When Burgundy Brixx hosts a cabaret, she wants it to be like a kids’ birthday party for grownups.
There needs to be surprise. Magic. Wonder. Joy.
“If you’re going to get people away from their computers and off their devices for 90 minutes, you need to be as engaging as possible, as surprising as possible,” she said. “You need to surprise and delight them.”
Brixx (a.k.a. Kyrst Hogan) is a singer-dancer-actor-comedienne most widely known in Vancouver for her work as a neo-burlesque artist and producer with her company, Kitty Nights. Now she’s putting her performance talents and production skills to work on a new series of performances at New Westminster’s Columbia Theatre.
The Rock & Roll Carnival nights will feature live musical tributes to a variety of iconic artists. The series launched Sept. 20 with a Pink Floyd night and continues on Friday, Oct. 18 with a Halloween-themed night billed as Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps).
Every show is hosted by Brixx and backed by the Hot & Heavy Band, led by Brixx’ husband Doug Thomas (as his show alter-ego, the Purrrfessor). She’s also assembled a collective of performers from various backgrounds – dance, burlesque, musical theatre, even a hula hoop artist – who offer up their talents as the Rock & Roll Carnies, along with special variety guests with unique performance skills. That means you can expect to see jugglers, magicians, a stilt walker – “I love people who do things I can’t do,” Brixx said with a laugh.
All the shows take place against a big-screen backdrop with motion graphics.
Though the shows aren’t first and foremost about burlesque, Brixx says her burlesque sensibility carries over into everything she produces.
“Cabaret has a burlesque element in it inherently,” Brixx said, noting that cabaret shares some of burlesque’s “renegade” attitude. “It’s able to mirror society and poke fun at things.”
Her shows draw inspiration from “Spiegeltent” – Dutch for mirror-tent – shows, which literally take place in a mirrored tent, with the audience sitting cabaret-style around the stage. Ever since Brixx first encountered a Spiegeltent show when she was working in New York City 15 years ago, she’s wanted to stage one of her own.
She hasn’t exactly found a mirrored tent for her Rock & Roll Carnival nights, but she loves the ambience of the Columbia Theatre. She’s thrilled the theatre approached her about staging cabaret shows as part of its ongoing efforts to revitalize the nightlife of downtown New Westminster.
“I love the space. It’s really cool,” she said, noting that its cabaret-style seating allows them to present their shows in that same relaxed atmosphere that a Spiegeltent brings.
“We come off the stage a lot in the cabaret shows to perform among the audience, to break that ‘fourth wall’ even further,” she said, adding with a laugh, “I like to mess with people a little bit.”
The Oct. 18 show, being a Halloween-themed night, will feature spooky classics and dark rock favourites by such artists as Alice Cooper and the Cramps, plus, of course, a Rocky Horror section – “What would Halloween be without Rocky Horror?”
The next show, on Saturday, Nov. 9, will feature a tribute to the B-52s.
“I love that style,” Brixx said. “I love camp. I love campiness, camp culture.”
A future show will be a David Bowie tribute.
All the shows draw on work that Brixx and her fellow performers have done before, at shows in venues such as the Rio Theatre and the Biltmore Cabaret. But this series will pull together the talents of all the performers in a more cohesive way – complete with party favours, prizes and more than a few surprises.
Brixx is hoping the cabaret shows will help to bring more life to New Westminster’s after-dark scene.
“There’s enough entertainment in Vancouver now; it’s time to bring it outside the city limits,” she said, noting much of her audience – like Brixx herself, who lives in Port Coquitlam – has migrated out of the city centre and into the suburbs. “We shouldn’t be denied good entertainment.”
And she’s hoping the shows will continue to appeal to people of a wide range of ages, backgrounds and musical tastes – noting the audience for her last show included a group of women in their 60s.
“It’s not just for urban hipsters anymore,” she said. “It’s cabaret. Cabaret should be for everybody. We need it in the world.”
CHECK IT OUT
WHAT: Rock & Roll Carnival: Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)
WHO: Presented by Kitty Nights Productions. Hosted by Burgundy Brixx, musical direction by Doug Thoms, with the Hot & Heavy Band and performances by the Rock & Roll Carnies (Ann Narky, Damon Bradley Jang, Jessie Rockley, Mz. B. Haven, Burgundy Brixx).
WHEN: Friday, Oct. 18. Doors open at 7 p.m., show at 8 p.m.
WHERE: The Columbia Theatre, 530 Columbia St., New Westminster
TICKETS: $20 to $45. Buy through www.thecolumbia.ca or www.eventbrite.ca, or call 604-522-4500.
MORE INFO: www.kittynights.com