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The True Heroines: Naked launch at the Rio

The True Heroines: American housewives after their wartime careers in Europe as cabaret artists …

'Naked' as in strip tease, not nudist. Naked as in down-to-your-bloomers-and-bustiere.  About as naked as you could get on stage in the 1940s and 50s without being arrested.

So there we were on Tuesday night at the Rio Theatre, in an audience some 400 strong, with the ghost of Vancouver’s infamous past: Burlesque. Strip tease. Licentious dancing with foodstuffs that shall remain nameless. Jokes to make a grown man blush. Numbers like Ms. Cellophane, Birth Brawl, and Dance of 1,000 Deaths.

But what about the True Heroines? Act One was their backstory, you might say: they have a history as cabaret artistes in wartime Europe before they became American housewives, whose “special abilities” have caused them to be hunted down by … but I don’t want to give it away.

Abilities, schmabilities! These gals have super powers, and they’re not afraid to use them. One can make herself invisible. Another can throw off a 200-pound punk with the flick of her wrist. My personal favourite? The one “who could shake off attempts on her life like nobody’s business.”

Never have I seen such wild enthusiasm in a Vancouver theatre. A theatre full of 20 and 30-somethings dressed to the nines, whose grandmothers may well have been in the chorus line of the State Theatre in one of those periods when, after a police raid, the State was trying to upgrade to Vaudeville. Or maybe their grandmothers were among Vancouver’s own Queens of Burlesque on the same bill as such international stars as Dolores del Rio or Lili St. Cyr, once condemned by the Catholic Church for filling Montreal theatres with “the foul odour of sexual frenzy.”

Forget Expo. Forget the Olympics. This is what put Vancouver on the map after the war: bumps, grinds, cat calls, and wolf whistles. Last Tuesday at the Rio, we got to see some of the real Vancouver, undisguised—or a loving homage to it, full of irony and wit and jaw-dropping choreography.

And that was just the first act!

After the intermission came a screening of The True Heroines Season One, “an original episodic sci-fi dramedy produced for the web.” Imagine I love Lucy and Gypsy Rose Lee in the Twilight Zone, a social satire with dark political overtones. A kind of film noir. Or Technicolor with a noir-ish tint.

Find out how you can see it yourself.

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