For those who fail to dig past the distracting cursory bells and whistles of g-strings and pasties, burlesque must seem quite crass. While the neo-burlesque movement retained the essentials of sexually charged strip tease, Dita Von Teese's Strip Strip Hooray review showed it's an art form that goes far beyond human vulgarity.
Last night at Revolution Live, Von Teese and her troupe of men and women transported a raucous crowd from the seedy streets of downtown Fort Lauderdale to a glamorous realm of live cinema rendered with absolutely devastating style, grace, and humor. Beyond the entertainment the evening provided, the varied cast of characters helped to convey an unspoken message of acceptance and unconditional confidence through performance.
The proceedings were hosted by the affable Murray Hill. He's the drag-king incarnation of Robert Goulet doing a Don Rickles impersonation, though Hill's larger-than-life personality is entirely his own. Hill warmed the audience by playfully jabbing at a crowd member's standoffish body language, polling the audience for homosexuals, and introducing the performers with a signature, sharp humor that provided punctuation between performances.
The evening seemed like a missing scene from the film Swingers: Audience members were dressed to the nines in varying degrees of swank and swag, all vintage informed, of course. Revolution Live itself had been transformed from a concert hall with a rock 'n' roll twist to a proper burlesque club, complete with tables, an extended stage illuminated by brass seashell lighting fixtures, a blue velvet curtain festooned with gold trim. Murray Hill's introduction of the "International Queen of Burlesque" was nearly drowned out by the crowd's uproar as Dita Von Teese took the stage for her first number.
Donning the most form fitting tuxedo possibly ever sewn, Von Teese appeared flanked by a duo of scantily clad blonde women. Vicky and Virginia (Hill introduced them with a vagina joke, naturally) helped the performer as she gently slunk away pieces of the tux and elegantly floated about the stage. Von Teese lip synced a classic sounding jazz number throughout her seductive dance, but every button lost earned a riotous ovation from the audience that forced the focal point away from song and to accessory.
Von Teese was eventually, after an eternity, left in a rhinestone and crystal encrusted bustier, then just a g-string and tasseled pasties -- the only appropriate clothing for someone about to bathe in a 6 foot tall martini glass. The brunette deity of burlesque climbed into the glass, which was now magically filled with green liquid, and proceeded to swirl around in it, bathing with a giant olive that turned out to be a sponge. Von Teese held the sponge high overhead and let the water caress her body to the delight of everyone, ending the first act of the evening stretched over the rim of the glass with a coy smile and wink.