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

Hellcat Hussies

UPDATED 5/19/05: The Hussies have not, to my knowledge, mounted another full scale production since their run in 2004, reviewed below, but I have seen them perform numbers in several variety shows in the past year. The numbers were consistently sexy, the Hussies looked like they were having fun, and their narratives were coherent. In short, they addressed many of the shortcomings I listed in my original review. If you see them billed in a show and you are intrigued by their fat women aesthetic, by all means check them out.

ORIGINALLY REVIEWED 6/23/04: Sunday night, June 20th, I attended the Hellcat Hussies' show at the Loop Theater, on Randolph. The Hussies are a troupe of fat women on a mission to put "the ass back in sass." I like their feminist, queer-positive take on burlesque, and I think their aesthetic can be very sexy, but I can't highly recommend their show. It had its moments, but it had some big flaws, too.

The show was emceed by Miss Tina Angst, a fetishy thing of beauty with astonishing makeup. Miss Tina was quick on her feet, and did a great job of keeping up the energy of the evening. It started strong with an a capella rendition of the national anthem, sung by Stella Breathless, in Statue of Liberty garb.This was followed by acts in two sets that varied greatly, including a rope bondage scene, a vignette involving a pair of housewives discovering each other, and an office worker relaxing at home with a collection of sex toys. There were more a capella numbers, as well, which I have to admire, but the tone of the show was generally dark and not upbeat.

Interestingly, the act that stole the evening was a guy, specifically, an FTM transsexual. Cody Las Vegas is something of a male counterpart to the Hussies, at least in appearance...not a skinny guy. He first appeared in a welding mask and work clothes, to the strains of "Flashdance." In the surprisingly energetic dance routine that followed, he masterfully lampooned the movie, stripping down to the obligatory cut-up sweatshirt and legwarmers, and concluding with, yes, the shower on stage. He had the audience screaming with delight, and he pulled it off again in the second half of the show, when he lip-synched and danced to Sir Mix-a-Lot's Baby Got Back, not in drag this time, but definitely shaking his own butt to comic effect.

I mentioned flaws. For starters, the show started about 40 minutes late with no announcement until a half hour had passed. I understand that technical problems can occur and that cast members are sometimes late, but I would have appreciated knowing more about why we were waiting.

In general, some of the Hussies appeared considerably less enthusiastic than others, which detracted from the show. And the final number was disappointing. It involved some interesting looking props, and some kind of medical transformation of a manikin into a Hussy, but the vignette was rushed through and not well-acted or narrated, with the audience left to guess what the props were being used for, as if the Hussies were in a rush to get to the dance and striptease, which was, admittedly fairly impressive, with six of them losing their nurse uniforms.

A final point that I can't overlook was the lighting. Random color changes and crossfades during the middle of vignettes, sometimes leaving the performers in the dark, left me to conclude that whoever was running the board had either never done so before, wasn't familiar with the equipment, or both. It really distracted from the show.

The Hellcat Hussies know how to be sexy on stage. With some work on scripting and acting and technical details, they could produce a killer show. I hope to see them evolve in future efforts.

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