Ray's Guide to Chicago Area Burlesque
Show dates and reviews from the burlesque scene in Chicago.

Flirt Cabaret

UPDATE 6/14/05: In May, 2005, Flirt Burlesque Cabaret reopened with a weekly show at the Lakeshore Theater. Mary and I had the opportunity to attend on June 11. My first reaction is that the show is more cabaret than it is burlesque, and while I hate to give a bad review, I don't have a lot of positive things to say about it.

In the incarnation that I saw, the show was a series of dance numbers performed by five hot, sexy dancers, punctuated by songs sung by the always enchanting Dante (see my review of Dante's Voodoo Cabaret), and a some video effects. There was no emcee. The dance numbers were all well choreographed and performed, and the costumes looked professional. At various points the dancers went down into the aisles. Twice, audience members were brought onstage and teased.

With no emcee and no comedy, there was little interaction with the audience and no excitement was generated. The dance numbers were hot, but they were just that: dance numbers. With one exception (done in shadow), there was no striptease. Once I realized that nothing was coming off, the experience became akin to watching the Solid Gold Dancers of yore. I don't know whether to call it cabaret or something else, but it wasn't what I consider to be burlesque.

The show's foray into video and multimedia seemed inspired by the tour de force of Lavender Cabaret's FemmeTV, which ran in the same space so spectacularly a year and a half ago, but it wasn't executed very well, and came off more as filler during costume changes than a unifying theme for the show.

I applaud Flirt Cabaret for taking another stab at staging a burlesque show. They have clearly put a lot of work into an ambitious production. Unfortunately, despite their intentions and the presence of songstress Dante, it falls short of what I consider to be fun, energetic burlesque worth seeing, and I can't recommend it.

ORIGINALLY REVIEWED 3/2/04: I saw Flirt Cabaret in the Black Orchid Room in December, 2003. The room is a classy affair, modeled on upscale jazz rooms of the past. Leading up to the show, anticipation filled the air, fueled by hostesses in corsets showing patrons to their tables.

The show was very European in style, emulating the films Moulin Rouge and Cabaret rather than the vaudevillian burlesque that is the rage. Five or six dancers, a chanteuse, and an emcee in a smoking jacket performed a variety of vignettes, including such standards as the fan dance, the bubble bath, and some backlit shadow work. There was an audience participation number, where men were picked to sit on stools while dancers, and the singer did a number on a swing in the middle of the room.

A five piece jazz band accompanied the show, and production values were high. Costumes were very professional, lighting was skillfully executed, and staging appeared practiced. The big finale was a creditable cover of Lady Marmalade, one of the numbers from Moulin Rouge.

If it seems like there is a "but" coming, there is. Despite the high quality of the show, the friends (male and female) that I attended with and I agreed that it just wasn't all that sexy. The dancers were good and they showed off some skin, but it looked more like they were at work than like they were having a fabulous time turning everybody on. It was good theater, but it wasn't good tease.

My understanding is that the producers intend to run the show occasionally, and are still searching for an appropriate, affordable venue. I hope they find one, and I hope they succeed. If they work on the sexiness a bit, this could be a killer show.

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