By Michael Buzzelli
“Show a little more. Show a little less. Add a little smoke. Welcome to Burlesque.” Cher’s iconic words reverberated through the theater at RED City Live’s “The Making of Burlesque,” a perfect summary of the evening’s entertainment.
The show starts off with a bang. Roxy (Elisa-Marie Alaio) appears on the second-floor balcony at Enclave (the barely restored, but definitely renamed Rex Theater in the South Side). She struts down the stairs and catwalks down the aisle to “Pasties and a G-String” by Tom Waits. Once on stage, she grabs her sleeve and tears it off. The tearaway costume comes off in large swaths of fabric. Soon, she’s gyrating around in lingerie. Her lithe body writhes around. It’s hot, sexy fun.
Roxy summons the other Express Girls to the stage. She is joined by Davina (Savionne Chambers), Elektra (Sabrina Liu), Harlow (Jaide Frost), Stella (Nicola Molea) and Rose (Sarah Mattis). It’s the entire cast, with the notable exception of Kitty (Carly DiCola).
When Kitty does make her debut, she is the janitor, sweeping up and grabbing the discarded bits of clothing left on the floor by the other girls. She’s got a Mayim Bialik/ Miranda Hart vibe, awkwardly dancing with bucket and broom, wearing glasses, a frumpy polka dot dress, and sensible shoes. Later in the show, she pulls a nerd-to-hot-girl transformation straight out of an 80s flick.
Before the butterfly bursts out of her cocoon, she’s won over the audience. At one point, the audience chanted, “Kitty! Kitty! Kitty!” Everyone loves the underdog and class clown, and Kitty is both.
A video preview can be found here.
There is a plot to “The Making of Burlesque,” but it doesn’t matter. The show is a fantastic revue for the Express Girls, showing off their talents.
Note: “Talents” is not a euphemism. The girls are serious dancers having fun on the stage. The girls have sharp, crisp movements, but they also dance fluidly together.
The show has some great numbers, all choreographed by Alaio. It’s an eclectic mix of music, including Eartha Kitt’s “My Discarded Men, ” to Brittney Spears’ “Work Bitch.” There are some specific showstoppers. The Express Girls rock out during Marilyn Manson’s version of “Tainted Love.” In the second act, they are spectacular in Valarie Pettiford’s “Big Spender.” At one point, they grab members of the audience, sit them in folding chairs and bump and grind lasciviously around their individual targets.
DiCola has a different style when she’s on stage alone, but, when dancing in the troupe, she fits in flawlessly. Her character is the comic relief, but she is more than that.
Alaio is an amazing dancer. She commands the stage. Her solo numbers are knockouts.
Chambers gets a solo and its divine.
Suz Pizano costumes bring the glam, delightful, frilly and fun. