Admirers of scantily-clad men rejoice! This week saw the American premiere of Briefs: The Second Coming, an impressive Australian all-male burlesque extravaganza that commands attention thanks to its queer-inclusive, talent-packed focus on the male form and its gender-bending possibilities.
The brainchild of emcee Fez Fa’anana (a self-described gender juggler) and Las Vegas King of Burlesque 2011 title-holder Mark “Captain Kidd” Winmill, co-founders of artists’ collective the Briefs Factory, The Second Coming quickly dispenses with any semblance of a storyline after introducing the idea that the “Briefs boys” may be from outer space. It then launches into a series of mind-blowing burlesque-circus routines.
First is an aerial hoop performance by Thomas Worrell, who, throughout the evening, provides the most thrilling contributions. Worrell climbs with his bare hands to the top of the proscenium, hooks his feet into two strips of fabric, and drops headfirst toward the stage, evoking yelps of astonishment. There were three other performance highlights: Louis Biggs and his ability to bring sex appeal to the act of solving a Rubik’s Cube and executing yo-yo tricks (in a segment that could be branded nerd-lesque), Monkey (described as “New York City’s sexiest simian”), whose way of handily peeling bananas had the audience in stitches, and ‘Captain Kidd’ himself, whose penultimate bird bath burlesque stops the show (and requires swift clean-up after drenching the stage in water).
Fa’anana provides humor and necessary warmth as the evening’s bawdy host, sporting a series of glitter-chic costumes by fellow performer Dallas Dellaforce (whose own number evoking Marilyn Monroe and Serial Mom is a delight in and of itself). The seven-person cast is rounded out by Lachy Shelley, the evening’s trusty “butler,” who, aside from being on hand to assist Fa’anana with any necessary tasks, is a talented performer in his own right.
Briefs wisely keeps the music loud and pumping (bring ear plugs if you’re sensitive to such things), and keeps its motor humming at a steady, satisfying pace. Long lines at the bar before the show and at intermission expanded the advertised run time by almost an hour (the only way in which the show does not live up to its name). But thanks to a spirited crew of performers and lively pop music, an air of fun and inclusivity prevailed.
Many have attempted the genre of burlesque revue, but Briefs, I’m happy to report, is among the best — smart, irreverent, and funny, with sex appeal to spare. The company’s ability to couple awe-inspiring physical feats with comedy and choreographic panache is where it finds its success. Though The Second Coming is the company’s first New York appearance, the Briefs Factory has had great successes with several revues at home in Australia, as well as in London and Edinburgh. With any luck, they’ll be stateside again soon, providing quality enter-taint-ment to the masses.