Peek-a-Boo: An Ooky Spooky Burlesque Review

When I think of burlesque, images of the Moulin Rouge in Paris and a booze-filled night of fast-paced music pop into my head. Little did I know, burlesque is not only still around, but it is thriving in Chicago at the Greenhouse Theater Center on Lincoln Avenue. The theater, with several shows in production, has the longest running weekly burlesque show for the more adventurous city dwellers. With Halloween approaching, the Kiss Kiss Cabaret show has returned for its 4th annual “Peek-a-Boo: An Ooky Spooky Burlesque.”


While most people coming to see the show are seeking a certain type of entertainment, I can’t review this show without first talking about the Master of Ceremonies who moved the whole thing along while wearing a costume that made him look devilishly handsome. At any vaudeville cabaret show, the MC is perhaps the most important member of the cast, orchestrating the transition between performers and keeping the audience engaged. With little horns and a red-painted face, he began the show with general announcements about theater etiquette that were anything but typical - starting with a joke about where to stick my cellphone once it was put on its vibrate setting.


The theater was small, putting the beer-dwelling audience very close to the action. Picking on those seated right in front, our Satan MC quickly turned any funny noise or odd laugh from the audience into a joke that ran throughout the whole show.


A big part of the fun was the audience interaction and participation, which kicked off the playful attitude before the real show began. Our MC provided us with phrases to yell, encouraging us all to hoot and holler when we saw something we liked. I must say, these phrases had me cracking up the whole show, particularly when one balding man seated to my left continued to scream “hachi machi!” in a booming, deep voice. The comedic aspect of the audience combined with the danger and excitement of watching a strip-tease show made it a welcoming, fun environment that any adult could enjoy.


I didn’t really know what to expect, having never seen burlesque before, but I soon realized this show is not for the whole family. The ladies, called the “Kiss Kiss Coquettes” with names like “Deja Sue,” “Minnie Minx” and “Melody Unchained,” were spooky-sexy, donning Halloween costumes that ended up across the stage. The whole experience is pretty intimate, from the close distance to the performers and the size of theater and audience. I really enjoyed the performance by the Queen of Hearts, which seemed to be the most typical vaudeville song and dance act.


Though everyone was there to see kibbles and bits, the intermittent performances of magic, comedy and music were very entertaining, and I particularly liked the act by “The Amazing Thomas.” The main event was clearly the Coquettes, but The Amazing Thomas did some funny condom magic that had me giggling. His catch phrase: “Ta-da, it’s f-ing magic.”


As the show went on, it seemed to just keep getting better until finally, a woman covered in “blood” emerged onstage accompanied by terrifyingly loud music that makes your heart pump with the beat. When I saw a metal belt onstage, I immediately knew what was coming. Under a strobe light so strong it could induce seizures for the faint of heart, the performer used a mechanical saw to grind against the belt placed low on her hips and sent sparks streaming upwards. The effect was dazzling and horrifying, a perfect combination of Halloween terror and sex appeal. This climax of the show was dark and scary, and I could see how the other performances had worked up to this moment.


While I never dreamed of leaving at any point in the show, the finale was incredible, and I suggest you don’t leave without seeing the end. The Coquettes came out onto the darkened stage with glow-in-the-dark orange paint they covered over each other’s bodies, illuminating their curves and shapes to the song “Red Right Hand.” I was told by the staff right from the get-go this was the most anticipated performance of the night.


For Chicagoans looking for late-night entertainment, the Kiss Kiss Cabaret is the show to see. Every aspect of the show is fun and there are moments where you will truly be dazzled and amazed. From the sexy stage crew, the variety of performers and the thrill of seeing a ghoulish strip-tease, I highly recommend seeing “Peek-a-Boo.”


"Peek-A-Boo: An Ooky Spooky Burlesque" plays on Fridays, October 4 through November 8 at 11 p.m. at the Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln. Tickets are $15 in advance or $20 at the door.


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