Any child of the 1970s of a certain age knows the tune: "It's time to put on makeup ... it's time to dress up right ... it's time to raise the curtain on the Muppet Show tonight!"
Angel Burlesque is taking that concept to its most literal limit with its Tribute to the Muppets at the Athenaeum. As Angel Burlesque mastermind Katie Angel points out, the fuzzy friends of our youth are a natural match for the playful nature of burlesque. "One of the reasons were attracted to paying tribute to the Muppets is the fact that the original Muppet Show was so vaudeville in nature," she says. "Our opening number is based on a song that the Muppets parodied from the movie, 'The Night they Raided Minksy's,' which was based on a vaudeville sketch. Tributes of tributes of tributes!"
With a 35-member cast, it promises to be a big-ticket affair. "Our cast includes a few people who have made the jump from audience member to cast member," Katie says. "We'll be featuring a lot of your traditional favorite characters plus some twists of our own. People can expect singing, dancing and definitely the art of the striptease."
On the same night, the Rocket Doll Revue brings a different brand of unpredictable entertainment to its home stage of the White Rabbit Cabaret with Nocturne, which is the latest in a series of shows they started a few years ago with local jazz mainstay Rob Dixon and the Naptown Fantasy Swingers. The RDR refer to it as a taste of what burlesque was like in its heyday. They'll also feature St. Louis-based burlesque dancer Mimi Le Yu.
"It's the only burlesque show in Indianapolis where the dancers are on stage with a jazz band at the same time," says RDR's Frenchy LaRouge. "More often than not, it has a very classic feel and exemplifies how burlesque was done at the height of its popularity in America. All of the performances are improv-based, so every show is different even though they may all be under the same series name."
With half a dozen troupes, multiple independent performers, and usually at least two or three performances every month, Indianapolis has established itself as one of the foremost cities on the burlesque revival wave, and performers expect that to continue. Indeed, the current state of burlesque in Indy has remained quite stable for several years, indicating that it's in no danger of oversaturation any time soon.
"The Indy burlesque scene is strong and growing!" Katie says. "I'm always surprised to meet people who have never heard of burlesque in Indianapolis, let alone that they have so many amazing options for their entertainment. Burlesque is a very particular form of entertainment and it's not for everyone...but reluctant audiences members are more often than not surprised at how much they laugh and enjoy Angel Burlesque shows!"
She credits the ever-growing burlesque scene to a resurgence of arts across the board in the city. "The arts have expanded tremendously in Indianapolis since I was a teenager and I see burlesque growing right alongside our fellow art community," she says.
Frenchy says the community's maturation is leading to greater opportunities. "People are growing and developing, looking for more and better venues, teaching new performers, and gaining new fans," she says. "We have an amazing independent community on top of the troupes that have been established for awhile, and they add a real sense of connection and support that we might not have otherwise. For the most part we root for and push each other to that next level."
She too credits Indy's cultural scene with the growth. "I think in general Indianapolis is growing fast culturally and we are lucky enough to be part of that. Music scenes in cities this size and bigger are usually pretty large, and burlesque is really only different in that it's female-dominated."
Tribute to the Muppets
When: Sept. 18 and 19, 8 p.m.
Where: The Athenaeum
When: Sept. 18, 8 p.m. doors, 10 p.m. Show
Where: The White Rabbit Cabaret
Tickets: $12 presale, $15 door