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With original musical score, ‘Behind the Curtain’ could be another ‘Six’


Creator Pixel Winters touts Carousel of Burlesque: Behind the Curtain as Gypsy meets Noises Off! She under-promises and over-delivers. Behind the Curtain combines the best of burlesque and Broadway. In fact, all it needs to be the next Six is an original musical score.

Behind the Curtain is not straight burlesque. Oh, there are beguiling burlesque performances galore, to be sure. But Behind the Curtain is first and foremost a play, and Winters’ clever plot takes the audience backstage, where emcee Cabana Macabre and kitten Gale Bright are huddled with performers Freckles Galore and Pixel Winters as the performance opens.

The girls have a dilemma. Their third showgirl is a no-show and isn’t responding to phone calls or texts. It appears she’s found a better-paying gig. Now the troupe needs to find a way to fill in the gap without the audience knowing. After all, tips aren’t just a time-honored burlesque tradition, they’re an important component of the compensation package.

The play’s structure is genius.

In one quick scene, Winters converts the audience from prurient spectators into empathetic allies. How in the world are they going to put on a quality show one woman down?

The plot also gives Winters to capacity to weave character arc and development into the show, starting with emcee Cabana Macabre.

As a burlesque emcee, Cabana is called upon to introduce each act, provide historical context and prime the audience through a medley of double entendre, sexual innuendo and sultry banter. But in Behind the Curtain, we get to see her human side – how much she cares about the other women, the pride she takes in her craft and her resourcefulness, as she ad libs to cover the delays that are taking place backstage. To buy time, she even performs an unexpected musical number – bringing down the house in the process.

Freckles Galore elicits whoots, hoots and hollers with two sizzling super-sensual glam performances, while Pixel captivates with a playful balloon-based parody dripping in coquettish charm. But the audience’s reaction is now qualitatively different. Rather than leering or lusting, the audience is rooting for the girls to turn in a great performance as if they were athletes performing at the Olympics.

But the real star of Behind the Curtain is the unlikeliest of characters. It’s Gale Bright, the kitten who picks up the performers’ discarded costumes and props between acts.

It’s clear from the outset that Gale has a theatrical flair. It’s obvious that she’d love to be the one in the spotlight. Her yearning and admiration is written in her features. It’s apparent from the way she gazes at Freckles and Pixel as they perform their acts. And this makes her metamorphosis from kitten to queen every bit as exhilarating as Alex Owens “What a Feeling” triumph in Flashdance and Carole King’s rise from behind-the-scenes songwriter to center-stage singer in Beautiful. In fact, if Winters ever converts Behind the Curtain from a 60-minute fringe show to a full-blown musical or movie, she should tell the story from Gale Bright’s perspective and make her the central character in the storyline.

Fringe festivals have served for decades as incubators of new talent and new plays. Carousel of Burlesque: Behind the Curtain is among the brilliant gems that are often mined during at fringes around the globe. Kudos to Pixel Winters and her castmates, Freckles Galore, Cabana Macabre, Sam the Hound and, of course, Ms. Gale Bright. If only Fort Myers were Edinburgh.

June 2, 2024.



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