When people think of a burlesque show, images of exotic dancers, ribald comedy sketches and an uninhibited atmosphere with the free flow of liquor come to mind.
Sally Rand and Gypsy Rose Lee earned their stripes as strippers in early burlesque. Fanny Brice, Mae West, Eddie Cantor, Abbott and Costello, W. C. Fields, Jackie Gleason, Danny Thomas, Al Jolson, Bert Lahr, Phil Silvers, Sid Caesar, Danny Kaye, Red Skelton and Sophie Tucker were well known burlesque entertainers before hitting it big in vaudeville, movies, radio and television.
Younger folks may only know burlesque as a 2010 film starring Cher and Christina Aguilera. An ensemble cast of performers in Galveston is pushing the genre even further into the 21st century with “Burlesque” on Tuesday evenings at Robert’s Lafitte, 2501 Avenue Q. “We are doing something different with a new age style burlesque,” says Harvey Rujano, the show’s producer who hosts as Midnight.
Maxxine, who performs as Mistress Minx, brought the idea of a burlesque show to Rujano. “OMG I’ve always wanted to do a burlesque show so let’s talk about it,” he enthusiastically told her. “We did it with just her first just to see how the crowd would react. They loved her solo burlesque show. Then it turned into two, then three, and now four people are in the show.”
Do not come to the show expecting to see a live version of the Cher/Aguilera film. “Yes, it is still a little raunchy but not every number the girls perform has to be that way. One of my girls did a contemporary dance number that had the crowd in their feelings. Another girl did a more horror type song and came out with a killer clowns from outer space mask. Each person has their own style of burlesque and really represents a diversity of art. It’s not all about taking your clothes off and being raunchy, it’s about putting on a show and entertaining you. We even have Mistress Minx bless us with her live vocals during the show and, let me tell, you that girl can sing. Just so beautiful,” adds Rujano.
Maxxine aka Mistress Minx is described as sultry and on fire whose live vocals make you fall in love. She is the heart of the show.
Blake aka Luna Von Lust is gender fluid and identifies with the pronouns he/him. With a heart made of gold, when he commits to a number, he tells a story. His movements and dancing are captivating.
Kareeann aka Elana is a talented dancer. “She is more the emotions, movement and choreography of the bunch. When she dances you can’t help but feel her movements. Always so full of energy and wants to do more,” says Rujano.
“Abbey aka Betty Machete. Our rebel of the group. She is all about horror and the shock factor. Her style and dancing is out of this world. Very theatrical. Sometimes I don’t know if I should be scared or turned on. Amazing entertainer,” Rujano adds.
These four are the regular cast but the door is open to newcomers. Open auditions are held on Thursday nights starting at 9 p.m.
A burlesque show with real women in a gay bar on Galveston Island in the middle of winter was initially a hard sell. “The crowd was a little hesitant at first. After all, these are real woman on stage not, drag queens. Plus, this is also a gay bar. But at Robert’s Lafitte we welcome anyone and everyone. I wanted to try something different that can cater to every community out there whether gay, bi, lesbian, straight or trans, doesn’t matter. The gays, I would say, have been loving it. More and more people come every Tuesday to see the show. Random people visiting from out of town have enjoyed the shows. I hope the crowd keeps getting bigger and better with each show,” Rujano said.
The hard sell has been a success. Crowds are packing the oldest gay bar in Texas every Tuesday night and other venues are taking notice. Sharky’s Tavern, in downtown Galveston, has booked the girls for a show on February 18.
In closing, Harvey Rujano rejoined, “My husband Matthew, the bartender, and I put this show together to do something more for all communities and for everyone to have a good time.”
Like the song goes, “Everything you dream of, but never can possess. Nothing’s what it seems. Welcome to burlesque.”