Burlesque? I think not…

Suzy and I went to see the movie Burlesque with Cher and Christina. I noted that Christina Aguilera adopted Cher’s ‘one name only’ moniker. Unfortunately the movie was a watered down Burlesque of sorts, with very little of the grit and grotesque that is usually found in a read Burlesque show. The music was fun too, but came just short of the fantasical, whimsy-filled comedy that the band can add.


Burlesque: A humorous theatrical entertainment involving parody and sometimes grotesque exaggeration.

imageSuzy and I almost got into Moulin Rouge in Paris when we were young married types. But the show was sold out. And our trip to Berlin got canceled because of the off again, on again political climate. So we have never been to a real Burlesque show. We came close attending Cirque du Soleil’s Zumanity in Las Vegas which was described thusly:

imageZUMANITY unveils the sensual side of Cirque du Soleil. This mischievous production blends playful innuendo with daring eroticism in the intimate ZUMANITY Theatre. A provocative cabaret-style production, ZUMANITY features outrageous humor, alluring acrobatics and intoxicating dance set to the pulse of intoxicating rhythms.

Naughty, yes. Fun, oh yes, Too spicy for many, unfortunately true. Beginning in the early 18th century, the term burlesque was used throughout Europe to describe musical works in which serious and comic elements were juxtaposed or combined to achieve a grotesque effect. Early theatrical burlesque was a form of musical and theatrical parody in which a serious or romantic opera or piece of classical theatre was adapted in a broad, often risqué style that ridiculed stage conventions.

burlesqueIn late 19th century, the United Kingdom, in particular, such dramatic productions became very popular, especially at particular theatres such as the Olympic and the Gaiety in London. In Britain, burlesque was largely a middle class pursuit, where the jokes relied on the audiences’ familiarity with known operas and artistic works. Its predilection for double entendre and casting female stars in the lead male roles (or ‘breeches parts’) gave burlesque its risqué popular appeal. Gradually burlesque performers started appearing in music halls too, performing musical sketches for the working classes with political and social satire. imageThis form remained popular well into the 20th century and can still be found today on television sketch shows. To save confusion, the traditional British burlesque style is now known as ‘musical burlesque’ or ‘classical burlesque’ (in the case of sendups of the classics) and is still active today with a handful of specialist writer/performers and producers.

burlesqueBandIn 20th century America the word became associated with a variety show in which striptease is the chief attraction. Although the striptease originated at the Moulin Rouge in 1890s Paris and subsequently became a part of some burlesque across Europe, only in American culture is the term burlesque closely associated with the striptease. These shows were not considered ‘theatre’ and were regarded as ‘low’ by the vaudevillians, actors and showgirls of neighboring theatreland. (Wikipedia)

There were some flashes of the real Burlesque show thrown in, but they were precious few and far between. But as far as I know, the Zumanity show comes as close as any in the US to a real burlesque. I did see this New Orleans Burlesque Fest poster from this year. So maybe I just need to do more research to finding something as fun. Ping me if you have suggestions.

I have to admit, looking for pictures for this piece was more fun than writing it. Much of what I found could not be used as it was waaaay too risqué. <smile>

About Gandalfe

Just an itinerant saxophonist trying to find life between the changes. I have retired from the Corps of Engineers and Microsoft. I am an admin on the Woodwind Forum, run the Seattle Solid GOLD Big Band (formerly the Microsoft Jumpin' Jive Orchestra) a GOLD sax quartet, and enjoy time with family and friends.
This entry was posted in Jazz, Movies, Music, Theater, Too Spicy for some and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Burlesque? I think not…

  1. Terry Stibal says:

    We too saw the film, and while there were a lot of problems with same (i.e., predictable story, shallow characters, Cher as an actress, obsession with something that people are just not that obsessed about, fake parties, and a scene where young Christina goes out in the rain, yet stays curiously dry and chic), overall we felt that we got our money’s worth.

    Where should I start?

    Well, the size of the club was all wrong for the show that was put on, the trombone player seemed to make a significant amount of noise at some points without having his lips on the mouthpiece, and the stagings were too incredibly complicated to pull off in “live theatre” in the fashion that the girls did.

    But, the complicated stagings were impressive to watch, with a lot of precision dance that one was not likely to find in a true burlesque setting. And, amidst the dance-pop that made up the majority of the music, there was one tune ((But) I’m A Good Girl) that looks to be every bit as durable as Santa Baby, Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend and others of that same “seductive young woman” bent.

    Young Christina looks good on screen, particularly when she gets dressed up in “street clothes” to attend the fake parties in the film. (I would have her sent in for a rhinoplasty, but that may just be my personal preferences.) In one or two of the “non-performance” scenes, she looks almost incredibly, knuckle-bitingly good – the girl cleans up well. (If she is tattooed, they are covered up well.) And her dance skills, to the extent that the jumpy, three second long camera shot style of the film shows them, were very impressive.

