A FIRE breathing drag queen, flamenco and waacking feature in the breathless and highly entertaining dance-meets-cabaret show The Underground.
Set in an underground Latin dance club, we follow the upheaval as a bunch of new performers join the stage show, causing rifts, affairs and all manner of steamy melodrama.
The ‘telenovela’ narrative – based on the overwroughtsoap operas of South America – unfolds through high energy dance and song, with the odd bit of narration from the fire breathing drag queen.
The Underground producer Natalie Oakes is also a dancer in the show and by the closing curtain is ready for a good lie down.
“The show is very demanding on the cast; it’s an hour and 25 minutes of almost non-stop high energy latin and r&b dance numbers, partnering and acrobatics (especially for the girls doing the whole thing in heels) -but it’s worth every gruellingsecond once we get out there,” she says.
“I play one of these new performers, a character called Rosalia, who develops feelings for one of the existing cast members – despite Angelita already being in a long term relationship with Carlito – and the rest you’ll have to come along to find out!
“This narrative is one of five smaller stories explored throughout the show, so there’s a lot of drama.”
Oakes says covid has forced some of WA’s best dancers and performers, normally touring the world in stage productions, to come home to roost.
“We’re incredibly fortunate to have such a diverse pool of talent in Perth at the moment,” she says.
“The use of live percussion in the show creates a whole new layer to the performance, elevating the latin themed music. As dancers we thrive off performing to live percussion.
“Our show is themed around ‘heat’ and the fiery drama between the characters at the club, so it made sense to add fire performance to this season as a natural next step.”
The fire breathing drag queen/MC Regina Slay is played by well-known comic Dave Callan (Melbourne Comedy Roadshow, Spicks and Specks, Hey Hey It’s Saturday).
They’ll also be singing and waacking – a form of dance that originated in the gay clubs of Los Angeles during the 1970s disco era – which features flamboyant arm movements, posing and improvisation.
Back then, gay men waacking took inspiration from icons like Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich and Marilyn Monroe, channelling their inner diva and breaking free from the social restraints of the day.
The Underground was very well-received by critics and audiences during its original run during the Perth Fringe, and Oakes says this time around they have amped up the steamy melodrama to fever pitch.
“From the live music and soundtrack that begs you to jump out of your seat and join the party, to the impressive lifts, acrobatics and fire tricks – it’s hard to not have a good night out,” she says.
“Last season the show didn’t have as much of a focus on the behind the scenes drama, but we’ve turned up the heat this time around and audiences are in for something special.”
The Underground is at the Royale Theatre at Planet Royale on Lake Street in Northbridge from November 5-7.
By STEPHEN POLLOCK