A life may pass, but true talent lives on forever – echoing through the art it inspires and the people it delights. George Michael’s death was an occasion for remembrance and gratitude for countless fans, and Elysium Cabaret was among them, conducting a George Michael tribute show this past weekend. Each choreographer’s vision was the lens that George’s awesome work shone through, producing onstage visions that were sometimes freaky, sometimes fantastical, and always heartfelt. DJ Gunner von Pheonix directed the show with proper solemnity and gratitude for this beloved performer’s legacy. Host Paul Woodrunner made the audience feel included and inspired by the occasion. And the performances at The Empire Room never failed to do honor to George.
Act One: Babypea with Gunner, BB, Pan, Sorcha and Kyshra – Freeek – George Michael
George Michael was an expert at pushing the envelope, and Babypea is his kindred spirit in that area. Her devotion to George Michael took his sexy, freaky song to a whole new level by weaving a love story from a whole other planet – opening with an alien ship landing in a metropolis, and two extraterrestrial lovers getting down on stage. Flanked by a retinue of bizarre, nude figures, this pair of freakish lovers touched, tangled and ground together in the center of a flying saucer. It was as enthralling as it was exotic, and dripped with the sexuality George Michael was famed for.
Act Two: Lulu with Candy, Angie, Babypea and Jilley- Freedom – George Michael
Freedom of expression, of sexuality and of art, were all principles of George Michael’s life and work, and Lulu put them into practice, transforming The Empire Room stage into the edifice of an adult bookstore and having dancers perform in scanty, sexy outfits. As the lingerie-clad squad shook it, spun and spiced up the stage, the heat definitely hit the top of the thermometer. It was a display of choreography and sensuality that was as both classy and sleazy – qualities that radiated from Mr. Michael himself!
Act Three: Lina with Mona, Kyshra, Nella, Snow and Josie – Too Funky – George Michael
Things went from freaky and free to downright funky – and kinky! Lina’s act was all about sexuality at its most outrageous, with dancers performing before a slideshow of erotic photos, bondage pictures and striking images of George Michael. The song may’ve been about being too funky, but the dance was just to the audience’s tastes, served hot and with plenty of kink to spice it up.
Act Four: Corri with Paul and Wiz – I Want Your Sex – George Michael
Modern dance honored a modern-era chart-topping shocker, as Corri and her dancers hit the stage with some 80s moves to George Michael’s boundary-breaking 80s hit! Featuring red hot lingerie and topless male dancers, Corri’s performance showed we can always have faith that she’ll bring the ultimate sexiness to the stage. It was the definition of dirty – and delightful!
Act Five: Goddess Shayna with Lina, Lulu, Ame, Wiz, Babypea, Jiller, Corri, Gunner and Kyshra – White Light – George Michael
Using phases of darkness and light, Goddess Shayna evoked themes of reincarnation with her tribute to George Michael’s moving tune about not giving up on life. As groups of dancers advanced to the spotlight at the fore of the stage, others stayed receded in darkness, with the song building in force and furor to live on for the sake of passion. As the climax hit in a burst of brilliant white light, all the dancers shone below a strip of George Michael images, as the living incarnation of his amazing musical canon.
Act Six: Wiz with Ariel Arrowmint – Father Figure – George Michael
Solitary except for a sleeping figure in a nearby bed, Wiz danced to a song of unconditional devotion. The conditions of the stage were exquisitely tawdry – a run-down apartment – but the dancer’s motions were just as exquisitely tender. This homage to the sensitive side of George Michael struck many chords, bringing out a touching image of what love ’til the end of time truly means – finding grace in the worst of circumstances.
Act Seven: Ame with Zach – A Different Corner – George Michael
As the set gave way to Ame and Zach Starostin, the romance stayed strong. Set in an elegant penthouse, the pair sparkled in glittery body paint and swirled within streamers, coming together in a dance that had all the hallmarks of a true romance – sensitivity, sexuality and splendor. They made love a truly magical thing, and brought the audience to their feet with praise.
Act Eight: Gunner with Paul, Zach, Melvis, Baby, Kyshra – Bad Boys – Wham!
Gunner’s act brought out the devil-may-care attitude of the 80s with classic from George Michael’s Wham! days. Our DJ and his brothers in badness hit a bar for a wild night on the town, with some modern dance moves and primal energy. The good time music that George Michael was known for was in full effect, as Gunner’s squad cut a rug in a way that would put Chippendale’s to shame!
Act Nine: Jilley with Eva and Dream – Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go – George Michael
Jilley closed out the night with a finale that was festive and full of fun! With more images of George Michael scrolling behind a group of lavishly dressed dancers, elegance and grace was on display. George Michael’s ode to the birth of 20th century dance and the freedom of expression found a magnificent avatar in Jilley’s 24-karat crew of dancers!
Act Ten: Kyshra (Crowd Dance) – Liberty Funeral March, Paul Barbarian’s Second Line, Somebody to Love (Queen)
In front of a display of George Michael pictures and glimmering candles, arranged like a wake, the crowd gathered for Kyshra’s selection of classic secondline funeral tunes – a fitting send-off for one of the world’s finest modern musicians! Swaying and shifting in classic jazz moves, the audience united to honor George Michael in the way that many of America’s musical stars have enjoyed. It all closed out with Queen’s triumphal tune, reminding us that just as controversy, heartache and calamity never kept George Michael down, our own courage and creativity is how his spirit best lives on!
Creativity and artistic courage is always in full supply at The Empire Room! The legacy of George Michael and a host of other artists inspire us every week – just as our audience’s eye is what keeps our spirits alive! We hope you’ll see more of our talent – and join our family – for the many shows ahead in the new year!
Photos by Sorcha Wylde and Storm Wylde.