By Darlene Alvarez
Photos by Jonathan Phillips, Dom Martin, Stuart Runham, and Tim Hunter
Singers and dancers have always had a way with our hearts when it came to boosting the spirits and morale of nations in uncertain times. We may not have Fred and Ginger or the Andrews Sisters to take the stage especially during a year like 2020, but luckily for us, The Satin Dollz are a global institution we’re proud to have to keep us delighted. From London, Paris, and Los Angeles, the song and dance group seen at a variety of commemorative historical events and vintage festivities continues to keep our smiles wide with their virtual performances and original songs that make us feel like better days are here to stay.
We spoke with Allison Windsor of Dollface Entertainment who manages the Dollz around the world, to get backstage scoop on what’s to come for all the fabulous ladies!
How did the Satin Dollz get started?
The group initially was introduced as a one time performance for a theater production fundraiser in Los Angeles around 2001. So long ago we can’t exactly remember! A few years later in 2005, the group was resurrected for a party that never happened (client cancelled) but after all our work getting ready for it, we just kept going and have been together ever since.
The Satin Dollz act was inspired by the swing dance bands popular in Los Angeles at the time that emerged after the movie “Swingers” as well as the style and music in “For The Boys” movie starring Bette Midler and the chorus girl number in “Singing In The Rain” with Debbie Reynolds.
The producer of the Satin Dollz herself was a trained ballet dancer and performer in musical theatre growing up so there was more emphasis on dance with the group at the start. Once the Dollz started working with live bands, singers were added and the show evolved to a full USO style show to what is presented today with sizzling vocal harmonies and show-stopping tap dancing. Another passion of the producer is retro fashion so fans will always be treated to several costumes changes during a show.
With three set’s of Dollz around the globe, what are some of your most memorable events?
There are over 70 Satin Dollz in London, Los Angeles and Paris. Each troupe has their own memorable moments touring. For the Dollz in the US, returning bi-annually to the 1940s Ball in Colorado is always a great experience because it’s attended by over 5,000 vintage enthusiasts and in the summer, the outdoor atmosphere is super exciting with rows of vintage planes, two big stages and everyone is dressed up. At Christmas, two entire floors at the glamorous Hyatt Regency are transformed into the movie set of White Christmas. One of London’s most memorable shows was for the 75th D-Day performance in Portsmouth on the most massive stage. The show was last minute (3 hours notice) and 5 Dollz hopped on trains from different parts of England to barely get to the stage on time with costumes being messengered and set lists created all at the same time. Paris’ most memorable show had to be in Malta where they had a 4 day jazz residency in St. Julien’s Bay. Surrounded by so much beauty and delicious food, the Dollz had the best time actually at a tourist attraction, Popeye Village, where the Malta community maintains the set of the 1980s movie Popeye for visitors.
How do you select what numbers you choose to perform?
The Satin Dollz producer has a great love of vintage eras of music and chooses the repertoire based on popular classics as well as numbers that lend themselves to great harmonies and/or music that would be a great tap dance number. Lately, the Dollz have been infusing modern touches on new arrangements or surprising audiences with creative mashups. At every show, there’s always an exciting number at the top, mixed with numbers where the singers and dancers trade off or perform at the same time together. This also allows the Dollz to make head-spinning costume changes off stage to keep the show exciting to watch.
Your costumes are stunning! Do you have a personal stylist for the group?
The Satin Dollz producer’s love of vintage styles, colors and “sparkles” are reflected in every costume choice you see on stage. Many of the costumes are custom designed and made or specifically shopped from their fortunate group of retro-reproduction sponsors. It’s often remarked that the reason the group was created was because the producer wanted more reasons to wear pretty vintage style dresses to events (It’s not the only reason). Actually, it’s fitting that the Satin Dollz first performance was at a fashion show.
What’s the best reaction you’ve received from a performance? The Satin Dollz perform frequently for veterans and active service members and it’s always those shows, when they perform the Armed Forces Medley and the audience members from each branch stand and salute each other across the theater, that are the most rewarding. It’s sometimes challenging at times for the Satin Dollz on stage to hold back tears singing that medley when they see veterans, sometimes in their 90s, gather the strength to physically stand for their country. Also, after shows the Dollz love to meet audience members who danced to these tunes in their youth and hear their stories.
Why do you think there’s still such a deep nostalgia for the 1940s? It’s reminiscent of a time with WWII that impacted our world greatly. The music is timeless, romantic and danceable. The decade has gorgeous styling and the hair, makeup and clothes are so glamorous.
What’s next for the Satin Dollz?
The Satin Dollz have added virtual streaming shows to their lineup and have been staying creative with bringing fun themes to people’s screens, always with a retro flair. It has been a time of coming together between all the troupes and performing for the first time online as a mixed international format. On any given stream, viewers enjoy performances from Dollz who are based in all 3 countries at the same time. In addition, this platform has allowed for an interactive opportunity between the Dollz and those watching allowing for a closer connection between Dollz and fans. The Dollz are hopeful they can return to the stage soon and are excited about releasing their first album in 2020 and recently dropped their first single, “That Man,” available on Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon. They will continue to offer virtual streaming shows and when live stage shows are permitted again, will resume touring.