As burlesque shows go, it's hard to think of any other troupe in town that can give Scandalesque a run for its money in terms of sheer production value and professionalism.
While they lack the ramshackle, fun community theater vibe that a group like Romantasy Cabaret has in spades, they make up for it by being the one burlesque troupe that could be airlifted and dropped in Vegas and not seem out of place. And the vibe Friday night at their show at the Cherry Lounge & Pit was very Vegas-y, in the best and worst possible ways.
To start with the good: paying $12 for a two hour show was money very well spent. The show had two acts with an intermission. And the performances onstage were varied and diverse, so it never got boring. Starting off with a "Justify My Love" soundtrack, Adam & Eve inspired performance complete with fake apple, and costuming that could have been lifted from a post-apocalyptic Duran Duran music video (and I mean that in a good way), the stage was filled with writhing bodies carrying each other and reclining on the steps and hanging above on a scaffolding.
And after that we got a fan dancing routine done by a trio of Pyra Sutra's burlesque students, and one of Scandalesque's male troupe members, Metamorpheus, did a jaw-dropping aerial "boylesque" routine, climbing and twisting himself up what looked like a pair of velvet ropes hanging from the ceiling. This wouldn't be the last time that a Scandalesque act would put a circus acrobat to shame: there were more aerial acts throughout the night, with a ring suspended from the ceiling that male and female troupe members alike would hang and contort and climb around on.
There are many reasons to see a Scandalesque show, but above all else, the gravity-flouting acts are number one. There are other great burlesque groups in town, but no other group has made aerial burlesque its specialty to the point that Scandalesque has.
There were other great performances throughout the night -- a petite dancer spun like a whirling dervish with a pair of hula-hoops. Two masked dancers in hooded cloaks, assumed to be female, danced with only their legs exposed to "She's Got Legs" set up and delivered the best joke of the night; As the song ended, the dancers with the comely legs unmasked to reveal that one of them was Metamorpheus!
There was singing, Pyra Sutra did a sparks-shooting "equestrian" act, riding on the back of a man dressed up like a cross between Mr. Ed and Conan as a Goldfrapp song played over the speakers. And the show ended with the entire troupe onstage doing their thing, spinning fire, swinging through the air, and sliding up and down Cherry Lounge's many stripper poles.
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The show was pretty great, but a few things kept it from being perfect. There's the host, Kelly With A Big Ol' K, for starters. While she seemed to have a good rapport with the crowd and emceed the night with confidence, but she wasn't very funny. I'm a fan of camel-toe jokes as much as the next person, but after the twentieth, I started to yawn (esp. as the camel-toe jokes continued after Kelly and a pair of dancers did a number covering Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance", changing the lyrics to be about tight spandex and camel-toes).
The other problem came in the form of the recently re-opened venue hosting the event. The Cherry Lounge & Pit is a relentlessly cheesy place. The entire vibe of the place screamed "strip club," without the strippers. There were poles everywhere, gorilla-sized bouncers wandered around the bar, and giant pictures of women dangling cherries between their cleavage hung above our heads. There was no escape from the sexy aesthetic, not even in the bathroom, where suspended over the male urinals were video screens playing loops of go-go dancers doing their thing. I love tits and ass, don't get me wrong, but I don't want to get an eyeful of it while trying to take a leak. There's a time and a place for everything.
Aside from the cheesy environment and the cheesy crowd it helped draw in (few things are more boring than being stuck in a room full of middle-to-upper class folks getting drunk and acting "naughty"), it was a great show. The dudes got to see beautiful women in various states of undress, dancing with grace. The ladies got to see dudes with supernatural abs work their own magic onstage. And with the promise of more shows happening at the end of the month, there will be more chances to see Scandalesque put on a great show in a not-so great location.