Friday, Jan. 6; Deluxe
You know you're in the right place when you approach the
venue and learn the show is sold out; that the guy who told you this is
actually hoping against hope that you have an extra ticket or two. It makes you
feel lucky that you are one of the smart ones who planned ahead.
The new Deluxe room in the Old National Centre was indeed
the place to be on Friday night, as a sold-out crowd was treated to a raucous
and rich show comprised of 20 separate acts, hosted by Indy-based Angel Burlesque.
I'll admit; I'm a "burlesque virgin," but I am a veteran of
the variety performance format: one act after another performing under a
general rubric, in this case, burlesque.
Burlesque itself follows a rather predictable format. A
performer enters the stage costumed with any number of layers of clothing and
accessories. Over the course of the piece — 3 to 5 minutes — those
layers and accessories are all but removed. It's akin to the "extra, unknown
crewperson" on Star Trek. You just know
this character is going to be a casualty; and so it's true here in Burlesque:
whatever the performer is wearing is bound to be discarded.
Performers from Indianapolis, Bloomington and the headline
act, Red Hot Annie, from Chicago, paraded to the stage, mostly one at a time,
but sometimes in larger troupes and took off (almost all of) their clothes. Not
one act disappointed; all the individual segments were entertaining and fun;
and a few standouts were absolutely sublime.
Hosts Jeff Angel and Belle Breeze kept the chatter to a
minimum; they were perfect and charming heralds for this evening of fun,
sensuality and, in a couple cases, high art.
Here's a sample of some of the most delightful performances:
Headliner Red Hot Annie proved her mettle, especially in the
second act, with her "Art-Tease-T" dance; a highly conceptual piece involving a
canvas placed over her torso. The painting was of her torso, fully clothed in a
dress. Using paint, she slowly "removed" the garment, by applying flesh-colored
paint with a brush to the canvas. Brilliant.
It was a deconstructivist artform, in more ways than, ahem,
Dominique de Beaute, from Bloomington, was hilarious: her
costume trope was a series of strands of pearls. She hurled them into the
audience, causing great consternation; one strand, however, burst into a
hundred individual pieces, creating a chaos of bouncing faux jewels. It hinted
at the crazy miasma of sexuality lurking beneath the surface of performance
Rod Tollhouse received a (personal) standing ovation (from
yours truly) for his performance piece. The sole male in the troupe (other than
host Jeff Angel), Tollhouse held his own, entering the stage in a bathrobe
fresh from a bath or shower. He began to apply lotion on his hands, slowly
awakening to the tactile sensations of his skin. His character arc from
perfunctory getting-ready-for-the-day (or night) to ribald masturbation was
nothing short of masterful; the audience was roaring with laughter,
appreciation — and encouragement.
I have not been this transported by a local performer since
the 2010 Optical Popsickle II, where
Know No Stranger's Brandon Schaaf performed his "Bohemian Rhapsigndy," an
amalgam of air guitar, air piano, American Sign Language, and just plain
physical emoting — it's an unforgettable gem. I'd love to see Schaaf and
Tollhouse do some theater together.
But these standouts just scratch the proverbial surface of
the wide range of talents of the assembled: Jada Bella's work was mesmerizing,
especially her second act, ballet-infused piece on toe shoes. Bastet beguiled
in both acts with her belly dancing; and here was a real surprise: swamp rock
performed live on stage by two musicians. They could have had the audience up
and dancing, had there been a dancefloor.
I attended the show with three friends; each of us had our
own personal favorites, a good sign when it comes to a variety show. Angel
Burlesque mixes it up, bringing a diversity of performance art — and
sensual fun — to the stage. Don't miss their next show, Jan. 30, at Crackers: SuperBra XLVI.