"I want the audience to feel like they've discovered this exclusive, decadent, secret club that nobody really knows about. Like a dirty little secret!"
After the success of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang the popular burlesque show, Stage Door Johnny is bringing Stafford a new and exciting show, with that little bit of glamor we all want for a Saturday night, Très Très Cabaret! The show has been carefully planned to suit a variety of audiences and so we can expect to be carried through a range of different acts throughout the evening. With tickets flying out of the box office and a limited amount of seats left,it is set to be one of our most exciting events and Johnny is here to tell us more.
Hi Johnny, so can we start with how your performing career began?
I've been involved in theatre since the age of about 15 - which is relatively late compared to some - when I joined the Youth Theatre at the Prince of Wales Theatre in Cannock. I then went on to do a degree with Theatre and Performance and now have a Masters in that same subject.
How did this then lead onto burlesque shows for you?
|Photo by Becky Ryan Photography|
From then on, I started to look for more events, and it tends to snowball: the more events you go to, the more events you hear about.
Is there anyone in the industry who particularly inspired you to begin with?
At that time there wasn't really much happening in the Midlands, and then (circa 2007) I heard of a new night called The Candybox which was holding a "St Valentine's Day Mascara" (rather than massacre) night and a friend and I went along. This night was a massive revelation, and is now legendary within the burlesque community world wide, as they had a live band playing the music with top quality performers from around the globe. They also had a resident singer - a certain Imelda May, who is now enjoying global success of her own. I'm hugely indebted to The Candybox for bringing a quality show to the Midlands at that time, and they're really responsible for developing audiences for this art from in our region. In fact, I first saw Missy Malone at The Candybox, and since then I've booked her several times, and she's appearing at the first Très Très Cabaret.
Then, in late 2008, over a conversation with friends, we decided to put on our own night in Lichfield. So we hired a room at The George Hotel, brought in some lighting and a sound system and launched our production company; Kiss Kiss Bang Bang with the first show called "From Russia With Love" in early 2009. I don't think the hotel, or Lichfield knew quite what had hit them!
Can you tell us a little bit about how you've developed the story of Très Très Cabaret?
There isn't really a story per se; the format of the evening has been well planned though, to make sure we have a variety of acts on stage. The evening is split into three acts, the first act is a variety of short acts, the second will be one longer set from a performer, and the final act is a return to the variety acts. When programming the show, I ensure there is a wide variety of acts on stage, from classic burlesque routines, to comedy and variety acts.
I basically want the audience to feel like they've discovered this exclusive, decadent, secret club that nobody really knows about. Like a dirty little secret!
For those who will recognise Stage Door Johnny from your previous show Kiss Kiss Bang Bang can we expect to see any similarities between the two shows?
Naturally there will be some similarities, as it's curated by a member from the same team; Stage Door Johnny will no doubt be as ridiculous and self-deprecating as ever, and the acts are going to be of the same high quality that our audiences have grown to expect. However, each Kiss Kiss Bang Bang night had it's own theme, and our audiences would really get into the spirit of things and wear the most amazing costumes I've ever seen. Whereas Très Très Cabaret doesn't have a theme for the evening other than decadence, delight and perhaps a touch of debauchery!
Can you tell me one of your main highlights from working in the burlesque industry?
There are many perks to the job, the main one being that you get to work with such a wide range of performers and promoters all of whom are extremely passionate about what they do, and their enthusiasm is infectious. You also get to see things you never thought you'd see in your entire lifetime, truly truly innovative performances, and making great friends along the way.
What do you think are the key elements needed to deliver a great show?
I think the key is knowing your audience, knowing what's best for the show, and knowing what performers are out there by going to other great shows and seeing it live. I never think video does burlesque and cabaret justice, as so much relies on the atmosphere of the room. Obviously, as this is the first Très Très Cabaret the audience are a bit of an unknown quantity, but a good host will quickly develop a rapport with the audience, get them eating out of the palm of their hand, and then be able to whip them into a frenzy! The acts themselves are obviously integral, and I look for acts that have some elements of surprise. My particular favourite experience is just when you think an act couldn't get any better, something else happens to blow you away.
Très Très Cabaret is very close to selling out, why do you think this style of show is so popular?
Historically, in times of austerity and depression the burlesque and cabaret scene has a resurgence, and I think it's because audiences want a reason to get glammed up and have an extravagant night out and a bit of a splurge, when they might be economising in other areas. It's the modern day Cinderella story: we spend our lives in the daily grind of jobs and running households, but for one night, you get to go out in a stunning outfit and experience things you've never imagined. I guess that makes me your personal fairy godmother! So put your cares aside for one night and let your hair down!
What other projects alongside Très Très Cabaret are you juggling at the moment?
Well, I too have a day job to keep the wolf from the door, and I work as a freelance director and have a number of shows in production at the moment for performances in 2014. Audience members have previously said that there is a real sense of theatre at the shows I curate, and I guess it's my experience in that field that I inherently bring to the show. I also gig as a host and a performer at other nights and have a couple of dates booked for the coming months.
Finally, can we expect anymore shows from you in the near future?
Here's hoping! I'm really pleased that the first event has sold so well, and hopefully audiences will be so thrilled that they'll want to come back. One thing is for sure, I guarantee they're going to be talking about the show for a good while afterwards.