Boys Under the Big Top – Boylesque TO

By Leif Conti-Groome

BoylesqueTO are out to carve their own niche in the burlesque scene.  ‘Boylesque’ is a lazy combination of words that vaguely defines a sub-genre of burlesque.   The vagueness comes partly from its newness and rarity.  But, last Sunday night at Revival, during Boys Under the Big Top, BoylesqueTO were met by raucous praise from the audience.

As soon as the theatre came into view I knew it wasn’t going to be a usual night.  I  saw two men dressed as old-time carnies hoisting up a cotton candy machine, while another fellow was wearing a giraffe head with a marvelously long neck.

Inside, the bar was dressed with silk ribbons and balloons. The aforementioned carnies walked around selling pasties and candy apples, heightening the theme du jour. A fire performer named PyRomeo lit up the night sky (and almost a tree) during the intermission.

For those not familiar with burlesque (and boylesque, the XY version) the basic idea is satire meets striptease. There wasn’t too much stripping in Boylesque TO’s circus themed show; instead the performers sought out other non-typical avenues of burlesque entertainment.

The lion tamer (Wrong Note Rusty) was tamed by a fashionable tranny-lion (Mahogany Storm, costumed in tiger stripes and Paris Hilton accessories) and at the other end of the big top, the Elephant Man (Man Chyna) mated with an audience member with his sparkly elephant-sized phallus.

Dew Lily stole the show with his solo act ‘The Horse Eater’ where he did naughty things to a stuffed horse, and his vaudevillian eyebrow dancing was not to be missed.  But there was much, much more to see.

A hilarious number featured Wrong Note Rusty and Man Chyna as conjoined twins stumbling through a bunch of Asian stereotypes. There were kimonos, noodles and all to the song ‘We are Siamese‘ from Lady and the Tramp.

The Strongman act, a group affair, featured ‘mighty mustached’ Bruin Pounder, and James and the Giant Pasty. Everything about the act was ‘powerful’: the outdated wrestling costumes, comically sized weights and female assistants (the stagehands known as the Boylesque Babes) that turn out to be not so dainty.

The guest performers of the evening were top notch. Tanya Cheex, founding member of Skin Tight Outta Sight tapped up a storm with legs that weren’t hers. The Mohel, of Les Coquettes fame, pushed the boundaries of audience participation and got an audience member in his light blue briefs for an energetic rendition of ‘Lady Marmalade’.

As with most shows with a variety of acts, some of the show was not as strong. Bruin Pounder had a gorilla number that was repetitive and dull.  The final number, featuring Streisand’s ‘Send in the Clowns’ was only interesting because of the flamboyant interpretations of clown costumes.  In fact, my date for the evening Aleks, said she felt the hosts were the weakest part; I wholeheartedly agree. Ginger Darling and Balonia Wry had good chemistry together, but because they treated the entire night like a large inside joke, their smug and catty comments received little laughter from the crowd.

It’s impossible to talk about this show and not bring up sexuality. BoylesqueTO is a mostly queer troupe with numbers crafted to appeal to people attracted to men.  It’s not surprising then, that the audience was mostly made up of gay men and straight women.

The cat calls from the women were much louder and more frequent than the many other shows I’ve been to.  It reminded me of a segment I saw on SexTV exploring female strip clubs.  It said, when put in a safer environment (usually away from straight men,) women tend to be much more uninhibited than men at strip clubs.  In fact, Aleks said she felt liberated at the show.

Ironically, as a straight male, I felt a bit alienated by some of the acts. The snake charmer routine with Man Chyna and Mahogany Storm looked more like a glorified exercise routine on a stripper’s pole than a burlesque act.

This troupe has defined a niche for themselves, and, while it may not match my view of burlesque, it made for one hell of an evening. I suggest you go out and have some fun next Sunday and that the boys under the big top will deliver.


– Boys Under the Big Top is playing at Revival (783 College St) Nov 8th and 15th: Doors are at 8pm, show at 9pm

– Tickets can be purchased online

– Tickets $25 at the door, $20 in advance