Singer Quinn Lemley said she hoped to take her audience on a journey during her performance of Burlesque to Broadway at Nanaimo’s Port Theatre.
Lemley says she encourages her audiences to dress up. She says women came dressed in sequins and boas at a past performance in a venue with an army base nearby.
“There were these beautiful women there, and they said ‘thank you, you gave us a reason to dress up,’” Lemley says. “It was a reason to celebrate themselves.”
Many people from the Nanaimo audience on Oct. 13 also dressed up for the occasion. Local burlesque performers Brandi Blaise and Lexis Cummings wore pink wigs and false eyelashes. They said they were looking forward to a good show.
“I hope for lots of scantily clad women,” Cummings says.
Katherine Maldoner and Tracy Denbicki said they were expecting fun and entertainment. Maldoner said she read about the performance from a pamplet in a coffee shop, while Denbicki found out about it from the Port Theatre’s facebook page. Maldoner said she was looking forward to the historical side of the performance.
“We’re old enough to remember the likes of Mae West and Gypsy Rose Lee,” Maldoner says.
Burlesque to Broadway features choreography, costumes, and musical numbers that show the progress of burlesque through time. The opening number is “Let Me Entertain You,” while one of the last songs is Sonny and Cher’s “Bang Bang.”
Lemley previously starred in the production The Heat Is On as Rita Hayworth.
“We were riffing ideas in Palm Springs after The Heat Is On,” Lemley says of the brainstorming process for Burlesque to Broadway.
She said she did a tribute to Gilda in The Heat Is On, and was inspired to create a performance that featured burlesque.
“The glove peel was so provocative,” Lemley says. “So I started reading about Sally Rand, Gypsy Rose Lee, and Fanny Brice.”
Lemley said her fascination with past icons came from her childhood in Indiana, where she lived near her grandmother. During the performance, Lemley shares anecdotes from her childhood in between songs.
“[My grandmother] was a very sophisticated woman,” Lemley says. “She watched old movies and listened to old music […] I combined my own path with the music.”
Lemley said it took three years for the performance to go from conception to the stage. She worked with Tony-award winning director Joe Hardy. Lemley wrote the story in Burlesque to Broadway and three of the songs. Lemley has released five music albums and says she is foremost a singer.
“I’m a singer first, but you can’t be a singer without acting, because you’re telling story,” Lemley says. “I want to bring my audience along for this story.”
Because of this, Lemley said it was easy for her to combine the singing, acting, and dancing in Burlesque to Broadway. The performance also includes a tribute to burlesque humour, with jokes in the style of Fanny Brice.
“It’s fun to let down your corny side,” Lemley says.
Lemley says she even asks for audience participation, “if you’re good, or, if you’re bad!”
More information about the performance is available at <www.burlesquetobroadway.com>. The schedule for other performances part of the Spotlight Series at Nanaimo’s Port Theatre can be found at <www.porttheatre.com>.