Chocolate City Burlesque and Cabaret (CCBC) is a troupe that excels at putting on the most sensational burlesque shows it can on D.C. stages. The troupe did just that in their third annual Black Friday show at GALA Hispanic Theatre last night.
Led by CCBC Co-Founder and burlesque impresario Ché Monique (who also produced the Capital Fringe Festival show CAKE! last summer, which was about her real-life decision to jump out of a cake during a show), Black Friday included a spectacular lineup, including special guest burlesque legend, Toni Elling (aka the Satin Doll, Duke Ellington’s Muse, who has been in the business since the early 1960s) and guest performers Zou Zou the Hooping Sensation and Chicava Honeychild (proprietress and creative director of New York’s Brown Girls Burlesque). An interactive experience with opportunities for audience participation and a dance break at intermission, Black Friday was an amazing display of sultriness with a cast that was a study in pulchritude.
During a pre-show hosted by poet and Guest Emcee Pages Matam (Director of Events at Busboys and Poets and a published author), the Chocolate City Kitties (Atiya Haynes, Aqila Benjamin, and Nebula Reign) gogo danced impressively on the stage, which gave way to audience participation (lip-syncing anyone?) contests which saw Matam give away various goodies, from local vendors, to audience members.
The evening included unforgettable names and unforgettable performances by DC’s “legitimate lovechild”, the “Chocolate City Titty herself,”, GiGi Holliday; Bunny Vicious, the “Silly Rabbit with the Naughty Habits”; Fox E. Martin a “true chameleon” on stage; Ms. Angel, “putting the Cabaret in Chocolate City Burlesque and Cabaret”; Hell O’Kitty, the “Sweetest Little Pussy in Town”; Eva Mystique, “Two Parts Spellbinding, One Part Vixen”; and Dainty Dandridge (a co-founder of CCBC), the “Showgirl that makes you say,’Oh Grrrl.’”
Throughout Black Friday, Elling, who was reportedly the inspiration for late jazz great Duke Ellington’s song “Satin Doll”, helped Monique introduce many of the acts, the first of which was named “Shug’s Night” by O’Kitty. Dressed like The The Color Purple character Shug Avery, in a red-sequin 20’s flapper dress, O’Kitty’s moved in a frenetic, eye-catching manner. The act ended with the dress on the stage, and the completely entertained audience cheering.
Holliday’s “Wild Woman” evoked the great Josephine Baker, with Holliday’s foot-stomping, arm waving moves. Holliday, one of the first burlesque performers in 60 years to perform at the historic Howard Theatre, brought a down-home sexiness to her act.
Fire and gyrations highlighted Zou’s “The Hooping Sensation,” which featured her twisting inside a hula-hoop that was literally on fire. Zou (aka Shavaun) has performed with the Guinness World Record holding hula hoop troupe, Marawa’s Majorettes in London. After Zou’s experiment with pyrotechnics, the incomparable Martin took the stage, and showed off graceful moves, and lovely feather fans in her act, “Bird of Paradise.” Martin was an avian beauty indeed as she gracefully moved her slight figure about the stage.
Angel, who has been with CCBC since its 2013 inception, knocked her first solo performance with the troupe out of the park in “Grown & Sexy.” Said Monique, “She’s [Angel] has been all up and down this stage. She gives it her all!” Looking sensuously domineering in her outfit, including a pink feather boa, Angel’s act was one of the best in the show.
“The Purple One” evoked the late musical great Prince. As that singer’s song “Controversy” played, Vicious looked through various papers as if she was reading about controversies about herself. From there, Vicious took burlesque to a risqué path, that had the audience raising a joyous cackling cacophony.
After an intermission that saw audience members allowed on stage to dance and Elling’s impromptu glove-peeling workshop\competition, the show moved on with “Chocolate City Love”, which was choreographed by Holliday, and danced by Angel and Holliday, with singing accompaniment by Dandridge (who sang Neo-Soul singer Jill Scott’s “It’s Love”); the number featured the ladies’ resplendent white mini-dresses and pearls. The number was one of the highlights of the show.
Martin returned, this time to do some gender-bending in a male dress suit and fake mustache, in “Mr. Love You Down”, to the tune of “Let Me Love You Down” by 80’s R&B group Ready for the World. The racy number ended with some imaginative moves by Martin that reminded me of psychologist Sigmund Freud’s theory of penis envy.
After that act, Monique had time to organize and judge a risqué pudding eating contest, featuring audience-contestants. Next up was the number “Jezebel” by Honeychild, which featured Honeychild’s mature sensuality. “You can learn more about her [Honeychild], if you have a computer,” said the old-school Elling, to a smattering of laughter about the ubiquitousness of PCs and smartphones.
The show finished with Mystique’s “Eva Doll,” danced to the tune of 60’s singer Lesley Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me.” Mystique was simply magnificent in her red dress and marvelous moves. All the dancers were spectacular in their own way, creating an incomparable whole.
Chocolate City Burlesque’s Black Friday show was sensuous, sexy, and sensational!
Running Time: Three hours, with a 15-minute intermission.
Chocolate City Burlesque and Cabaret performed for one night only at the GALA Hispanic Theatre – 3333 14th Street, NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets for future events at GALA, call (202) 234-7174, or purchase them online.
Tonight at 8 PM at GALA Hispanic Theatre: Chocolate City Burlesque and Cabaret Presents the Third Annual ‘Black Friday’ by Ché Monique.
Review #2: Chocolate City Burlesque’s Third Annual ‘Black Friday’ by Ramona Harper.