Published on July 7th, 2016 | by Biz Books

The Biz Interview: SHINE – A Burlesque Musical

SHINE is a tassel-twirling rock and roll musical about an infamous burlesque theatre and the family of talented misfits who try to save it from demolition… or worse, respectability.

So reads the set-up for SHINE: A Burlesque Musical, an ambitious and audacious production that’s currently dazzling the stage at Vancouver’s WISE Hall.

We spoke to three stalwarts in the production – John Woods, Cass King, and Sam Dulmage – to find out more about SHINE: A Burlesque Musical!


Can you start by telling us a little bit about you and your involvement in SHINE?

John Woods: Back in 2009. Cass King and I were on a flight to Australia for some gigs with our cabaret act the Wet Spots. I had told Cass that I wanted to write a scripted musical set in a burlesque theatre. She told me she wasn’t super interested in the idea. I said “OK fine, I’ll just write it on my own.” She went to sleep while I wrote through the night. Somewhere just east of Queensland I handed her what I’d come up with so far. She read a few pages and said “Oh…. Honey… I think you could use some help with this…” And the rest is history.

Cass King: I’m a cabaret artist, and I co-wrote the songs and the script. I also play Shine Mionne, our boozy floozy protagonist.

Sam Dulmage: I was approached to direct the spring 2009 production before any script existed… and do some dramaturgical work on the script in progress. The show was written in 4 weeks and rehearsed in another 4. By the time we got it on stage my handprints were all over it and I was promoted from dramaturg to co-librettist. My role since then has been first to keep throwing analysis at the libretto to find ways the show can be better, and then then it’s a question of actually doing the work.

What should audiences expect from this show?

John Woods: Smart, bawdy fun and a truckload of earworms.

Cass King: It’s a show that burlesques musical theater, so expect a classic story with a twist or three. Musically, the 18 original songs range from Esquivel to Etta James, from David Bowie to Queen – and all points in between.

Sam Dulmage: It’s basically The Muppet Show if you took out the muppets and put in a company of half-naked dancers. It’s a “save the theatre” story, it’s a rock musical, it’s sexy fun. It’s also surprisingly big-hearted and lovable, but I would prefer that audiences not expect the lovability element and just be surprised by it.

What are the three most important ingredients for a successful burlesque musical?

John Woods: A good burlesque show will have some acts that arouse you, some that confuse you, some that make you a bit uncomfortable, and some that make you laugh until your drink sprays out through your nose. This musical aims to do all of the above. Often at the same time.

Cass King: A compelling story. Catchy music. A 100% commitment to the moment, no matter how raunchy or silly.

Sam Dulmage: Burlesque numbers that titillate and arouse. Killer songs that the audience hums on the way home. And a script that can thread those burlesque numbers and songs on a string so that they have more impact within the story than they would outside it.

Are there any books or authors that have been influential to you in your journey?

John Woods: As a songwriter, comedy writer and performer, I look to other songwriters, comedians and performers more than I do to authors. Tom Waits is an extraordinary songwriter. As is Amanda Palmer. Margaret Cho is a big comedy inspiration. Justin Vivian Bond (also known as cabaret diva Kiki of Kiki and Herb) showed me early on that a cabaret performance could be grotesque and beautiful and funny and poignant all at once. This was at a time I was mostly performing punch-line funny songs in stand-up clubs. Justin Bond showed me there was a wider world out there than the comedy audiences.

Cass King: Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art. The podcast and book, The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne.

Sam Dulmage: Two in particular helped me enormously in the last few rewrites: Jeff Kitchen’s Writing A Great Movie and Shawn Coyne’s The Story Grid. Jeff Kitchen’s book is about screenplays and Shawn Coyne’s is about novels but what they both come down to is nuts-and-bolts dramaturgy – identifying the scenes that are the scaffolding of your story and making sure that they are doing their job. It’s great for prioritizing your tasks because that story engine is what’s going to make everything else work, so that’s where you push. If the scaffolding works everything else snaps into place. Check out The Story Grid podcast – it’s the business.

What is the most important lesson you have learned so far in your career?

John Woods: Trying to keep one foot in the straight world and one in the creative world is a lot like being in the closet.

Cass King: Keep on humping the dream.

Sam Dulmage: Lost time is not found again. If you want to get better, keep challenging yourself and expose your work to criticism. But don’t throw valuable time and energy at a project, an enterprise or a partnership that is not giving you what you need and want out of it. Once you waste time it’s gone.

What other projects do you have coming up and where can people find out more about you?

John Woods: I’m busy playing with Cass King & The Next Right Thing. I also have a new musical brewing. It could not be more different than SHINE. I expect I’ll need help writing it.

Cass King: I’ll be performing with my band Cass King & The Next Right Thing, and doing a performance of The Rocky Horror Show with The Geekenders at The Rio October 27th to 29th. Follow me on and at

Sam Dulmage: My next writing project is a surprise, but I sing in a blues band called Eighth Avenue Six.


Thanks to John Woods, Cass King, and Sam Dulmage for speaking with us!

SHINE: A Burlesque Musical is now on until July 16th at The WISE Hall in Vancouver.

For tickets to see SHINE: A Burlesque Musical, please visit

Tags: , , , , , , ,

About the Author

Back to Top ↑