Wam Bam Reviews
Lady Alex served up Wam Bam Electric with a sort of elegantly disdainful panache.
This is, musically at least, a fine tribute to the 80s, energetically performed and bathed in that trashy, flashy period’s disco glitter. But never mind the nostalgia, it’s a superbly balanced show, more cabaret than burlesque, perhaps, but none the worse for that. Still, the Wam Bam Buff Boys and Belles turned out some burlesque routines that were enjoyably funny, yet slickly professional, while Folly Mixtures gal Ooh La Lou gave a sparkly (yes, literally) life-enhancing performance with the sort of extrovert joie de vivre that you wish you could bottle and take home with you.
As weekly events go, few have the high profile and consistency of The Wam Bam Club. The supperclub has been the regular Saturday night resident at West End hotspot Café de Paris for seven years and it is now stretching its wings with a new show.
On 26 April, the Bloomsbury Ballroom will be the venue for the Club’s new monthly show. The cabaret acts will be spread over two stages and swing is the thing when it comes to the music with the audience being invited to get frisky on the dancefloor to live bands. We spoke to Lady Alex, the Wam Bam Club’s hostess and founder about just what she has in store.
Congratulations on your new show. How long have you been putting it together?
This show has been in my head for a long time. We love the gorgeous Café de Paris but I have often wondered what I’d get up to if I had an even bigger space. I’ve always wanted to work with a live band and have even bigger dance routines. Now we are making the Bloomsbury Ballroom our second home I can finally let my ideas free.
What was the inspiration behind the Friday show?
I’ve always loved the glamour of burlesque and the vibrancy of variety which is why Wam Bam works so well. But deep down inside I have a yearning to go to a ball, like Cinderella, where you dress up and have a whole evening of grandeur. So this is what I’ve tried to achieve at the Bloomsbury Ballroom.
Think of this: guests will enter the ballroom via a glamorous sweeping entrance, greeted by my buff boy footmen, a free glass of champagne and a bit of pre-show mingling. Then a free swing dance class to loosen you up before you’re treated to a brand new Wam Bam show on a grand scale in this beautiful ballroom. All this is topped off by live swing and good old fashioned dancing and drinking all night...
Lady Alex: compare/host, burlesquer and company director of Wam Bam Club burst onto the Cabaret scene in 2005. Her fiery blend of no nonsense comparing, comedy and edgy satirical burlesque has been a unique feature of the Wam Bam Club since she first created it in 2006.
Now, in its seventh year, Wam Bam is the longest running weekly burlesque supper Club in the country and a household name. Resident at the ornate Bloomsbury Ballroom, Lady Alex and her troupe perform to packed houses every Saturday night. As their carefully choreographed routines are only performed at Wam Bam it gives the show an exclusive appeal at makes Wam Bam the ultimate destination for cabaret virgins and seasoned fans.
2013 is the year Lady Alex adds a new string to the Wam Bam bow, a brand new Friday night show at the Bloomsbury Ballroom. Launching on 26th April 2013, this spectacular new venture promises all the charm and hilarity synonymous with the Wam Bam brand but on a larger scale than ever before. Kerenza Evans chats to Lady Alex to find out what new thrills she has in store...
As one of the longest-running weekly supper clubs in London, the Wam Bam Club occupies a leading position in its niche. This non-stop parade of sensual revelry and tongue-in-cheek sass features no less than 15 burlesque, cabaret and circus acts. Many of them are residents, endowing the revue with unmistakable character.
You may have seen photos of Lady Alex posing elegantly next to patrons and fellow performers. Don’t be fooled by them: bawdy humour and sprightly irreverence are the tools she uses to tease and provoke the public, stealing drinks, picking volunteers to crawl on all fours and even drafting members of the audience to carry her back onstage. In addition to that, the host contributes as many as four burlesque routines of her own to every show, launching into glitzy strip choreographies backed by two male and two female dancers who also double up in other skits through the show. Sophisticated and visually lavish, Lady Alex’s singing burlesque numbers are an explosion of show business glitz unlike anything else in London variety. Since she doesn’t seem to perform them in any other shows, they remain an exclusive Wam Bam Club treat. Drag singer Bunny Galore is another regular, cheering the crowd with theatrical renditions of show tunes like Willie Nelson’s Bring Me Sunshine and Christina Aguilera’s I Am a Good Girl. You can also expect two numbers from Cabaret Rouge, a trio of burlesque dancers specialising in elaborate choreographies with matching costumes themed after 18th century courtesans and air hostesses, among other gimmicks.
