Review of Lucha VaVoom’s Cinco de Mayan: Celebrating the Battle of Puebla in the City of Angels

Aztek dancers: I'm pretty sure it was just sage that they were burning...

One might say that Lucha VaVoom has become predictable.

Before people start reaching for their pitchforks and lighting torches…

What I mean is that ticket holders for the semi-regular Mexican wrestling and burlesque revue can predict, with almost absolute certainty, that they will, at the very least, have a good time - if not leave the Mayan (VaVoom’s home in Los Angeles) completely blown away. At this point in the show’s 10 year history, not enjoying oneself is probably a result of not knowing what the show is - as highly unlikely as either of those possibilities might be. I guess there might be, like, one newbie per [usually sold-out] show who finds it “violent,” “sexist,” or even, “exploitive.” To which I’d simply say:

A rose by another other name…

 

Cinco de Mayan

Maximizing the fortuitous timing of the Cinco de Mayo holiday falling on a Saturday this year, the typically mid-week event held its first ever weekend shows (in both LA and Chicago). So in addition to the always mind-blowing mixture of Lucha Libre and super-sexy striptease, show producers Rita D’Albert and Liz Fairbairn pulled together an equally impressive lineup of Mexican folk dancers (folkloricos), Aztec dancers, Mariachis and female wrestlers. There were also tamales, low riders, and a donkey photo booth for the sold-out crowds to enjoy. [Don’t worry, animal lovers - the donkey was added into the photos digitally.]

Dirty Sanchez (center) at the hands of his mortal enemies, Los Cavaleras

While not particularly surprising (the show is always eclectic), the inclusion of acts that, as a rule, wouldn’t be on a more traditional Lucha VaVoom bill was a definite crowd pleaser. Sure, people go to watch the brutes and babes, but when the Mariachis and (non-burlesque) dancers hit the stage, the crowd went just as wild for them as they did for the Luchadores and Buxoticas. Also uncharacteristic of a usual VaVoom show was the inclusion of male dancers - not solo acts, but as part of the bawdy folk dancing. In fact, the vast and varied roster of acts for the Cinco de Mayo shows was, perhaps, closer than ever to and old school, American vaudeville revue - with a dash of chili powder.

Folklorico, crossed with striptease, crossed with wrestling - the lighter side of "agressive courtship"

On the topic of more traditional burlesque (or vaudeville) shows, a word or two should be said about Lucha VaVoom’s regular hosts, comedians Blaine Capatch (a frequent collaborator with Patton Oswalt, and announcer for the LA Derby Dolls) and Jeff Davis (Whose Line is It Anyway?, Happy Family). Being a great host is, unfortunately, an invisible art form. The better you do it, the less you’re recognized. With all the eye candy at the average VaVoom show, I’m sure a lot of the subtle, dry humor gets lost among the body blows and pasties. However, Capatch’s and Davis’ banter and wry comedy is another one of those things that gives the experience its maniacal comedy backbone, and a decidedly LA edge.

Blaine Capatch (left) and Jeff Davis (right) as they adminster the Lucha Pledge of Allegiance

 

¡Don’t Forget: Sexo y Violencia!

And, of course, there was the usual high-flying, bone breaking Lucha Libre and the sexiest, most creative striptease in town.

Lucy Fur, Bonita LaBelle, and Karis

LA’s burlesque revival has its good and bad qualities, many of them relating to the fact that there are simply more places to see burlesque revues than ever before - except possibly, since the days of Prohibition. A lot the burlesque in the city is quite good. Some of it, well, euphemistically speaking, there is a big difference between stripping and burlesque, and not every producer understands the difference. [Author’s note: I am not knocking strippers at all.] The thing about a VaVoom show is that, not only is the burlesque authentic (classic and contemporary at the same time), but when the buxoticas are on, you almost forget that the stage is next to a wrestling wring - where you might have just seen, for example, a trio of wrestlers dressed like chickens wail on a guy dressed like a Chupacabra (though to be clear, it was not one of the matches this time out).

The Crazy Chickens - Li'l Chicken's "wing men"

Putting the “battle” in the celebration of the Battle of Puebla was Lucha VaVoom’s usual “cast” of colorful Luchadores, including local favorites; the aforementioned Li’l Chicken & Crazy Chickens and Chupacabra; Los Calaveras; and the good guy who’s always in bad taste, the mighty Dirty Sanchez. Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre (Mexico’s official Lucha Libre association) superstars Stuka and Angel de Oro stopped by to dish out a few smack-downs, proving that, though VaVoom matches aren’t “league play,” they’re authentic, and highly regarded in the larger world of Lucha Libre. Just because it’s a show, and just because it’s heavy on the humor doesn’t mean that the Luchadores are phoning in performances. Rather, any given show is proof of how committed these bralwers are to entertaining the crowds. And they never fail to impress and amaze.

From the CMLL: Angel de Oro (left) and Stuka (right)

If, for some reason, you haven’t made it down to a Lucha VaVoom show, and all this sounds great, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that Lucha VaVoom will return. Why wouldn’t it? It’s been playing roughly six times a year in LA to consistently sold-out audiences for the better part of a decade now, and the word keeps spreading. The bad news: though dates haven’t been announced, it’s looking like the next revue will be in late summer. Check the Lucha VaVoom homepage early and often. As I mentioned earlier, the shows constantly sell out, so you will want to grab a ticket as early as possible.

Until next time: Long live Lucha! And viva VaVoom!

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