Currently in South Africa to promote London’s West End hit The Hurly Burly Show, Miss Polly Rae recalled her transformation from a beauty therapist to a burlesque dancer and bagging the lead in this enthralling revue. Debashine Thangevelo had an exclusive chat with this ravishing talent and, as well as expressing her sheer delight to be performing at Emperors Palace, she said the ability to dance is but one of many facets needed to hack it in this profession…

MENTION burlesque dancers and, unsurprisingly, all thoughts are agilely steered towards movies such as Moulin Rouge and Burlesque. Then again, it probably depicts the art form better than any review could explain.

And risqué, playful, funny, not to mention sexy and dramatically fabulous, are all the entertaining facets SA audiences will be exposed to in The Hurly Burly Show at Emperors Palace in a few weeks.

With acclaimed director William Baker – legendary for his creative expertise, as Kylie Minogue, Rihanna, Leona Lewis and Westlife will verify – at the helm of the long-running London West End successful revue, being dazzled is guaranteed.

Of the eight woman performers, Miss Polly Rae (the star attraction) as well as Miss Betsy Rose and Peggy De Lune are the big draw- cards.

Expect close on 20 different scenes generated from performances to songs such as The Stripper, Hurly Burly Lovin’, It’s Not About the Tits, S&M, Control, Peek A Boo, It’s A Sin, Star Stripper, Hit Me Baby One More Time, Strict Machine, Bad, Fashion, Night Train, Material Girl, Bad Romance, I Want Candy, Rock Me Amadeus, WOW, Cream, Stuff Like That There, I Want To Break Free, Give Me A Reason to be a Woman, Umbrella and Rain.

Rae was a beauty therapist before making a radical but more fulfilling career change.

“After school, I went to college to study beauty therapy; did that for a few years. But I always wanted to be a performer. I just never really did anything about it. I remember moving to London and, after a year or so there, I met a performer and that inspired me,” she said.

At that stage, being a burlesque performer wasn’t realised until, after trying out auditioning for girl bands, singing in pubs and at weddings, she stumbled across an advertisement for a burlesque school, the London Academy of Burlesque at Danceworks studios.

“Yeah, I went and did the course and it came from that,” she laughed.

On being trained by burlesque performer Jo King, the founder of the academy, Rae said: “She is amazing. I didn’t know burlesque until I met her. Her enthusiasm inspired me. And she taught me about the art form that has been going on for many, many years – that is when I fell in love with it.”

As for the qualities required in pursuing a burlesque career, Rae, who founded the Hurly Burly troupe, said: “One of the main things is personality. You have to create a character – it is very much like a theatrical performance. You have to connect with the audience and there is an amount of humour that you need. And you have to have a warm personality – and that dance ability.”

Commenting on the other dancers and their contribution to the show, she offered: “For me, it is not about Polly Rae and the backing dancers – I want everyone [in the audience] to have their favourite Hurly Burly dancer. Each one brings something different. You have the wild one, the animalistic one, the naughty one, the very sweet and innocent one…”

It goes without saying that the costumes and the set are as crucial to the show as the dancers.

With more than 60 costumes, boasting vintage-styled corsets, seamed stockings, feathers and racy lingerie, Rae said: “It is a visually beautiful show with incredible costumes. It is almost like a fashion show.

“Backstage, we have an amazing team who help us get into those costumes, within about 30 seconds, and it can get pretty crazy.”

Raving about the opportunity to work with Baker and his inimitable sense of style and vision, she added: “Each time we have done the show, we have improved it. We have got to the point where it is like a well-oiled machine and is top-notch. Now it has become like one great big party every night.”

Of the revue, which offers a mélange of burlesque, cabaret, pop, variety skits and fashion being staged in SA, she enthused: “I can’t wait. I’ve been chatting to people on Facebook and they are so excited for it to be coming over.

“I know that burlesque and cabaret is very unique. We are adding some new songs – a few bits and pieces London hasn’t seen.

“My opening number is going to be great. South Africans can expect a lot of laughs, dazzling costumes and sets.”

The chance to see the divine Miss Polly Rae (a charismatic personality with an unmistakable penchant for being rather bold and racy with her performances) up the burlesque ante and then some is incentive enough to catch the show.

lThe Hurly Burly Show will be at Emperors Palace from October 27 at 7.30pm. Tickets cost R365 and R466 (show), R550 (dinner and show) to R955, R1 045 and R1 520 (accommodation, dinner and show for two). Note conditions are on the Emperors Palace website. Bookings through the box office at the venue at 011 928 1297/1213 or through Computicket outlets.