La Femme Céleste: Portland’s Big Time! Burlesque welcomes Jo Weldon; KINGS gets rolling in Seattle.
Portland’s Big Time! Burlesque and musical paramour Orchestre L’Pow share a grandiose vision of glamour in their productions. “Think Henry Mancini meets The Cramps,” says Production Manager Madison Moone.
Moone, who has been producing in Portland since 2008, cut her burlesque teeth with one-woman show Madison Moone’s Burlesque Revue. Her shows were routinely backed by a live trio, solidifying her belief that the chemistry between band and burlesque is a vital part of exciting an audience, not to mention turning up the heat in a performance. Through these events she met bassist and future Orchestre L’Pow production partner and Musical Director Sean Hudson. Today, the team also includes The Infamous Nina Nightshade, who stepped in as Talent Coordinator when the much-loved Charlotte Treuse took up residence in New Orleans last fall. Creative direction is a collaborative effort each season, but with the help of sponsors such as Portland’s leading sex positive boutique She Bop and the addition this year of corporate sponsor Drambuie Liquor, Big Time! Burlesque is becoming a whole lot bigger. “This has enabled us to bring national and international headliners to our stage,” Madison explained. “This was one of the goals we set at the very first Big Time Burlesque round table discussion and we are so thrilled to be making that a reality”.
This Saturday May 4, NYC burlesque maven Jo Weldon will star in the second show of their 2013 season, La Femme Céleste. In addition to Jo’s long list of burlesque benchmarks (author of The Burlesque Handbook, headmistress of the New York School of Burlesque, co-founder of BurlyCon, Pink Light Burlesque, and the list goes on…), she is also a performance icon and a champion of honoring the histories of the many unruly women that came before the current wave of burlesquers. Much like Madison Moone and Orchestre L’Pow, Jo is a master of onstage sizzle.
La Femme Céleste (‘the heavenly woman’) will channel iconic goddesses from around the world. From Isis to Aphrodite, Cleopatra to Freya, performers pay homage to these often enigmatic figureheads of fertility, creativity, birth and death. Also sharing the stage will be Seattle’s very own Boom Boom L’Roux as well as the L’Pow! Company Dancers: Madison Moone, Itty Bitty Bang Bang, and The Infamous Nina Nightshade. Internationally renowned burlesque emcee Vincent Drambuie will host, and all dance routines will be performed to the “post-punk big band” sounds of Orchestre L’Pow!
Jo Weldon will also be teaching while in Portland- read about her May 4 afternoon class “The Living Glove” and pre-register through She Bop HERE (although the class itself will be at the Bossanova Ballroom).
Madison took some time to explain the unique symbiosis of band and burlesque (as well as how they connected with Jo “Boobs” Weldon):
Burlesque Seattle Press: Are Orchestre L’Pow & Big Time! Burlesque always paired?
Madison Moone: Yes, Orchestre L’Pow and Big Time! Burlesque are always paired. It’s true that the band does exist and work as its own entity. L’Pow was originally founded several years ago by our drummer Dain Hudson (Sean’s brother). They primarily worked in Seattle with a rotating cast of dancers. The band took a short hiatus for a redevelopment period and Dain handed the band over to Sean. Sean wanted to resurrect the project under a different guise; however he was living here in Portland. That’s around the time that we met on my project. He pitched the new model to myself and Charlotte Treuse, our Talent Coordinator before her move to New Orleans this past fall. What he pitched to us was the vision of a glamorous, full production, over the top stage show backed by a bad ass live band. Hence the name Big Time! Burlesque.
BSP: Portland seems to have a good understanding of the power of live music matched with burlesque. It’s very potent! Why do you think that is?
Madison: I can’t speak for how others are using live music in their productions but I can tell what is potent about it for us. All three of us on the production team have a very strong connection with live music performance. Nina Nightshade has training in several styles of dance, most notably belly dance. Sean and I are both formally trained musicians in classical composition, jazz improvisation and rock ‘n’ roll.
In order to play live music or dance to live music you must develop the ability to connect with each other on stage. When jazz musicians improvise, they have a road map, so to speak, that they are working from, but to really make the music come alive they have to be listening to each other and looking at each other, paying attention to the moment…connecting…as if they were having a conversation with a friend. They feed off of one another. One player will finish the other player’s thought. The same connection must be present between the dancer and the musician. For example, if the drummer is really paying attention to what the dancer is doing he has the ability to give an extra accent to a bump or the guitar player can play a really dirty slide when she grinds. Using live musicians give us the freedom to turn the volume up on these “oh so special” accents.
