BWW Reviews: IVY PAIGE'S SCANDALOUS, Leicester Square Theatre, December 30 2012
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by Gary Naylor
In the year of "Fifty Shades of Grey", it's hardly any wonder that burlesque's highly stylised quasi-erotic showgirlship is growing in popularity. Ivy Paige's Scandalous (back at the Leicester Square Theatre on 26 January) showcases the format's strengths and weaknesses. As with panto (which burlesque resembles closely at times), you have to check your misgivings at the door and roll with it.
Ivy Paige - all Babs Windsor voice and cleavage from Carry On Camping - is the cockney madam of a mid-18th century whorehouse in Olde London Towne. Pursued by the libidinous libertine, the Marquis of Gray, to whom she is in debt, she works her working girls hard (but with a heart of gold, natch) before she is flung into prison. Of course, she "knows" the judge and effects her release before confronting the (by now) panto villain, Gray.
The wafer-thin story isn't really enough to sustain a two hour show and stops too suddenly for a somewhat superfluous, if funny, knife-throwing entr'acte. But it provides reason enough for three artful stripteases (which don't really reveal much more than you'd see out in Leicester Square when the nightclubs close for the night) and for a lot of very beautiful gowns and corsetry to be worn very beautifully.
There's a bit of banter with the audience, and Ms Paige made some very good ad libs that were too quick for some in stalls, but the highlight of the evening is the music, played with great skill by Pete Saunders at the grand piano and sung with real feeling by Ms Paige. Best of an eclectic mix, was a torch song rendition of Jimmy Somerville's Smalltown Boy - but its serious tone (as Ms Paige recounts how her trade went from fruit market to meat market) didn't really fit the mood, so there was no follow-up (say "Wherever I lay my hat" for example).
With talented and funny support singers (Emma Cooper, Chloe Hunter, Emma Mitchell) and possessed of a lightening wit, one wonders why Ms Paige doesn't lose the labouring plot and the teases and the concentrate on the singing and the banter. That would make for a fine evening of cabaret that might have broader appeal - no matter how broad the jokes!