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Keeping burlesque alive

The extravagant art form has had a presence in Las Vegas dating back decades. It’s also home to the international Miss Exotic World competition, featured in the Burlesque Hall of Fame's annual Tournament of Tease

Photographs and story by Chase Stevens, Las Vegas Review-Journal

Burlesque has had a presence in Las Vegas dating back decades, whether it was famed performer Lili St. Cyr headlining the El Rancho in the 1950s or “Ladies of Barry Ashton’s Wonderful World of Burlesque” at the Silver Slipper in the 1970s, among others.

In the past year, several new burlesque productions have debuted in Las Vegas along with others making a return to the stage after COVID delays.

2022 also saw the in-person return of the Burlesque Hall of Fame’s annual weekender for the first time in three years, drawing purveyors of the art from around the world to perform and compete in what’s billed as the longest-running Tournament of the Tease in the U.S.

The productions have found a way to flourish and keep the art of burlesque alive, largely away from the corporate casinos and in smaller, locally-run venues, such as Backstage Bar & Billiards, Taverna Costera and Badlands Saloon, to name a few.

Shows like “Babes and Blues,” produced monthly by Isabelle Marie at The Usual Place; and “Revusical,” a quarterly production by Buttercup at The Space, offer burlesque performances backed by a live band with classic bump-and-grind styles and glitzy costumes, both drawing a host of talented headliners among others.

Miss Brawling Beauty performs during Marvelous Burlesque at the Star Lounge on Friday, June 10, 2022, in Las Vegas.

Charlie Quinn Starling performs during Original Burlesque Bingo at The Mint on Saturday, July 16, 2022, in Las Vegas.

Harlot O’Scara performs during Retro Peepshow at Square Bar on Sunday, May 29, 2022, in Las Vegas.

“Original Burlesque Bingo” by Los Angeles’ Audrey Deluxe brings a humorous, game-show twist to crowds at The Mint, while her recent productions of “Pop!” and “Rancho Deluxe” featured pop culture and western-style themes, with performances in the former referencing a host of characters and movies, such as C-3PO, “A Space Odyssey,” Poison Ivy and Beetlejuice.

For those looking for more affordable options, some productions offer free shows at local bars and restaurants, including Mollie de Menthe’s “A Night Of…” at Red Dwarf, and the weekly rotating “Retro Peepshow” and “Tittease,” produced by Ms. Brandi Glass and Lolita Haze respectively, at Square Bar.

Jonah the Chocolate Showboy performs during Babes and Blues at The Usual Place on Tuesday, June 14, 2022, in Las Vegas.

Lolita Haze performs during Marvelous Burlesque at the Star Lounge on Friday, May 13, 2022, in Las Vegas.

Jazmine Black performs during Lilith at Badlands Saloon on Monday, May 9, 2022, in Las Vegas.

Lost Spirits Distillery hosts resident burlesque performers Michelle L’amour, Ginger Watson, Cervena Fox & Bettina May, who perform alongside cirque performers and magicians as attendees go on rum-infused tours and tastings.

The Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekender is slated to return starting June 1, 2023 at The Orleans Hotel and Casino.

Miss Isabelle Marie performs during Babes and Blues at The Usual Place on Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022, in downtown Las Vegas.
Students perform a group number during Burlesque Hall of Fame's Tease at The Space on Saturday, July 16, 2022, in Las Vegas.

Contact Chase Stevens at cstevens@reviewjournal.com. Follow @CSStevensphoto on Twitter.

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