The audience at The Free Sisters are invited into the Gothic Room to hear a tale of burlesque trying to conquer in communist China. The premise of the tale is incredibly interesting, but the audience quickly become confused as to what the show is: a narration? A theatrical retelling? A burlesque show in itself? By the end of the show nobody is any the wiser.
Norman Gosney is a likeable storyteller (if that is what his intention is…) and is clearly passionate about what he does, and about building his empire. He is also passionate about life in Shanghai, despite the corruption that brought about his downfall, but at times he is repetitive and comes across as nothing more than a bit seedy and insalubrious in his intentions.
Miss Amelia (Gosney’s wife) takes to the stage sporadically to perform parts of the story: her first show in New York, a performance at the infamous Chinatown club in Shanghai and a sparkling finale. Although the performances add some glitz to the story, it is these interjections which confuse what the show really is. That said the depiction of Frankenstein’s Bride is ingeniously choreographed.
Nevertheless, it is the narrative that is the most compelling thing about this show and the video footage and photographs of what was obviously a very exciting and dynamic time in a thriving Chinese city are the one time the audience are not restless. What Gosney and Kallman (Miss Amelia) did was impressive, but their retelling of it lacks punch, panache and clear genre markers and so the show loses audience members from about twenty minutes in. Sharpen up what it is and this story could be very watchable indeed.
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