By Mike Kovac. Directed by Dawn Ewen. A Concrete Vertigo Production. At Performance Works on Saturday, August 16. Continues until August 29
“Where be the titties?”
Vixens of Wonderland throws that age-old question out midway through Act 1 in a nice bit of teasing metacommentary from its femme-fatale Greek chorus. What’s a Greek chorus doing in a sexed-up twist on the Lewis Carroll classic? Who cares. There are laughs, song-and-dance numbers, naked bottoms to behold, plus a human caterpillar comprised of six beautiful belly dancers.
From its opening number, a frenetic and engaging take on Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train”, Vixens establishes its chaotic, pulsating, anything-goes setting. It doesn’t abolish the Wonderland of our childhood—a clever move by writer Mike Kovac—thereby creating a significant, scintillating tension between the familiar story and this decidedly more adult S & M version.
Emily Kapahi takes a little while to find her groove as Alice, but she’s a compelling presence and effortlessly sexy. Ryan Bolton has a lot of fun as the White Rabbit, and boasts some great comedic instincts. He’s also unafraid of ball gags and white lycra tights, a winning combination in this Wonderland. Sean Parsons is a fierce force as the King of Hearts, a tyrant whose rigid conformity hides not-so-secret subversive desires, which pushes Alice into her role as liberator of Wonderland.
This isn’t Concrete Vertigo’s first stab at the hybrid beast that is a full-scale, burlesque-meets-musical production, but it is its most ambitious. Mostly, that inspires the company to new creative heights, but sometimes the strain of that ambition shows. Vixens is at least 20 minutes too long, and the momentum sags in places, sapping the show of some of its fluid mania.
Another quibble: the majority of the songs are sung by the capable cast, but the big Lady Gaga number that follows the King of Hearts’ reckoning is a lip-synch. The climax of a musical—even one that includes tassels glued to buttocks, sensual flogging, and an unexpected bathtub tango for two—should be sung. Even if it was meant as a nod to the King’s drag-queen alter ego, I still wanted to hear Parsons belt it out.
The supporting cast is wholly delightful, a welcome assortment of body types and talents. Among the standouts: Jacqueline Breakwell as the Cheshire Cat, who serves up a steamy, bluesy number that makes the audience sweat, and Megan Solis, whose quirky charm seems to leap off the stage. Director Dawn Ewen’s choreography is also a remarkable feat of sexy moves, impressive acrobatics, and carefully executed disrobing.
Here be the titties and oh, so much more.