I finally got to see the show last night after three weeks, and let me tell you, it was worth the wait. Almost twenty four hours later and I’m still excited. Don’t worry about spoilers from this review, the last thing I want to do is give anything away!
Burlesque is right in the title of SHINE: A Burlesque Musical, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that this classy art of stage erotica takes a spotlight role in the show. Choreographed by the famed Inga Ingenue and Ruby Mimosa, each number will stay with you long after the final bow. Seven stars of Seattle burlesque bring their talents and beauty to the show. Burlesque is so often a solo medium that watching so many performers together in the big group numbers is fascinating. While classic shows like those put on by the Pink Door or the Jewel Box are always worth seeing, SHINE is one of the few times you’ll get to see so much talent on stage at once.
I also have to give recognition to the cast members of SHINE who are not burlesque performers outside of the show. They’ve learned well from the experts, especially Ms. Adra Boo, who’s solo number will leave you unable to do anything but scream for more.
Beyond the burlesque, SHINE has all the elements of a classic musical as well.
The characters are an interesting bunch. While many are clearly satirical, a business man named Richard Suit and the like, each has quirks and flaws that make them feel more real. Balancing comedy against drama is a difficult task. In the quest for laughs, many shows make their characters so absurd that the audience cannot become invested in them. SHINE handily avoids this pitfall, keeping the characters grounded enough that the audience can care about their problems and want them to succeed. I think the credit here is split between well written dialog and good stage presence from the actors.
The plot is relatively straightforward, which I feel is a strength in this instance. It allows the production to focus on presentation and satire without worrying about losing the audience in an overly complex narrative. Speaking of satire, SHINE absolutely loves to poke fun at the established paradigms of musical theater. As co-creator John Woods put it: the word burlesque originally meant â€œto satire.â€ With jokes about the stagnant, repetitive, and prejudice nature of Broadway theater, SHINE takes burlesque back to it’s roots.
And of course there’s the make or break aspect of any musical, the music itself. No amount of witty banter or pretty dancers will save a show with bad songs. Fortunately, despite some minor technical problems, SHINE’s music passes the bar and cuts the mustard, and earns bonus points for lending itself extremely well to choreography. The performer’s singing talents are well supported, with just enough synthetic backup to enhance their sound without overpowering it.