Lady Mary Jane. Photo: Bettes Burlesque
Directed by Lady Mary Jane
A review by Keith Waits
Entire contents are copyright © 2022 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
Burlesque can be tricky to review because the reaction can be so subjective. Bette’s Burlesque & Boudoir establishes in its mission statement that it is body-positive and all inclusive, and burlesque has historically appreciated human forms apart from mainstream conventions of beauty.
In a brief curtain speech, company founder Lady Mary Jane establishes that most of the ensemble are doing burlesque for the first time, and the inexperience does show itself in certain moments. Tentativeness is the enemy of a performance which demands a certain degree of abandon.
But mostly they get it right. Whatever coaching or direction this fresh company may have gotten, the individual pieces feel like very personal expressions from the performer, and even when tentative, you cannot help but feel that some of them are going out on a limb, exposing themselves both literally and figuratively.
The movement ranges from that tentativeness, which carries the uncertaint exploration of vintage performance art, to much more intentional choreography that is at its best pure dance. All of it is sexy; cheeky, funny, alluring, seductive, satirical, and even clumsy sexy. There were particularly memorable turns from Meeks beginning “A Man’s World” in drag, Kali Malia performing to her own song, “Nine Lives”, and Lady Mary Jane setting a standard for wholesome strip tease with Halsey’s “Castle”.
The commitment to lipsyncing grows annoying; sometimes it is appropriate, such as with the sly parody of Lucky Lou Ease’s two solos, but Lilith Midnight’s routine to SOPHIE’s “Faceshopping” benefitted from the performer’s own pointed spoken word sarcasm, and Zelda Faye Holiday’s strong singing voice in two numbers called the practice into question. Not everybody can sing like that, but it erases the line of artifice with sufficient force to make you hope for more.
Most powerfully, Zelda’s rendition of Radiohead’s “Creep” (following the Postmodern Jukebox arrangement) as a nightgowned chanteuse kicked off a trio of pieces that together formed the most effective communication of the company’s mission. Followed by Lucky Lou Ease reading Joseph Arnone’s “Protective Shield” and finishing with five of the ensemble working Grace Davies’ “Invisible” in a closely choreographed examination of identity, it closed the first act with a great deal more thoughtfulness than one might expect from a show billed as burlesque.
January 28, 29, February 4, & 5 @ 8:00 pm
The Bard’s Town
1801 Bardstown Road
Louisville, KY 40205
Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being the host of LVA’s Artebella On The Radio on WXOX 97.1 FM / ARTxFM.com, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in LEO Weekly, Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.