Some of the best-known names in burlesque will sashay into the state on Sunday when the nationally touring show Burlesque-A-Pades comes to Venue Music Bar and Grille in Portland.

Fresh from the successful two-year off-Broadway run of “This Is Burlesque,” the cast includes Angie Pontani, Kitten de Ville, Melody Sweets and Helen Pontani. The show will be emceed by comedian Murray Hill, and will include a performance by the Maine-based troupe Whistlebait Burlesque.

The sassy production offers up a 90-minute show that blends glitz and glamour with music, dance, humor, theatrics and a healthy bit of skin.

“Burlesque is really a true original form of American theater,” said Ramona Peralto, the tour’s publicist. “It’s all about the performance and the props and the costumes. It’s not about nudity. It’s more about the tease and less about the reveal.”

Even though Maine has its own thriving burlesque scene, the idea that burlesque is the same thing as X-rated striptease lingers on. Oddly enough, the Maine show was briefly canceled by Venue Music Bar last week – the result of a misunderstanding on the nightclub’s end about what the performance was all about, according to the show’s producers.

Thankfully, that’s all been straightened out, and the 12-city tours goes on.

“It’s sexy but hilarious at the same time,” said performer Angie Pontani, who has appeared on “Late Night with Conan

O’Brien,” “Gossip Girl” and “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.” She also starred in and co-produced “This Is Burlesque.”
Pontani and most of the other cast members hail from New York. The exception is Kitten de Ville, who joins the show from southern California.

“It’s a different style in Los Angeles,” Peralto said. “It’s very blonde and very glamorous.”

In contrast, she said, “there’s a huge scene in New York. It’s very diverse.”

This diversity means some Big Apple burlesque performers go for bombshell glamour, while others go for comedy or crazy theatrics.

Peralto said the historic roots of burlesque, coupled with its lively stage shows, attracts an eclectic crowd that ranges from 20-something hipsters to retirees.

To illustrate the art form’s broad appeal, Pontani pointed out that one night during the “This Is Burlesque” show, the audience included members of the rock band the Strokes and a 94-year-old man who was celebrating his birthday.

“In my experience, it’s something that’s been simmering in nightclubs since the 1990s, as kind of an offshoot of swing dance,” Peralto said of burlesque’s revival. “But in the past five years, it continues to grow and grow. People are no longer afraid of it.”

Far from afraid, spectators at these shows tend to be an enthusiastic bunch.

“When the audience is loud and rowdy, it makes for a fun show,” Pontani said. “This is not a play. We want you to make noise.”

Just don’t bring your $2 bills.

Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at: [email protected]