Mer Weinhold is an Ottawa-dwelling writer, editor, book reviewer, and costuming enthusiast. You can follow them on Twitter.
Watching The Simpsons was a staple of my youth. Back when broadcast TV existed, we got two syndicated episodes every weekday evening on CFMT and CityTV (three episodes if one of my siblings climbed on the roof and wiggled the antenna until Global came in). These days, burlesque shows are a staple of my “let’s go out tonight” plans — always a variety of creative performances set to a range of music. On Valentine’s Day weekend, we’ll find out if these two great things are great together at I Choo Choo Choose Burlesque.
Despite Ottawa being home to many burlesque troupes, some going back ten years, many of us haven’t been to a burlesque show before. Burlesque and stripping share a common history in vaudeville, though burlesque fell out of fashion in the 1970s and didn’t start to return until the 1990s — and then mostly in large cities with vibrant arts scenes. Nowadays, there’s been a huge resurgence in popularity and one can enjoy watching people take off their clothes with great artistry and skill at a number of regular burlesque shows in Ottawa.
Themed shows add another dimension, where watching beloved characters come to life and admiring the costumes enhances the experience. Diehard Simpsons fans may be skeptical of how well cartoon comedy and burlesque mix. But if you, like Reverend Lovejoy, are easily scandalized, never fear — Choo Choo Choose features comedy, cabaret, and more in addition to striptease. Because of this variety, seasoned burlesque-goers will also enjoy the range of talents on display.
The mastermind and organizer behind this event, Helvetica Bold is an international burlesque performer, activist, public speaker, and artist recognizable to most people familiar with the Ottawa burlesque scene. They’ve wanted to do a Simpsons show for years, ever since seeing the episode with the Maison Derrière (the burlesque house that Bart briefly works at), and in just a few days that dream comes true at Club SAW.
“The Simpsons is a widely-known, widely-loved piece of pop culture for people from Gen Y and Gen X all the way through to Millennials,” says Bold. “It was among the first of a modern style of comedy that pushed boundaries and commented on social dynamics. Having both openly gay and openly church-going characters participating in the same storylines was a big deal in the 90s, and we’ve come to know and love them all.”
The cast and crew were excited about auditioning, and everyone’s passionate about the upcoming shows.
Performing as animated characters involves special challenges, though.
“The hair is the most challenging, especially for the Simpsons family. It’s quite difficult to do properly. No one is doing a perfect cosplay — no body paint — but you’ll be able to recognize the characters.”
There promises to be quite a variety of characters in attendance. Choo Choo Choose is not merely a show, but a full-blown experience, featuring Groundskeeper Willie as a stagehand, Troy McClure as the MC, Moe Szyslak tending bar (with themed drinks!), and over a dozen performers in full costume, as well as any audience members who decide to dress up.
Bold is a fan of the idea. “I hope people dress up! I’d love to see a Marge-off. We have a Marge in the show, if we had one in the audience too, that would be amazing.”
Restaurants and movie theatres are crowded on Valentine’s Day, and when the option of a unique and unforgettable live show comes along, it’s hard to resist. Whether you’re flying solo or looking for something fun to do as a couple, I Choo Choo Choose Burlesque promises to be a groin-grabbingly good time.
Apartment613 has two tickets to give away to the performance on Sunday Feb 14, 2016. To enter, send an email to email@example.com with the subject header “Choose Burlesque”. A winner will be selected by random draw at noon on Friday, Feb 12.
I Choo Choo Choose Burlesque is at Club SAW (67 Nicholas Street) on Valentine’s Day weekend. Shows Saturday, February 13th at 7pm (doors at 6pm), February 13th at 10pm (doors at 9pm), and Sunday, February 14th at 9pm (doors at 8pm). Tickets available on Eventbrite.