Tuesday Nicole & Lady Stardust in Va Va Vittles. Photo: Kevin Spalding
Va Va Vittles from Va Va Vixens
A review by Keith Waits
Entire contents are copyright © 2023 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
Food and sex are a natural combination. The eating scene between Albert Finney and Joyce Redman in the 1963 film Tom Jones forever clinches that relationship. Food can be sensual and suggestive, and that’s before we even start talking about fruit. It is such an obvious theme for Va Va Vixens that it makes you wonder why it took so long for them to get around to it.
Typical for the Vixens, much of it is just plain silly, in the best sense of that word. An invitation to let go of pretense and enter a world of frank and open sexual expression healthier than the repression that is always around us and is currently on the offensive. It opens with a giddy fruit dance set to “Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows” suitable for all ages, the highlight of which was Tony Smith’s decidedly goofy, grape character.
LGBTQ+ identity and motifs are stock in trade for this troupe, and Vittles includes the introduction of a trans drag queen. Salem Vytch-Tryells is a true stand-out in a strong ensemble, first hitting the stage in an absolutely wicked banana-skirted homage to Josephine Baker that left scorch marks in its wake. Later, Vytch-Tryells, who is Black, plays a bottle of Mrs. Butterworth’s pancakes syrup just in case playing with racial tropes is your thing.
The Vixens are a burlesque troupe, but it felt like they were pushing their boundaries a bit here. Aerial routines are always executed with skill and the sexy part is about costume and attitude, but an early trapeze solo by Kara Luanne that evokes bondage, and phallic images abound. I mean, hot dogs and bananas, right? There is also an outrageous duel between cherry and custard pie that climaxes with a pie fight that finds its way onto parts of the body other than the face.
Less ribald but equally fun is a delicious “Rock Lobster” scene, and the music is not always recordings by famous musicians like the B-52’s, with Lady Stardust delivering “Going Down Slow”, Tony Smith doing a slow and smooth “Baby’s Got Back”, and Julius Teaser and belting out “Pour Some Sugar On Me.”
In other aerial work, Slim Jim Dandee was especially daring and Queerella Jazelle was especially sinuous, and I was given to precisely ponder the strength required for such endeavors. And when Jazelle returned for a duo on the ring, at one point managing to improbably support the full weight of their partner while holding the ring with one hand (?) I had to focus intently to make sure I was seeing that correctly. I am still not fully convinced it was possible. Was it an illusion or do the Vixens just work that hard? Or maybe I was imaging it. These shows sweep you up into their heat, humor, and magic and the crowd is loud and effusive in expressing their appreciation.
And if old school stripper motifs are your jam, there is a beautiful fan dance that is graceful and classic. It evokes a long history of ostrich feathers, not the least of which is the Billy Flynn number in the revival of Chicago, reminding us that this burlesque is also steeped in a theatrical tradition that encompasses the sexiness of Bob Fosse.
The Vixens are a curious blend of innocence and salaciousness, inclusion is a constant theme in every show, and there is plenty of satire at work in Va Va Vittles. The level of intelligence at play reinforces the old canard that the biggest sexual organ is the human brain. Carnal thoughts can be intellectual and intellect can be sexy.
Va Va Vittles
June 16, 17, 23, & 24 @ 8:00 pm
VIP (Reserved Seats with Cocktail Service) $45 General Admission $35
Va Va Vixens
at Art Sanctuary
1433 South Shelby Street
Louisville, KY 40217
Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being the host of Artists Talk with LVA 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 Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.