As the lights dim in the Engineered Air Theatre and the audience hushes, a blonde and a brunette run out on stage. As the two girls, with their suitcase full of props, run away from 1950s small town Alberta the audience disappears from modern day Calgary and together they fall down the rabbit hole.
Their feet hit the ground in a place that is not quite old Montreal or the forbidden forest of fairy tales, but an urban metropolis of big bad wolves in three-piece suits and witches in gingerbread brothels. A place created by the eccentric and unpredictable minds of the Wind-up Dames. In Le Gros Spectacle, their first full-length production, Renee Amber and Brieanna Moench flex their theatrical muscles by picking up the added challenge of writing for a third actor. Frank Zotter bravely takes on the various roles of the cityscapes population.
In the Wind-up Dames' big city--portrayed by sirens and creaking bedsprings, silhouettes of the favourite bartender, one of Zotter's many roles--Alice (Amber) and Frances (Moench) try to make it big.
At this point the story wavers. Although the underlying theme of Le Gros Spectacle is Alice and Frances' misconception of what glamour is, by the end of the play it is not certain whether the perfectly portrayed blonde sweetheart and the brunette femme fatale live up to the potential of the story.
However, anything the narrative lacks is easily overlooked. The cast's adept combination of physical comedy and fulfillment of stereotypes leaves audiences not just guffawing, but gasping for breath. The scenes of tap dancing with ukulele and xylophone accompaniment are perfectly complemented by the cabaret format and add a quirky twist typical of the Wind-up Dames' overtly theatrical style.
The moments of attempted chauvinism crossed with mid-century female naivete are overcome by flattery. Alice and Frances' fear of the big city are overcome by shear enthusiasm. And utter hilarity triumphs over any flaws in the production.