Wam Bam Club is one of the few shows in London regularly employing boylesque performers. An excellent example is New-York-based dancer Go-Go Harder and his sailor routine, a striptease brimming with provocative sensuality and disarming humour. In the same bill, award-winning bump-and-grinder Peggy de Lune shows off her many skills in traditional burlesque, dancing en pointe, waving feather fans, stripping behind an umbrella and climaxing with vigorous tassel-twirling.
Besides panicking about what I was going to wear, I was actually really excited about going to the Wam Bam Club. I have never been to a burlesque show before, so in my head I pictured it as a cross between the Pussycat Dolls and a strip show. I was unprepared for the way I was entertained, they did not just have dancers, but comedy, music and even acrobats! Nothing like a strip club!
The Wam Bam club’s home is in Café de Paris which is located in the heart of the west end. From the entrance I was greeted by beauties who offered me chocolate, I had an opportunity to take pictures with some of the show’s stars which I received gladly. As much as I love the ladies I was very pleased to see the very smart men dressed in pants and bow ties (only!). Within the first few seconds my impression changed as the whole atmosphere oozed sophistication, glamour and utter sexiness. Red and gold velvety interior – I could have licked the walls! Instead I opted to re-enact the scene of Titanic when Kate Winslet walked down the stairs in the ship’s dining room – thanks to my friend who informed me Café de Paris is where the scene was shot.
I was seated on a large round table with a four couples, which was slightly awkward at first but gratefully I had my friend on hand and before the end of the night we were speaking with our neighbours. We were seated in front of the stage which seemed quite small and I instantly knew it would include audience participation. The menu consisted of three courses and was very varied. I had a filo basket of Mediterranean vegetables for starters, it was very light and the vegetables were cooked just right. Roast welsh lamb with polenta and ratatouille was my main and although I do not like polenta, the lamb was to die for, so juicy and the right texture – not chewy and not too soft. Whilst in the middle of this, the main the show began. I was just hoping the spotlight wouldn’t hit me for audience participation whilst I was romancing my lamb and ratatouille, but luckily I survived. I was very satisfied with my meal but greedy me noticed the steak the couple had next to me were having , which looked so delicious (I will be going back for it !). For dessert a deliciously light banoffee pie which was a perfect end to my meal.
Has today's burlesque strayed too far from its roots? Some call it stripping, others art but has today’s burlesque strayed too far from its roots? Lady Alex talks to Metro about this ever-changing industry.
Founder and host of the Wam Bam Club, Lady Alex, says the great thing about burlesque is that it keeps reinventing itself. ‘Every so often it has a renaissance,’ she says. ‘The recession has seen a massive rise in burlesque. It’s become more mainstream, which has plus and minus points. A positive is that more people are attending burlesque events and a negative is people misunderstand burlesque and use the term to sell strip clubs.’
Lady Alex says the industry has recently seen more explicit performances as acts compete with each other. ‘Burlesque is far more revealing now – frilly knickers have been replaced with G-strings,’ she says. ‘To me, the beauty in burlesque is what is implied and alluded to rather than revealed. It’s an incredibly powerful and liberating thing for a woman to proudly unveil her body using burlesque. It will just get bolder as showmanship becomes more a part of the burlesque world. Expect bigger props and larger skill sets, such as aerial and fire acts. Vegas is coming to London but with a very British twist.’
By Vicki-Marie Cossar, London Metro 30th April 2012
What's Up What's On:
'WUWO do the Wam Bam...'
Alex Reid celebrated his birthday with a trip to the Wam Bam Club burlesque show at Cafe de Paris in London with Chantelle Houghton.
The 36-year-old cage fighter - who split from wife Katie Price after 11 months of marriage in January - spent the weekend enjoying romantic birthday surprises organised by reality TV star Chantelle including a stay in a "swanky" London hotel and a visit to the racy show.
He tweeted: "Wicked evening @WamBamClub Cafe de Paris, celebrating my birthday with @chantellehought thanks 4all my pressies (sic)"
The couple - who were first linked together in May - became cosier as the night wore on, and were spotted closing in for a secret kiss outside in the early hours of the morning.
Chantelle was very protective of her new man, sticking nearby all evening even as she chatted to other guests.
The Wam Bam Club offers burlesque, cabaret and magic shows, which can be enjoyed over a three course meal with an after party to follow.
Alex is currently adhering to a strict training regimen of no carbs (including alcohol), which we can presume he relaxed for the evening.
There was no question that his companion was enjoying a tipple or two, as Chantelle looked increasingly merry as the evening wore on.
With good food and entertainment being my favourite combination, I jumped at the chance of a night out in the West End with the promise of comedy, magic, music and burlesque.
From the moment of entering Cafe de Paris the attention to detail was wonderful. Set in the heart of London’s Piccadilly, Café de Paris has been entertaining folk since it opened it’s doors in 1924. Now a Grade II listed building, it’s the perfect setting for such vaudeville.
