by Matt Ritchey
There are lots of burlesque companies in Los Angeles. Some are amateur affairs showing up every once in a while, some are pros who do fun themed shows, some are traveling productions known the world over.
But none of them are Cherry Poppins Productions.
Cherry Poppins Burlesque has been around for several years, but they’ve grown from a fun amateur affair into a powerhouse company of lewd storytelling, parody, comedy, jaw-dropping theatrics, and live vocal and musical performances that are second to none. They’ve garnered Ovation nominations, were voted “Sexiest Burlesque of 2016” by LA Weekly, and have won several Hollywood Fringe Awards including “Top of Fringe” for their incredible production of Shakeslesque (To Thine Own Cherry Be True), a tour-de-force (and I swear I don’t use that phrase very often) of comedy, mistaken identities, death, love, betrayal, and sparkletitties.
Co-founders Allison Miller and Sarah Haworth Hodges (who are also deeply involved in the local Los Angeles film and theatre scene) have built CPC Productions (of which Cherry Poppins is the flagship) into something truly impressive, from renting local spaces, to having a residency and running the Fringe venue for the Three Clubs bar.
But their re-staging of Harry Poppins and the Knock Shop of Secrets last week at The Globe Theatre downtown was a next-level event. The Potter-parody is a well-conceived and fun story covering the entire Potter series arc but with burlesque character versions such as Sexyass Snape, Ron Squeeze-Me, Himione (the male drag version), and of course Harry’s mentor Humblewhore and her arch nemesis, She-Who-Can’t-Be-Tamed: Voldewhore.
It’s not a kid’s show.
But it’s incredible. The Globe Theatre’s gorgeous architecture and state-of-the-art lighting and video systems add a look and feel to Cherry that is truly the missing piece from the company. This is a powerhouse of performers who deserve a space as impressive as they are and with The Globe, they’ve found it.
The show incorporates a simply unreal aerial act by Shannon Glasgow (as Voldewhore) to Everybody Wants To Rule The World that… there really are no words – the acrobatics she accomplished on that ring are better than performances I’ve seen at Cirque du Soliel.
If there was a quibble(r) to be had, it’s that the sound system muddied the vocals in the large space. The Cherries all have amazing voices and it’s a shame that the only drawback to the entire evening was a minor technical issue. The band, on the other hand, was, as always, on point, jamming through everything from Dream On and Lady Marmalade to Zou Bisou Bisou and Bohemian Rhapsody. The classic burlesque tropes are always on display with the Poppins (including pulling audience members onto the stage and throwing glitter at the audience), but there’s always more in the shows, as the productions either follow the storylines of the source material (Scream, Clue, The Craft) or create new stories from familiar themes (Disney, Superheroes). The producer’s and performer’s theatre training, as well as dance and singing backgrounds, help give Harry Poppins more than just some one-liner jokes in between sexy stripteases and bring real meaning to some of the interstitial scenes. These are shows worthy of Las Vegas and somebody should start paying attention.
Hopefully, that will happen with the next show, a Game of Thrones parody set for this May (location TBD).
Photo (above) by Daniel J. Sliwa photography: A Whole New World
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