Subscribe to my full feed.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Bourbon's Bustout Burlesque

Foxy Flambeaux's 'Absinthe Fairy' demonstrates what happens when a winsome sprite sips a little too long from the 'Green Goddess.'

The French Quarter was cooking Friday night, especially the crowded, cacophonous Bourbon Street. But when I entered The Royal Sonesta Hotel and its renovated Mystic room, I dropped down the rabbit hole and into the wonderland of my misspent youth.

I remember what a Bourbon Street nightclub show was like in its 1950s heyday, and this is it. "Bustout Burlesque, " the long-running, retro re-creation of producer Rick Delaup, has finally made it to the street where it belongs, after more than three years of playing various Quarter locales.

This is the real deal in flashy, splashy, nostalgic appeal: a sexy variety show with stylish authenticity. Beautiful girls putting the tease back into striptease, coming on saucy and coy and then giving way to abandon, as they peel off layers of sequined, lacy, fetishistic attire to the blare of a jazz band and pounding drums. As one of the Bourbon Street barkers of old would say, "Girls dancing out naughty deeds, dressed in nothing but skin and beads." "Bustout Burlesque" now has a corporate sponsor ("Secrets in Lace" lingerie), its bill a revolving one culled from eight dancers, each with a distinct premise for her strip.

Last week, I saw Foxy Flambeaux, now a stunning blonde, doing an "Absinthe Fairy" number, looking fetching in a shimmering green beaded outfit and a pair of wings, which she keeps on even after discarding almost everything else. The idea is, she's a fluttering sprite who imbibes too much of the "Green Goddess" and turns into a wild tassel-twirler.

Starla St. Roch came on wearing a biblical gown -- lo and behold! She stripped veils, to the insistent beat of "Temptation." The pert Roxie LaRouge, purposefully coiffed to resemble 1950s pinup girl Bettie Page, impersonates a French strumpet in red-hot sequins and stockings she peels off oh, so leisurely.

Perle Noire, The Black Pearl, swept through the room like a whirlwind. First, she's sensual and undulating. Then she comes back in Josephine Baker's famous "La Revue Negre" banana-skirt and feathered bracelets in a frenziedly provocative, humorous, revved-up routine that had the full house cheering. (She returns to the show Oct. 17 and 24.)

Singer Debbie Davis rates ovations without taking off a thing. She appears in a champagne-colored outfit that matches her curly blonde hair to sing "Oh, Johnny, Oh" and returns in a 1940s red, sweetheart neckline to knock the audience for a loop with her raucous rendition of "Stuff Like That There."

Dante, the comic-master of ceremonies, is a figure of fun with jokes that need rim-shots to put them across. As a magician, however, he is an artist. His silent routine to music, in which he makes eggs, lit cigarettes and you-name-it appear from the damnedest places, has evolved over the years to a very funny and astonishing 11 minutes of perfection.

Wild Cherry, once the "firecracker of Bourbon Street" in her (and my) youth, is now a red-hot comic mama with tried and true patter.

Bandleader Matt Bell is the virtuoso on guitar, with dynamic, wah-wah trumpet player Jim Thornton, wailing sax man Ricky Knight, Greg Schatz on bass and drummer Doc Richards, who beats those skins with a Gene Krupa-like intensity.

The Mystic looks great: a compact, classy showroom that seats fewer than 100, glittering with black-beaded chandeliers, mirrors and frosted glass.

I may be the show's best audience, because I am not only a silver-haired geezer with a knowing appreciation for what's onstage, but still that kid in the balcony at the old Sho-Bar or 500 Club, dazzled by women I'd seen come into the dressing room looking like anybody else, only to emerge onstage as kaleidoscopically glistening butterflies.


What: "Secrets in Lace presents 'Bustout Burlesque' at The Mystic, " produced by Rick Delaup, choreographed by Dollie Rivas.

Where: The Mystic, Royal Sonesta Hotel, 300 Bourbon St.

When: Fridays, 8 and 10 p.m., through Oct. 24.

Tickets: $25 and $35.

Call: 504.586.0300. Visit

By David Cuthbert. Photos by Steven Forster / The Times-Picayune

No comments: