Ladies and gentlemen, meet Renee Holiday.
Deep in the plush crimson grotto that is the Can Can Culinary Cabaret in Pike Place Market, one of the most reliably fun venues in town, a new star is preparing to rise. You may know her as Shaprece, with the dreamy vocals and powerful stage presence—a singer who blew the roof off Benaroya Hall singing with the Seattle Symphony just before making her exit to Los Angeles four years ago.
Now she’s back in her hometown, the only place it felt right to unveil both new music and a new musical persona. It’s a rebirth, not a rebrand; “reinvention” is a marketing ploy, evolution is the natural course of artistic progress, if you’re lucky. Which brings us to Beautiful, the brand-new show premiering at the Can Can this Thursday, November 7, starring Renee Holiday as her brand-new self.
Even in rehearsal, this self is impressive. Decked out in the Can Can’s signature glitz, Holiday commands a stage, flanked by scantily clad dancers; massive projected diamonds rain down like a James Bond opening sequence, the music thumps, so propulsively sexy it skitters your heartbeat.
“I thought this was the perfect venue to tell the complete story, from Shaprece starting out in the local music scene and transforming into the artist I am now,” Holiday says post-rehearsal, relaxing into a chair near the narrow stage that runs right through the center of the Can Can performance space. As Beautiful’s story begins, a 20-year-old Shaprece is full of talent but lacking direction. “I didn’t know what the greater purpose of me being an artist was.”
These past few years in California transformed her, she says, but the path was more contemplative than explosive. “As a young artist I was always thinking about what was next and not really enjoying the moment,” she says. “When I went to Los Angeles, although I had great connections, I had to start all over, in a way. Instead of being hard on myself, I took that as an opportunity to be silent and learn, and now I’m not so hellbent on making things happen. I’m going to perfect my art, I’m going to be kind to people, I’m going to let organic connections happen, and what is meant for me will be for me.”
A new poise, a new perspective, a new performer. Her middle name, Renee, means rebirth, and felt like a clear choice. Why Holiday? When you see her on stage, that choice is just as clear.
Can Can artistic director Chris Pink had approached Holiday about starring in an earlier show, but a project never worked out. But mid-way through creating her new album, still in progress, Holiday realized the “very theatrical and over the top” music would be a perfect Can Can collaboration and called Pink right away. He agreed, and he and Dave Pezzner, the other half of the Can Can’s music production team, got to work. “We call it Can Can-ifying things,” Pink says. “We used the source music [Holiday and her producers had] been working on for her new album and integrated it with the numbers that need to exist in a Can Can show.”
Essential elements include high-energy numbers by the Can Can’s always sensational dancers—in this case Jonathan Bechtel, Shadou Mintrone, Neon Keon and Madison Oliver, with choreography by Fae Phalen Pink—as well as comedy sections that balance out a show’s more emotionally weighty material. Pink and Pezzner also give the soundtrack thematic consistency, speeding things up, stripping things down, adjusting instrumentation to give Holiday’s album a Can Can flavor. Stylistically, Pink says, that can include everything from “old circus and Russian elements mixed with straight-up electronica mixed with R&B elements.” Musically, anything is fair game; the only common denominator of a Can Can remix is its energy.
Holiday plans to tour the album itself next year, but Seattle audiences alone get to hear that effortless voice tell her story in the inimitable Can Can style—sultry, sparkly, silly and served with a cocktail. “For everyone else in every other market, they’ll see Renee Holiday and they won’t think twice about it,” Holiday says. “But I felt like I owed Seattle a peek into how I got to this point. I wanted to make it special for the city.”
Beautiful runs November 7 – December 1 at the Can Can Culinary Cabaret, downtown