We were promptly escorted to our table and our hostess introduced herself and made us feel welcome. Our meal order was taken and within ten minutes our first course was being served. The menu was a pleasant mixture and the steak (although not asked how we would like it cooked) was perfect… medium rare. Additional little extras such as Champagne at £50 a bottle with strawberries or two bottles for £90 were very reasonably priced considering we were in a top West End venue and the selection of nipple tassels on offer was a cute and kitsch idea.
Cabaret Rouge opened the show with a routine of kicks, winking and flashing of cheeks to get the night off to a great start. The Spinettes were superb with perfect harmonies and are possibly the best trio I have ever seen. The mixture of illusion and drag with the funny Bunny Galore was just delightful. In all honesty, I would have liked a burlesque finale and felt a little let down when Scales of the Unexpected finished the show although they were great. The star of the night was without a doubt the fabulous Rae Piper. Her routine from start to finish was captivating and as the music became more and more dramatic it sent shivers down my spine.
The audacious Lady Alex executed her role superbly. She was able to control the audience and involved them although I didn’t really get the Gary Glitter routine. I felt it was a little hit and miss. Nevertheless she pulled the evening off impressively. The free competition to win a bottle of chocolate liqueur and frilly knickers was a nice touch and brought much laughter, especially when my husband was taken to the stage to present the goods!
The evening was near perfect and I although appreciate that the tables are round and shared to honour true cabaret style, disappointingly our chairs were positioned so that our backs were to the stage. Just as the second act came on our main courses arrived so we were faced with an unfortunate dilemma – eat or watch. We of course watched (it would have been rude not to though luckily the entertainment was at such a high standard I could almost forgive this faux pas). It did mean we had to keep turning around to get a quick bite of food and my lovely steak was pretty much eaten cold. This continued through the dessert and was extremely frustrating. I also had to ask for a dirty knife and chipped wine glass to be replaced but these were only minor faults.
Despite the seating issue, I would urge you to pay a visit. The Wam Bam Club promised us first class entertainment and they certainly delivered. It was an extraordinary evening to remember. Just make sure you request good seats when booking.
- Reviewed by Barbara Ward, London Burlesque Guide, July 25th 2011
For anyone seeking an alternative hen experience then a trip to Café de Paris for an evening of Wam Bam entertainment Viva Las Vegas style might just be the thing to get the party started. Our night kicked off with an introduction to the art of burlesque, with pre-show classes run by Burlesque Baby who offer a selection of hen inspired parties. Today our class led by Gemma of (Cabaret Rouge) walked us through a three part routine complete with the pre-requisite feather boa. Not to be taken too seriously our group of about 15, soon got into the character and feel of 1930s cabaret, though a slightly larger performance space may have enhanced the realism.
But leave any inhibitions at the door because it is all in good fun. Just before the Wam Bam club night of comedy, magic, music and Burlesque started we were seated at large round tables with other guests and soon tucked into our three-course dinner topped with a glass of champers. From the French inspired menu I opted for the Boneless Tamworth Pork Rib on a bed of Sweet Mash Potato, without being too filling, it left me pleasantly surprised by its texture. My main was Pan-Fried Sea Bass with Steamed Vegetables.
My guest tucked into the Goats Cheese Roast Pepper Roulade to start with a generous portion of Rib-Eye Steak as her main, leaving her impressed by the generous portion. Her dessert was the Chocolate Bavarois which is for the chocolate lover. Whereas my Braeburn Apple and Cinnamon Tarte was a combination of three delicious desserts wrapped up in one and envied by other guests. As we ate, tributes were paid to comic actor Charlie Chaplin on the overhead screen on what would have been his 122nd birthday. Then before long it was time for the entertainment to begin.
The show's host Lady Alex graced the stage with girls from Cabaret Rouge who were decked out in white can-can attire, true show-girl style. The audience were then treated to elements of the exotic including fire dancers, aerobatics with an element of humour provided by one of the world's most unlikely male ballet dancers and even an Elvis impersonator. My favourite was the 18th century style renaissance trio dancing to contemporary r&b numbers.
The Wam Bam club performers sung as they wandered through the crowd singling out willing and non-willing participants for frivolous and spirited banter. It was a full house with a mixed audience and plenty of men and women on hen nights enjoying themselves and soaking up the atmosphere. By the end of the evening we were on our feet arms swaying to an old Queen classic which drew the evening to a close.
