp through the woods with fairies,” and it delivers on that — especially the “silly.”
If any Shakespeare play were perfect to be turned into a burlesque, A Midsummer Night’s Dream would be it. The play literally asks us not to take it too seriously and to let ourselves be transported by fantasy and absurdity, and that’s what good burlesque is all about. It’s not lewd for lewdness’s sake, and it’s not pornographic or exploitative; it’s a celebration of eroticism and spectacle, with a wink and a nod and a sense of humor.
A Midsummer’s Burlesque Dream is doing something more ambitious than most burlesque shows. It could have easily been a musical revue loosely based around the plot and characters of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and that’s sort of what I was expecting.
But no: this is actually an adaptation of the play, albeit one with a lot more sexy dance numbers set to pop tunes than your typical Shakespeare fare.
Most of the text is Shakespeare’s, and there’s a considerable amount of it — probably too much, to be honest. The show is a bit uneven, and one reason for that is that some of cast members are clearly trained as stage actors accustomed to performing Shakepeare, and others are clearly trained as burlesque dancers, and there are different skill sets involved with both art forms.
The show sometimes requires people to step outside of their comfort zones, and the often-flat staging doesn’t help. This really is a mashup of burlesque and Shakespeare, both in style and in performance, and the mixture doesn’t always totally gel.
A Midsummer’s Burlesque Dream
Produced by Burlesque Classique
Details and tickets
But it’s a hell of a lot of fun, and there’s a hell of a lot of glitter. There are also some seriously stand-out performances. Sean Butler is a comedic genius as Bottom, and his striptease — oh yes, you’d better believe Bottom gets a striptease — is something to behold. Karen Beriss is an absolutely perfect Puck, cheeky and nimble and sparkling with mischievous energy. Sun King Davis commands the stage as both Oberon and Theseus. Diva Darling is mesmerizing as Titania — and you have got to see her costume, which at one point unravels into the play’s backdrop!
Lola Rose, also the show’s director and choreographer, plays a sweetly sensual Hermia, and Lavender Noire makes a gorgeous Lysander; their interactions in particular are something to behold. It was fun to watch Emma Zonn as Helena eagerly pursue the reluctant Eric Cline as Demetrius, and it’s fitting that most of the drama between the lovers is acted out in dance and striptease. I wouldn’t have minded seeing even more of the play’s action done this way, actually.
A Midsummer’s Burlesque Dream could do a better job at merging its two major influences, Shakespeare and burlesque, into a more coherent whole. But there are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, plenty of pretty people and pretty things, and plenty that’s worth cheering for.
A Midsummer’s Burlesque Dream . Written by William Shakespeare . Directed by Lola Rose . Starring Diva Darling Sun King Davis, Karen Beriss, Lola Rose, Lavender Noire, Emma Zonn, Eric Cline, Bailey Jameson, Sean Butler, Izzy LaFleur, Queen Nefertittie, Nastya Djakov, Laura Vucci . Produced by Burlesque Classique . Reviewed by Emily Crockett.