At first glance, you can’t tell the stage name from the screen name: Roxi D’Lite stars as Bourbon Sue.
She’s supported by Kiki Kaboom as Bombshell Belle – and many more top international burlesque stars who meld their stage personas with film roles in Calgary director Jonathan Joffe’s first feature-length film, Burlesque Assassins.
“If you picture what you think a movie called Burlesque Assassins would be, that’s what we strive to be,” Joffe tells me in a telephone interview. “It’s a group of sexy burlesque performers turned super-spies on a mission to save the world from a trio of Cold War villains. It’s sort of Charlie’s Angels meets Inglorious Basterds.”
Set in 1950s Cold War Medicine Hat, Alberta, Heroine Bourbon Sue is recruited into a league of sexy of stage performers who race against the clock to track down the Nazi Atomic Death Ray, lest it fall under communist control.
Sorry, back up a bit. International burlesque stars, Cold War spies – and Medicine Hat, Alberta?
“The short answer is, it’s a ridiculous film,” Joffe tells me. “It’s burlesque spies taking on the clone of Hitler taking and Mussolini junior. At the point at which you’re doing that, why do you need to set it in New York? Why can’t you set it somewhere fun?”
Sexy fun is the focus of the film – not the extreme violence of a Tarantino flik. “There’s a certain crossover of sensibility,” he said. “Except where Tarantino uses blood, I use breasts. Where he used over-the-top spectacle of violence, I’ve got an over-the-top spectacle of sexiness.”
The film was actually made in Calgary, where Joffe brought in a cast of burlesque stars, some who starred in the core cast, while others took part in performances in the many cabaret scenes. They include Koko La Douce, Kitten Deville, Scarlett Martini, Kellita, Xarah Von Den Velienregan, Renea Le Roux, Amber Ray and more.
“I love the art form and … I love the community,” Joffe said of the burlesque scene, which he stumbled into a few years back.
Revelstoke has witnessed several burlesque shows in the past few years, and the burlesque revival has been ongoing for over a decade.
“There was a real boom as it became rediscovered city by city,” Joffe explains. While it may be flagging in one town, the scene-based art form is taking off in another, creating a continuity.
The film has also made a name for itself since it was released earlier this year for its unique grassroots promotional tour. They’ve gone city to city to taking some of the cast members, melding live stage performances with a screening of the film. They tie in with other promotions for a fun, adult night out.
They’ve hit major Canadian centres and will be off to Europe in the future.
The Nov. 3 show at the Roxy Theatre in Revelstoke will include some performers. Details weren’t 100 per cent nailed down by press time, but organizer and Roxy owner Carl Rankin was hoping to bring in star Carrie Schiffler and other burlesque performers.
“There’s 5,000 indie films out there. Why should this one stand out? I think it’s a great strategy,” Joffe said of his road show. “It seems to be a winner.”
He’s also found kindred spirits in the roller derby community, who have been instrumental in the promotional tour. “The roller derby community is this great, common sense of style that we have, and common sense of fun – we really appreciate the sport,” he said.
The Revelstoke Derailers will be on hand to help with the show.
Roxy owner Carl Rankin has caught the burlesque bug like Joffe, and plans more shows in the future. The neon and flashing lights of the historic theatre make the Roxy a great venue for the shows. Rankin says he’s eyeing renovations for an old dressing room behind the stage and is exploring monthly burlesque shows.
“It’s just something that I’ve been waiting for to really pull a lot of local groups together that’s exciting and fun and adult-oriented,” Rankin said. “I really think it’s going to sell out.”
Some of the proceeds of the Saturday, Nov. 3, 8 p.m. live show and screening of Burlesque Assassins at the Roxy Theatre will benefit the Community Connections Revelstoke Food Bank. Tickets ($20) available at Wearabouts, Roxy Theatre and the Regent Inn.