Peek-a-Boo Revue Takes it Off and Puts it Back On

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Photo by Bill Hebert

by Kat Richter for The Dance Journal

Neo-burlesque troupe Peek-a-Boo Revue packed the house at World Café Live on Friday night for its post-Valentine’s romp, Blow Me a Kiss.  It had all the makings of great burlesque, including live music and nipple tassels enough to clothe an entire army, but it lacked the self awareness that makes neo burlesque neo: the satire, the wit, the “yes, we’re stripping but we’re making a statement” attitude that differentiates modern burlesque from glorified striptease.  The audience, however, didn’t seem to mind and kept right on cheering throughout the entire three-hour show.

The evening began with It’s a Shame to Tell a Lie featuring a solo vocalist Tracey Todd Superstar and six chorus girls in white shorts and sequined bras who performed an upbeat Charleston in what would remain the most “dancey” number of the entire show.  Next up was Rosalie Sweets, who stripped from a purple, floor length gown down to a sequined corset then unhooked her bra with one hand to the tune of a trumpet solo.  Cherry Bomb then performed to a cover of Toxic by Brittany Spears, tiptoeing across the stage with a miniature umbrella like a Victorian tightrope walker.

The performance continued in this vein, combining vocal solos, comedy sketches and of course, lots and lots of sequin pasties all ushered along by hosts Joey Martini and Count Scotchula.  Their monologues were entertaining at times and their frequent costume changes kept things interesting, but their introductions—not to mention the Escape from New York spoof—often dragged well beyond the point of funny.

Breaking rank, soloist Ginger Lee, who teaches neo-burlesque in Fishtown, performed sans high heels.  Her barefoot solo, for which she wore a simple cream colored negligee, comprised a surprising striptease-meets-lyrical mash up.  She circled her hips and concluded the routine with a simple rond de jamb before exiting the stage.

California-based Lulu Lollipop was the most polished performer of the evening.  Her feathered headdress surely had the Mummers in the audience green with envy, and her poised, well-timed striptease looked like it came straight from a period film.  Nineteen year old Sophie Sucre of New York’s Brown Girls Burlesque wasn’t far behind with her samba-meets-burlesque routine.  Although the number followed the same storyline as every other piece (girl dances, girl reveals thong, girl reveals pasties, audience cheers), her quick footwork and shaking hips were a nice change in pace.

The musicians who comprised the Striptease Orchestra were top notch.  The horn section enjoyed their fair share of penis jokes—perhaps more than their fair share—but then again, what’s a clarinetist supposed to do while playing a burlesque show?  Their introductions, in which each musician got a chance to play solo, were a highlight of the evening.  And the polka dotted, corset-themed music stands were a nice, kitschy touch.

Another highlight was Beautiful, performed in the dark by co-host Joey Martini and dancers Cherry Bomb and Ginger Lee.  The trio sauntered across the stage as various costumes pieces comprised of fluorescent rope lights came into view: first Martini’s hat, then smiling faces for the girls, then the outline of a bra and finally light up heels.  This—at last—was neo burlesque.  The dancers literally turned their clothes on instead of taking them off for a truly original take on the traditional striptease.

Kat Richter is a freelance writer and teaching artist.  She holds an MA in Dance Anthropology and is also the co-founder of The Lady Hoofers, Philadelphia’s only all-female tap company.  Her work can be found at www.katrichter.com.

About Kat Richter

Kat Richter is a freelance writer and professor of both dance and cultural anthropology. She is also the co-founder and Artistic Director of The Lady Hoofers Tap Ensemble, Philadelphia's premiere all-female tap company. Her work has appeared in Glamour, Dance Magazine, Dance Teacher and The Journal of Research in Dance Education.

As a professional dancer, Richter began her apprenticeship with the New Jersey Tap Ensemble at the age of 9 and was promoted to Principal Dancer while still in high school. In 2005, she received a scholarship to Oxford University and returned to the UK in 2009. She holds a BA in Dance and History from Goucher College and an MA in Dance Anthropology from Roehampton University. A proud Philadelphia transplant, she blogs at www.fieldworkinstilettos.com

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3 Comments

  1. Hello Count 🙂

    Thanks for your comment and I apologize for the delay in responding. When I first mentioned my interest in reviewing the Revue, I got more than a few raised-eyebrows in response but I felt that you all were deserving of coverage just as much as any of the other dance companies in Philadelphia. That said, this was an extremely difficult review to write (as indicated in part by Cherry’s comment– when you said one dancer was “only 19” and another was “from California,” I took these remarks at face value and got tripped up by several of the real name vs. stage names. My apologies to the performers for the misspellings.)

    My knowledge of burlesque/neo burlesque comes mainly from my time in London, where I completed my graduate work in dance anthropology. Admittedly, my “interpretation” of burlesque draws heavily on the work of Sherril Dodds and my observations of London’s burlesque scene, in which the performances were much more satirical in nature and the striptease was more funny than sexy. It sounds as though your version of what constitutes neo burlesque is very different from mine so I would be happy to accept your offer of giving it another go in order to continue this dialogue 🙂

  2. Well, Kat – as you know, matured artists should appreciate critique – it’s what grows us up. Many tghanks for the kind words and observations that you felt held-up the traditions of stagecraft. The highlights you referenced were indeed awesome numbers. Thank you for identifying them.

    While i would suggest that you come to the next show as a guest (to broaden your views) of what ‘Neo’ is – I would also like to suggest that your concept of ‘neo’ is ill-informed. It means ‘new’. We are both a glorified Stripshow and cabaret artists who break the first 12 rules of traditional B’lesk – like actual dick jokes (a non-no in 1920). We value our ‘messages’ within the format, but ‘entertainment’ is our goal, not education.

    But we are sincere when we say that every show matters, and we strive (and have for 14 years) to honor those ticket-buyers, and have them leave happy. As one of the co-hosts I certainly respect your honesty above all else. Please feel invited to the next series of shows
    and perhaps we can alter your assessemnet of the troupe.

    Keep Tapping Lady.
    Count Scotchula

  3. Just wanted to clear up a few discrepancies:
    The opening number was “It’s a Sin to Tell a Lie”
    Rosalee Sweet was the 1st soloist.
    It’s Ginger Leigh.
    Lulu Lollipop is the former Director of Peek-A-Boo and is Philly based.
    Sophie Sucre is in her mid-twenties and is a permanent cast member of the Peek-A-Boo Revue, she will be a guest performer with Brown Girl Burlesque next month.
    Thank you!!

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