Natalia Petrzela is the perfect host for a podcast about The Chippendales. On paper, Petrzela’s creds as a cultural historian and fitness expert certainly recommend her. But it’s really her breezy, funny — occasionally caustic — “wait ’til you hear what’s coming” gal pal delivery that makes Welcome To Your Fantasy the best documentary podcast of the year so far.
Yes, it’s that good.
A podcast about The Chippendales? Uh-huh. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.
This is a pacy tale of sex, drugs, greed, discrimination, talent, tragedy, frankly ludicrous situations and, of course, murder. It is dispatched by way of a beautifully composed, expertly scripted cacophonic narrative that unfolds with humor, but never scorn.
Even the most cartoonish characters (and there are many) are showcased with the utmost respect as Petrzela, our guide in this strange world of perma-tans and body oil, masterfully teases the very best from them. She exposes the dark and secret underbelly (under-abs?) of the famously light-hearted burlesque troupe as told by those who were there — and have the t-shirt and beefcake calendar to prove it.
The weird and wonderful cast of characters in this fantastic romp (topped, in the author’s humble opinion, by the magenta-haired Chippendale minder Candace Mayeron), should really sit in awkward juxtaposition to the gritty subject matter of each episode. Yet the chemical balance is just right. Listeners are given just what they need to flit effortlessly from sober contemplation to a surpressed chuckle over Petrzela’s descriptions of Chippendales merch from the ’80s (“There’s a look on his face that either says “come and get me” or “come and get me the fuck outta here”“).
It’s a real skill, and a needed one, as ultimately the deadly tension between concept creator, Steve Banerjee, and The Chippendales’ choreographer, Nick De Noia, sits right at the heart of this piece. For all it’s frivolity, Welcome To Your Fantasy is about the circumstances surrounding a brutal hit on a much-loved creative. Someone who believed wholeheartedly in the show as a legitimate form of entertainment and escapism.
Pertzela similarly exudes this enthusiasm for her subject. She is effervescent, and as she insists that The Chippendales moment is a significant one in American cultural history, she brings you right along with her in spite of yourself. Indeed, if you’re down for a smart, sassy, explosive take on a vivid and, frankly, wild moment in time, you could do a lot worse than taking a chance on this epic 8-parter.