Varietease brings back burlesque
Ian Stewart/Yukon News
Before starting Varietease, Fiona Solon and Brian Fidler had never seen a burlesque show.
But that didn’t stop the pair from putting on what is currently the territory’s only burlesque show. It began four years ago and has proved extremely successful.
Like most burlesques, Varietease is set as a cabaret-style variety show.
“The reason why I wanted to do a burlesque-style cabaret was because I didn’t know anything about it,” said Solon. “I wanted to learn about it. And I knew it wasn’t happening here. Whatever it was, I knew it wasn’t happening here.”
Solon and Fidler’s inexperience with the performance style may have actually helped keep Varietease truer to its original form.
Traditionally, burlesque is comedy. The old Italian word from which it derives means joke, mockery or parody.
RELATED: See more images of the show.
While those 17th-century shows did include scantily-clad women (for the day’s standards), the current strip tease and sex show style familiar today is a fairly far stretch from it’s original form.
In the beginning, burlesque was gaudy and over-the-top comedy. There were dancers and singers and skits.
And that’s what Varietease has to offer.
Since its first two runs in 2008, there have been comedians, a core dance troupe, singers, skits and a belly dancer on offer.
And there has never been full nudity, said Solon. “It’s tame in comparison to what I’ve seen in other places,” she said. This year aims to be less crass than past shows and more funny, Solon added.
The dance troupe and singers will still be there, along with the comedians and the cabaret host (portrayed this year by Claire Ness), but this year’s Varietease is working with more of a story line, said Solon.
“And robots,” she added, with wide eyes and a grin.
The local show has always held a big cast. This year is no exception, with a performer-audience ratio of about one to three.
But the mix of community members this year is “especially epic,” said Solon, listing the range of local performer pools from Rendezvous cancan dancers (past and present), actors, roller derby girls, new moms, singers, past Varietease alumni and a ukulele player who calls herself Big Mama Lele.
What comes back from a public call for acts is always a surprise, said Solon.
“There are no guidelines that we have to follow,” said Solon. “We just say, do you have something saucy? Do you have something risque? When you think of the word ‘burlesque,’ what does it make you think of?
“We just put the call out to Whitehorse and take what it has to offer.”
Varietease opened on Tuesday. It continues at the Guild Hall each night until Saturday at 9 p.m. Midnight shows have already sold out. Tickets are $30 and are available at the High Country Inn.
Varietease merchandise will also be available at the shows, including past years’ playing cards and new calendars.