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

Girlie-Q Variety Hour

UPDATE 3/29/07 Still going strong! Girlie-Q has kept up its monthly schedule of shows, fielding an impressive variety of acts, and a slowly changing roster of performers. JT Newman, aka Miss Bea Haven, who shepherded Girlie-Q for a good year and half, recently moved on to pursue other projects. Firecracker Bloody Belle has taken on producing the show, and so far is off to a great start, keeping shows interesting and on-theme, and staying true to the show's queer roots and aesthetic. 2007 looks great for Girlie-Q, and I still recommend the show without hesitation.

UPDATE 10/4/05: On September 23, JT Newman launched Girlie-Q as a monthly show at the Hothouse. Again she presented a broad mix of queer and straight, comedic and intellectual burlesque acts. My favorite quote of the evening was Headmistress Overdone in a discourse about sex in literature: "Madame Bovary would be immensely improved by the addition of a double penetration scene." (apologies to Headmistress if I didn't get that verbatim) With an impressive and varied ensemble, and special monthly guests, Girlie-Q is a noteworthy and welcome addition to the scene of regularly scheduled burlesque shows in Chicago. I look forward to the Halloween installment.Highly recommended.
One note about queer burlesque for the straight and uninitiated: the acts may sometimes have feminist overtones, but they still consist of sexy women (sometimes more than one!) taking their clothes off and should be anticipated more than feared.

UPDATE 5/19/05: JT Newman brought Girlie-Q to the stage again in March this year for one night at the Hothouse and two at the Performing Arts Chicago festival. Opening night at the Hothouse was a treat, similar in character to the 2004 show. The lineup emphasized burlesque more this time -- there were no spoken word performers -- and the show was paced very nicely (the 2004 outing had been a bit slow at times). Cheers to JT.

ORIGINALLY REVIEWED 6/8/04: On Memorial Day, the Hothouse was the place to be for the Chicago-area queer/lesbian/burlesque/performance/spoken-word set. JTNewman, whom I have not met, but am curious about, had billed a "Cameltoe Malone" production of the Girlie-Q Variety Hour. Numerous female acts ranging from burlesque performers to spoken word artists were slated. I looked forward to this show with anticipation from the moment I heard about it, and I was not disappointed.

The show was emceed by a vivacious redhead named Tamale, after a very artful opening in which she circled the room in a white ceramic courtier's mask and lots of white tulle, capturing everyone's attention. Then the guitar licks started, and she stripped the fairy image away to reveal her more goth sensibilities in black. Now that she had the crowd riled, she carried on with a hot striptease down to panties and pasties that had the room, mostly women, hooting and hollering. Three cheers for Tamale.

The collection of acts that followed her drew from several different genres. Cooper Lee and Len Plass, authors on the Junkyard Books label, read alternately heartwrenching and heartwarming spoken word pieces about requited and unrequited loves, and Rose Telly read a short piece in a tutu and some amazingly sparkly makeup. Sissy and Coco Chaps turned in a couple of lip-synched dance/acting vignettes, one about jealousy in love, and one cleverly lampooning the policies of the Bush administration.

Three Card Molly did a bizarre/absurd twist on circus feats of daring. First a (male) hawker went on about their amazingness, then a heavily edited soundtrack of the same hawker's voice took over as one Molly struggled to lace up a tall boot, one Molly repeatedly dramatically donned a sweater then took it off, and the third spit water into a glass that was farther and farther away, all with jerky, strange choreography. It was a decidedly postmodern detour for the evening that took me right back to the late eighties and early nineties, Chicago's golden years of performance art. Not having experienced that era, my girlfriend did not think as highly of this act.

I have not yet seen one of the Sissy Butch Brothers' Gurlesque Burlesque evenings, but some of the Girlie-Q acts have also been seen at those events. Among them are the Hellcat Hussies, a troupe of spirited, Rubenesque women ("putting the ass back in sass") who did a fun "girlfight" number, and Alexandra von Livid, who may not have the most voluptuous figure, but she showed the audience that she sure knows how to shake what she has. The Lickety Split Radical Cheerleaders stirred up some old fashioned, feminist lesbian fun with their take on "queerleading." And Trigger Jane and Queen Clitora are a cute duo that performed a fun, gender bending, striptease number with robotic choreography.

There were were too many acts to mention here, but suffice it to say that while some were stronger than others, they all did a creditable job of maintaining the great energy of the evening. In addition, the What Goes On jazz band played swinging opening and intermission sets. These guys would have made for an entertaining evening on their own.

The show concluded with a striptease homage to our seasonal dysphoria here in Chicago. Mr Cellophane, a somewhat skinny woman, appeared on stage bundled up in winter jacket, snow pants, gloves, scarf, boots...the works...with a sign card next to her that read "Springtime." Shivering all the while, she peeled down to a g-string and a pair of delightful silk flower pasties, a veritable Spring nymph. Then a stage hand added the words "in Chicago" to the sign, and she began to shiver and bundle up again as she retreated off stage. Bravo.

I look forward to more JTNewman "Cameltoe Malone" events.

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