    Cher looked like a tall, skinny man with a black wig, dressed in drag. The peculiar makeup style chosen for the film combined with her over-revised facial features gave her the appearance of a tropical fish. She does zero dancing in the film, and only sings one song, an overwrought ballad that was both awkwardly inserted into the storyline, and full of her usual extreme vocalizing, best seen elsewhere in Paul Shafer’s annual imitation of Cher singing O Holy Night, aired each year on Late Night With David Letterman.

    (In an unrelated vein, those interested in one hell of a Christmas tune would do well to monitor Late Night With David Letterman over the weeks leading up to Christmas. Each year for the last twenty or so, the show has featured a performance of “Merry Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)”. The tune, written by no less a celebrity than murderer Phil Spector, is a full bore, straight ahead piece of work that Paul Shafer always does up brown, with the vocal performed by the original artist, Darlene Love.(

    (I had the tune arranged a couple of years ago, but have yet to do a Christmas show where it could fit into the set list. It does require a singer with a set of pipes to do it justice, as well as a baritone player willing to rip through the mid-tune solo. (On the Letterman Show, Tom “Bones” Malone does the honors here, making dramatic entries such as being dressed as Santa in a sleigh pulled by the Rockettes, or being flown in from the loft of the theater on a harness. I, on the other hand, just stand up and let fly.))

    But I digress. Back to the film.

    Is this movie true “burlesque”? No, not based upon what I saw at the old Grand Theater in Saint Louis back in the late 1960’s. But, also based upon what I saw there, this film is BETTER than the classic art form, which would seem far too tacky for modern tastes.

    In this movie, via the wonders of lip sync and modern cinematography, you get a lot better impression of a show along the lines of what you might see from the ever-changing Pussycat Dolls, with far better dancing and an infinitely better sound impression than ever came with “classic” burlesque. True, the sound is much more modern, based upon keys and guitars, and also true, the dance sequences are way more complicated than you would ever see in a live performance. (Also, while the girls are younger than in classic burlesque, several of them are defaced by “body art”, enough to cause shudders in the case of those not attuned to this sort of thing.)

    Just plug your ears and cover your eyes whenever la Cher shows up, and you’ll do alright with this one.

  2. Gandalfe says:

    You know, I found myself not really watching Cher during this movie. I luved her when she was younger, but she is now this grotesque character because she is an old lady in a youngish body. I would look at people in the background rather that watch Cher.

    I saw Jane Fonda on Jay Leno the other day and at 72 she looked better than most 40 year olds except… she moved like an old lady. It was almost surrealistic.

  3. Terry Stibal says:

    Sooner or later (and the horrid example of Hef set aside) we all age and die. Three score years and ten (“As in the Good Book!”, my Christian friends would say) may no longer be operative (as an example, my seventy two year old wife is as spry as a forty year old – she is certainly more spry than me at sixty-one), but eighty looks like the practical upper limit for most of the species.

    But, you still have to account for Hef. Sure, he did his national service, unlike so many who later aspired to his Playboy Philosophy, and sure, his stands on many issues (race, civil rights, women’s rights) have turned out to be the right ones. He has also caused some excellent books to be published – not the purulent ones, you perverts, but serious, analytic ones on history and sport.

    But, just look at the man – go ahead, Google him on the internet – I’ll wait a minute or so…
    Now, I ask you, if there is a God of any type or function in this great, wonderful world of ours, why does s/he not strike the sybaritic, hedonistic husk that it today’s Hef down with a thunderbolt or two, right this very minute? After all, he suborns the innocent, traduces the not-so-innocent, and lives a life that an Oriental pasha of the good old days could only wish to have.

    So, why is he still alive and kicking?

    I know that much of what he puts forth these days is a sham, even with the aid of Viagra/Cialis/Levetra and a never ending string of willing accomplices. (In his recent television series, less realistic than even the old Playboy After Dark, he acts like he is senile. However, that may just be an act and not reality. Still, look at what happened to Ronald Reagan.)

    But, just look at the man! And then, just look at what he has enabled.

    I’ve never been to the place myself, but the Playboy Mansion West (the old, original one is now a college dormitory) is again ringin’ and swingin’ with the fabled parties that made the place such a fixture in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Obviously the faces have changed; many of the “start” buddies of Hef have died off or become immobile, while the girls continue to grow old and be cast aside at age 24. But, the same general picture of leering old men having anonymous sex with girls old enough to be their granddaughters, all presided over by Hef, wrinkled face above ascot and satin robe, still obtains. Only the female cast members have changed.

    And, while never having been there myself, I do know a few who have been there (on both sides of the equation), and the rumors are every bit as true as you would want them to be. And, “kanoodling in the Grotto” is only the tip of the iceberg.

    So, here is Hef, eighty-four years old, for God’s sake, presiding over an orgy of epic proportions, and nada happens to the man. Either God is saving it up for one massive, classical proportioned and styled come-uppance, or (more likely) there is no God.

    Theologists have struggled with the question “Is there a God?” for many centuries. I submit that I have answered it conclusively.

    And, la Cher still looks like that clown fish from the Nemo movie…

  4. Gandalfe says:

    I find the pagan goddess Gaia more interesting that the Christian God story. But what ever floats your boat. I am past placating people by saying that ‘your particular version’ of religion is fine or okay or even of interesting to me.

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