Those who dared then retired to the boudoir, a discreet red velvet themed room tucked away to the rear with oversized beds, walled mirrors, providing the perfect ambiance to possibly indulge in your own Moulin Rouge moment. For something about more tailored, Sharon Kay's Burlesque Baby offers a huge range of hen parties from Charleston to pin-up, vintage tea to your classic hens knees up.
MISS Sherry Trifle delved inside her lollipop pink and cream trifle – that is, an oversized plastic version of the desert that was propped onto the Wam Bam Club’s Saturday night stage.
Underneath the candy-coloured lights, she pulled out a bottle of something that looked attractively intoxicating and shiny, then guzzled the entire bottle.
That rather audacious introduction was a perfect example of the heady night that would follow, full of burlesque, laughs, creativity and mischief.
This over-the-top West End supper club and variety night boasts performances by, among others, Frank Sanazi – a Nazi spinoff of Frank Sinatra – and Gogo Harder, a male “boylesque” dancer who strips down to nearly nothing and manages to inject the audience with an energy that doesn't fade all night.
Other performers included High Tales, Miss Trifle herself and glamorous hostess Lady Alex.
Musical performers Raymond and Mr Timpkins excelled in taking song lyrics and interpreting them, or misinterpreting them, in a very literal way. They stand out for their originality, but listen out for the highlight where one comic swoop manages to change the way you think of Britney Spears lyrics forever.
All in all, this is a brilliant night at the historic Café de Paris.
A good laugh is priceless – and there are plenty of laughs to be had here.
Pavan Amara, Camden New Journal, May 19th 2011
Itchy sees nothing wrong with a bit of cheek every now and then. So, was it any wonder that we jumped at the chance to try an evening of burlesque cabaret from The Wam Bam Club at Café De Paris.
Café De Paris is perhaps renowned for its West End wag tag reputation. However, its opulent interior provides enough old skool glamour to make the perfect venue for some vintage entertainment.
Before the show, Itchy took the affluent option of ordering a three course pre-show dinner. Greeted by our glamorous hostess we were placed at a large round table with other couples of all ages. Whilst the food at the venue was well presented and overall quite tasty, with the wine flowing and service extremely attentive, you do get a sense of mass catering here, a bit like at a wedding. However, still excited at the prospect of some top class tassel-action and enjoying a real sense of being part of an exclusive naughty club, we understood that tonight was all about the entertainment.
Thankfully, the show itself is worth the ticket price alone. After a traditionally feathered routine of big smiles and bouncing buttocks, from the girls of Cabaret Rouge, our corset-clad MC, Lady Alex, arrives on stage with enough double entendre to make Frankie Howerd groan with excitement. Itchy particularly loved her comedy burlesque routine as a sexy suicide bomber. Politically incorrect? Perhaps. Hilarious? Hell yeah!
Other vintage performances come from Kitsch Katz, a dance double act. Whilst Itchy loved the airline hostess number, we are still left pondering how their second routine, which involved a dance round a pizza box, could be considered kitsch. Scales of the Unexpected, a comedy vocal group, also gets our vote with a hilarious take on some 80's classics. However, the real performance of the evening is the comedian, Jason Wood. His fearless camp bitching aided by some stunning singing impressions, from Alison Moyet to Bollywood, makes him absolutely the one to watch.
Finally, just to tease you, our Burlesque dancer, Millie Dollar, provided a stunning classic burlesque performance despite a serious lack of tassel spinning. With the art of seduction these days ruined by the likes of Jordan, whopping her bangers out every two minutes, there is something weirdly erotic about watching a stunning girl, dressed like an old movie star, taking a glove off... slowly. Itchy is so impressed by this slow seduction that we wished we had taken part in the Wam Bam dance class offered at the beginning of the evening. Then we remember how long it takes us to get our trainers off when we are half-cut and we realise that perhaps we are already there. Bizarre, highly entertaining and extremely cheeky.
Itchy is seduced.
Time Out, Week of August 27th 2009
“The star of the night for me was the comedienne with her guitar. She was original and very very funny and easily got the biggest laughs. Other favourites; the comedian / magician who was very smart, the couple at the end who performed the mashed up tunes together and the ball bouncer with his mate on the drums - again all original acts which kept you tuned into the action. I wasn't too sure about the stripping astronaut who just took her costume off to music!? or the hula girl who opened - just as you're starting a meal it's not the best having someone pretend to puke into her handbag!!
The venue is stunning for such a night and I enjoyed sharing a table with people I've never met because it always creates conversation. The food was spot on, especially the scallops and the service was faultless. I'm still not sure why some clubs insist on having someone in the toilets to pass you paper towels to dry your hands and to turn the tap on! But perhaps that's just me! Overall a great night out in London - 8/10”
-Michael Traboulsi/Heart Breakfast Newsreader
Senior Broadcast Journalist