Subscribe to my full feed.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Is Kalamazoo ready for a Super Happy Funtime Burlesque?

Super Happy Funtime BurlesqueThe Grand Rapids burlesque troupe will bring its second anniversary best-of show to the Bell's Eccentric Cafe at 9:30 p.m. Saturday.

Some in Grand Rapids just couldn't handle a Super Happy Funtime.

On Nov. 4, 2006, at the very end of the Super Happy Funtime burlesque show at the Sazerac Lounge, the Grand Rapids vice squad raided. A nine-member unit came in through every door and wouldn't let anyone leave until they were questioned.

"Somehow, and we're not sure exactly how this happened, someone had alerted members of the Grand Rapids Police Department that we were doing all sorts of illicit acts on stage -- some, say, involving live animals -- and basically that we were just a seedy sex show in a public bar," producer Adrian Brown said.

"So they just bust in at the end of a show, questioned everyone in the audience about exactly what kind of acts they saw. It was just blown so out of proportion that it was almost kind of funny," Brown said.

The raid just made people curious about exactly how much of a happy funtime the show was. The troupe became a regular monthly event in Grand Rapids, moving out of bars into the 400-seat Wealthy Street Theatre in December, selling out most shows.

The group suspects some of the regulars in the audience have been members of Grand Rapids' conservative activist community monitoring the show for illicit and obscene acts.

After the raid, "we started getting monitored by private individuals who were keeping tabs on us and would complain to the police endlessly, and that forced the police to keep an eye on us. They eventually got sick and tired of it because they had better things to do," said show master of ceremonies Corey Ruffin, aka Mr. Happy Pants.

Burlesque -- it's just an old-fashioned variety show of music, comedy, magic, dancing and a little bit of disrobing.

"Really, the burlesque dance accounts for one-fourth of the show," said Ruffin, who is also the show's co-artistic director and leads Super Happy Funtime's seven-piece End Times Orchestra. Burlesque dancing "puts it in a very safe context. It's not some seedy club with the lights down low and girls grinding on poles. ... It's safe, bawdy fun."

It is basically a very creative form of musical and skit-based theater, Ruffin said. The troupe presents high-minded culture such as a musical version of Homer's "The Odyssey," in which the characters mix it up with James Joyce's "Ulysses."

Some bits might have offended some people even though there was no disrobing. They've lampooned Michael Moore and Fred Meijer, and a late Grand Rapids son was portrayed as the cannibalistic "Zombie President Ford."

A core group of 13 performers, in addition to the End Times Orchestra and a large stage crew, collaborate on all the acts.

"We have insanely talented comedians and actors," Ruffin said. There's Sarah Jean Anderson -- "she's a character comedian, has a thousand different faces" -- and Oz the Magician, "a bona-fide illusionist and escape artist."

The troupe also includes wrestlers, cross dressers and striptease artists. One semi-regular member may not be in the Kalamazoo show depending on her TV duties. Miss Pussykatt moved to the second round on June 24's "America's Got Talent."

"She's a fire-breather, a grinder girl, an aerialist," Ruffin said.

Miss Pussykatt impressed the judges on the NBC show by grinding jets of sparks off the metal plates on her chest and between her legs, and created the illusion that sparks were shooting from her rear.

"That was very weirdly entertaining. And I don't know why," said judge David Hasselhoff, looking spellbound.
by Mark Wedel

No comments: