Ages-old format gets revived with ‘Burlesque: The Show’

Burlesque: The Show - It only feels like an accounting meeting until the tops come off.
Photo: Christopher DeVargas

Brandy Lee is a third-generation burlesque dancer. Her grandparents produced and starred in Broadway’s 1950s burlesque revival, and in the ’70s, Lee’s mother toured the country during America’s second revival. Now, 40 years later, Lee is carrying on the family tradition. She’s teamed up with longtime friend and dance partner Kendra Alyse to co-produce Burlesque: The Show at the Westin Casuarina.


Burlesque: The Show
Thu-Tue, 9:00 p.m., starting at $39, 18+
Westin Casuarina, 836-5900

The Westin’s theater feels like a conference room that’s been recently converted. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. At worst, you feel like you’re at an accounting meeting with unbelievably risqué entertainment. At best, you have a few martinis, forget that the candle on your table is powered by battery, suspend your disbelief and imagine you’re at a seedy cabaret club of decades past.

The curtains part and Lee, Alyse and three other dancers appear on stage wearing black-and-white babydolls over nude heels. They dance to Alex Gifford’s History Repeating, and the four guys next to me—amateur race car drivers from San Francisco—chat throughout. But again, this isn’t a bad thing; it adds to the cabaret atmosphere.

When the girls go topless, the San Franciscans go nuts. I can only imagine what would happen if somebody told these guys about strip clubs.

After five or six dance numbers and costume changes, Big John the comedian comes out. He sounds exactly like elderly character actor Philip Baker Hall, and though Big John mentions Lady Gaga by name, the bulk of the act is old. I’m not even talking about the traditional burlesque skits he did—the ones from the ’30s—I’m talking about his “modern” jokes. I’m talking, for example, about his John Wayne, Jackie Gleason and Marlon Brando impressions.

(Related: I’ve heard a lot of implausible joke setups in my day, but, well, listen to this: “I just got back from Japan—I did a USO tour there.”)

I’m probably nitpicking; the audience warmed up to Big John after just five minutes, and I don’t think anyone else minded the dated jokes. (Example: my roommate has no idea who Gleason is, but she didn’t mind the impression.)

John reintroduced the dancers, and they, in turn, showed me something I’ve never seen before: a semi-naked girl in a giant, see-through balloon. Pretty cool. And then another surprise: Kendra sings—live. You won’t find that in Crazy Girls.

Burlesque: The Show is like an M. Night Shyamalan movie: You’ll have your critiques, but you’ll walk away entertained.


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