Downtown Rock Island already has a popular club called The Speakeasy, but the city will host another special makeshift speakeasy where you can rest easy Saturday, Feb. 18, and bask in a unique love-filled show at Skylark QC, 4401 7th Ave.
Mary Quite Contrary House of Burlesque is holding just its second performance at Skylark, “So This Is Love,” at 8 p.m. Feb. 18, and its first ever with live music. A jazz band will perform classics from the ’20s to the ’40s, led by Jonny Moss (upright bass), with singers Sara Love and Beth Lizano and drummer Dave Soliz.
Mary Quite Contrary owner Mary Francis had a table recently at the Skylark Eclectic Market, which included samples of the embroidery she does.
This will be her second burlesque show at Skylark, after a Dec. 10 holiday show.
First with live music
The burlesque troupe has done several shows at Spotlight Theatre (1800 7th Ave., Moline), averaging four performances a year there, but none with live music. Their next one at Spotlight will be in May.
“I love Skylark so much. Isn’t it so fun?” Francis said, noting Robbins approached her about doing the December show.
“We just fell in love with it. It is so pretty, with the windows, and their lighting, when you do a show, it’s so intimate,” she said. “We love Spotlight and we’re still working with Spotlight, but we love how different they are. That’s why we like performing at both.”
Francis is friends with the jazz band bassist, Jonny Moss (they went to Rock Island High School together), whose brother Mason is the piano player for Tubbs & Moss (regulars at Spotlight), but Mason has been busy serving as music director for the “Book of Mormon” national tour.
The band at Skylark will be on stage, and the dancers will be closer to the audience.
“We’ve never been able to be that close to our audience, so let’s do it,” Francis said. “We’re going to have poetry readings as well.”
The poetry will feature well-known local poet Ryan Collins, who’s executive director of the Midwest Writing Center.
“We’ve never had this before in our area – burlesque dancing to live music,” Francis said. “It’s all been pre-recorded in our area. We want to do this more, at least annual, if not twice a year. I love working with Moss.”
Francis has loved seeing the jazz shows at Spotlight.
10 dancers in the troupe
There will be 10 dancers for MQCHOB, and Francis asked Jonny Moss to send their regular set list, and the dancers picked which song they wanted to do.
“The vibe of the show is a speakeasy jazz lounge,” Francis said. “There’s a lot of Etta James, Billie Holliday, Ella Fitzgerald. We’re doing a lot of that; I love it.”
She will dance to the Gershwin standard “Summertime.”
“There’s something so intimate” about using live music, Francis said. “You’re being even more vulnerable. This is something that’s taking a lot of my team out of their comfort zone. We know the song, but how’s the band going to play it?”
“I just provide the safe space,” she said, noting no show is mandatory for the dancers. “You’re already out of your comfort zone, so I feel like this is gonna take you really farther.”
A prime date night
The Feb. 18 show is prime date night for couples and the $30 ticket includes a glass of Champagne and a chocolate dessert.
“You’re getting a lot,” Francis said. The Skylark anticipates a seating capacity of about 75 at tables, in a U configuration, with the dancers in the middle.
“We haven’t been this intimate before,” she said. “We consider Spotlight our home and we hope to make Skylark our second home.”
The troupe also has performed at the (now closed) Varieties Club in Davenport, and will be part of the next QC Pride festival this June at Schwiebert Park in Rock Island. “It’s so gorgeous,” Francis said of that riverfront park.
To get tickets to the Feb. 18 show, click HERE.