This past weekend I enjoyed one such burlesque revival as performed by Philly's own Peek-a-Boo Revue (this is an old article link; no official site at this time, unfortunately). The Revue, as led by locquacious MC Scottie Johnson, conducted a long-form gala show at The Trocadero, instead of their standard, shorter show at The Five Spot. This included approximately four sets split by band breaks with Doctor Goodfoot and The Funky Things.
The use of The Trocadero for this show (besides its capacious stage) hallmarked a return to the original purpose of the venue. Though currently used as a crumbling grande dame of a rock club, The Troc originally entered business as a vaudeville house, turning to burlesque when vaudeville lost fashion. Thankfully, The Troc now charges a small "restoration fee" on top of their ticket prices. I hope the owners of The Troc do a good job with this restoration project, as the space would be gorgeous if restored to a semblance of its old glamour. MC Scottie did a fine job educating the crowd on the finer points of vaudeville and burlesque before getting to what it is the people truly want.
And that would be breasts. In most people's minds, burlesque conjurs a vision of "your grandad's titty bar." Though the salacious aspect of burlesque cannot be denied, at least in this instance, a majority of the dancers in the show not only danced in larger choreographed numbers, but also sang and sang quite well. As a seque between numbers, MC Scottie would stand in front of a suspended screen and quell the restless crowd with as much patter as possible.
Compared to the tastes of today's youngins, the best adjective I can ascribe to a burlesque show would be "quaint," but quaint in a fun, entertaining, almost brainy way. Perhaps the funniest thing about the presentation had not so much to do with the jokes being told on stage, but a simple fact about Pennsylvania obscenity laws: from what I can tell from numerous shows and balls I've been to in the area, the display of the female nipple while in a venue serving alcohol is verboten. Had I only seen pasties at the Peek-a-Boo Revue, I would have thought they were simply being purists, but I've also seen the venerable pasty (or it's cheaper modern-day equivalent--electrical tape) in a couple of settings about town, so I'm going to have to cry "legal mandate." It's somehow odd seeing a volume of breasts, bare all except for these little dots of unnatural color. I'm uncertain at this point whether the presence of the pasty has a sobering effect on the voyeuristic nature of the burlesque or is a winking nod to it.
All soap-boxing aside, the Peek-a-Boo Revue was absolutely adorable, filled with cute, talented, and skilled boys and girls. I hope that should The Troc ever be fully restored and host a grand re-opening, that Peek-a-Boo is top of the bill.