Burlesque with Attitude
by Bob Pomeroy
The line outside the State Theatre snaked down the block and around the corner on a chilly Wednesday night. It’s the kind of queue promoters salivate over. There was excitement in the air. A punk rock girl walks down the block loudly declaring, to no one in particular, that she has no respect for strippers because strippers have no respect for themselves. A graying rocker ambles by and asks a pretty young woman in the red Chinese dress, “Who’s playing?” She tells him it’s the Suicide Girls Burlesque. The rocker nods and asks, “What’s that?””snow”
Few of the people waiting to get into the State Theatre really knew what to expect from the Suicide Girls Burlesque. Everyone had at least heard of the Suicide Girls web site. They knew that the site features erotic, pin-up style photos of women from alternative communities like Goths and punks. They were familiar with the pictures of heavily tattooed and pierced women on the web site. They were pretty sure there was going to be nudity, but most were attracted out of curiosity. What will a Suicide Girls live show be like?
The Suicide Girls Burlesque show originated with Siren and Snow doing shows around their hometown of Portland. Snow told me before the show, “This burlesque tour is something that we didn’t expect to happen. It just basically came out of nowhere in the last couple of months. We just happened to get seen by a tour company and they were like, wow. We had such a great response that they thought they’d try to bring it around the US.”
Finally, the main event arrived. The first set was a take-off on the old Broadway show Sweet Charity. Snow and Tegan played strippers while Siren played a dirty old man with a mirror on his cane. The girls made fun of strippers and their audience with playful enthusiasm.
In the next set, Tegan and Brandy turned the “Stuck in the Middle with You” music video gore of Reservoir Dogs into a (nearly) naked romp. The skit illustrated the strengths and weaknesses of the entire show. On the one hand, it was amateurish with free form improvisational dancing and cheap props. On the other, it was fun to watch, the girls were sexy and they looked like they were having a blast.
From a snooty, theatre critic perspective, the best pieces were Siren’s solo tribute to Gypsy Rose Lee, set to the instantly recognizable bump and grind of “the Stripper” and her interpretive dance piece set to Bjork’s “the Hunter.” On these pieces, the girls showed off some formal dance training and a bit more discipline than in the rest of the show.
The funky set pieces continued with a “Pimp and Ho” routine and a wonderful high school drama piece where a rocker chick and a cheerleader end up in a catfight. It’s the stuff of many a young man’s 5th period daydreams. The grand finale of the night turned out to be a food fight where Violet, Brandy, Tegan and Stormy squirted whipped cream and chocolate sauce on each other and the lucky (or unlucky) people pressed up against the stage. The climax had less to do with vaudeville stages and more to do with jello wrestling matches, but the crowd loved it.
Talking to people after the show, the reaction was mixed. Some guys were peeved at getting pasties and g-strings instead of live nude girls. One woman complained there wasn’t enough “real dancing.” Another said that the show looked like something a high school drama club might have thrown together. The most common complaint I heard was that the show, at 45 minutes, just wasn’t long enough. Those are all valid criticisms (except for the nudity part). The most important thing though was that the show was fun. It was like going to a high school play and seeing that the actors might be headed for bigger and better things. Chatting with the Suicide Girls after the show, they were talking about ways to make the show better. If the Burlesque becomes a staple feature of the Suicide Girls universe, I’m sure we will see technical improvements as the show develops. The show on tour now gets by on raw DIY enthusiasm and the infectious sense of fun the girls bring to the stage.