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Bringing Down the House (of Thee Unholy)

Photo by Michael Doucett

 

Blend burlesque with a rock show and you get House of Thee Unholy, a lush, extravagant production oozing with sexuality and inhibitions foregone. This ultimate artistic remix, running through the weekend at the Triple Door, combines an all-star cast that steps away from cutesy, bubble gum burlesque shows to put forth something a little darker, a little more forbidden and a lot more adult.

Devised by creative director Paula Sjunneson of PaulaNowEvent (formerly The Swedish Housewife), House of Thee Unholy features a 21-person ensemble venturing through various elements of the '70s, from psychedelic defy-your-parents acid-dropping teens to the over-the-top, glitter and shine of the glam rock scene. Set to Led Zeppelin-heavy live music (with singers Sarah Rudinoff and Jen Ayers nailing Robert Plant’s nuances), the production is pumping with energy, and would be worth seeing just for the music alone.

But oh, the dancing. With choreography (and performance) by Douglass Ridings, Lily Verlaine, Waxie Moon and others, the dancing is at the highest level of professionalism, but refreshingly doesn’t take itself too seriously. Comic relief is sprinkled throughout, making moments that veer into the make-you-slightly-uncomfortable territory laugh-worthy. Waxie Moon reaching into his skin-tight skivvies to pantomime masturbation comes to a roaring end when he “finishes” with an explosion of pink glitter. One standout was Lily Verlaine’s sensual number set to Zeppelin’s oh-so-sexy Kashmir. Her control and balletic grace match the music and she becomes hypnotic as her Indian-inspired costume comes off to reveal little underneath.

Yes there are a lot of jeweled pasties and thong underwear—it wouldn’t be a burlesque show without them—but the costumes over them are fanciful and beautifully constructed as well. In the span of 90 minutes the audience gets everything from hooded Druids to attacking Vikings, and there is even a number with bumblebees, which might be a cultural reference I missed due to my age. There is the classic French maid who cleans up in between each scene, but she shows a healthy dose of attitude, an edge that elevates her into a three-dimensional character.

House of Thee Unholy is not your typical 1940s pinup girl show. It encapsulates the decadence and excess of the '70s, a decade where culture, music, art were transforming and issues such as gender identity and equality were coming to a head…much like they are today.

House of Thee Unholy runs through March 15 with two showings a night. Tickets here.

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