Sean custom arranges all of the music for every single show. We are not just simply doing what the recording is doing. We can bring the finer details more forward; the dancer can make special requests regarding her needs for the vision of the act. Dancing to canned music, while it’s nice for precise tempo etc. can come across as robotic or too precise. In my opinion, because we as dancers have to listen to where the band is going, it forces us to be more present with the audience. They will always be directly affected by the connection between players and dancers on stage. It’s as if the audience lives vicariously through the band. They always go wild when a spontaneous interaction or flirt happens between dancer and band member; again it’s the connection in the moment that gets them, not the perfectly executed choreography.
BSP: Can you tell me a little about how you came to curate this “Goddess” themed show, its cast, and how Jo came to be involved?
Madison: As for the cast, we spent our first season working through a group of dancers that we were interested in working with. In our second season we decided to form a company. Our three principals include myself (Madison Moone), The Infamous Nina Nightshade (Bergamot Burlesque) and Itty Bitty Bang Bang (Rose City Shimmy). Our stage kittens include Hyacinth Lee and Lady Loaded Guns, both of whom have been with us for over two seasons. And last but certainly not least, Vincent Drambuie is our emcee. Vincent has been on board since the very first show and really acts as the glue. His sense of comedic timing is classic yet fresh. He reminds me of a cross between Jackie Gleason and Conan O’Brien.
As for the “Goddess” theme, I had the idea several years ago. I was just wrapping up my stint producing the solo show and just coming on board to produce Big Time! Burlesque. I may have even pitched it at the first table meeting, I can’t remember. But at any rate, the moment wasn’t right for it; other ideas were really taking off so I filed it away, with the hope that we could revisit it again. When we got the Drambuie sponsorship this fall, we knew we wanted to take the opportunity to develop new shows and bring in headliners. As I was looking at what the company already had existing in the rep, it seemed like the perfect time to develop it. Nina Nightshade had created an exquisite tribute to Cleopatra for a previous show and Itty Bitty Bang Bang has a luscious Jungle Goddess number involving a giant tiger. I was in the process of developing a Golden Goddess act and a tribute to Shakti the Hindu Goddess. The show was already in process, we really only needed to develop a few more pieces.
As for Jo Weldon’s involvement, we have been in dialog with her since last summer about coming to do a show. Of course, since Jo is in such high demand and our show schedule is relatively strict, we were having a difficult time nailing down a date for her to come out. When it came time to book the headliner for La Femme Céleste, we hadn’t talked to Jo in a while. Nina suggested we try Jo again and sure enough she had that date open. At the beginning of the year we had talked about how wonderful it would be to get her for this show, she’s the ultimate goddess! We just weren’t sure if the timing would work out. We are all bursting at the seams about her coming out; she really is perfect for this show!
Orchestre L’Pow! & Drambuie Present
Big Time! Burlesque
La Femme Céleste
starring Jo Weldon
May, 4th 2013
722 East Burnside Street, Portland, OR
Doors 7:00pm / Show 8:00pm / 21+
Tickets on sale now:
Speaking of Orchestre L’Pow, there always seems to be less than six degrees of separation when it comes to Portland and Seattle: Paula the Swedish Housewife was in an early incarnation of the band, which led to their prominent feature in the 2008 documentary A Wink and a Smile, in which Loren Dutton and Dain Hudson wrote some original music for the film.
In case you haven’t heard, A Wink and a Smile director Deirdre Timmons is starting those big wheels of pre-production turning for her next film: KINGS. The movie will be a fictitious romp following a group of male performers vying for the title “King of Boylesque”. Recently Portland’s Russell Bruner appeared at what functioned as something of a kickoff show for the film in KINGS: A Boylesque Extravaganza at the Triple Door. You can catch footage of Russell from that show alongside boylesque titans Waxie Moon, Captain Kidd, Evil Hate Monkey, and the Stage Door Johnnies in the teaser video over HERE.
You’ve heard the saying it takes a village…well it takes a village, a dedicated burlesque community, and a whole bunch of ‘cheddar’ to make a film. Deirdre needs our help to get this movie’s engines started- please get on board early and make a donation that will help to immortalize this über-exciting time in boylesque history. Support KINGS HERE.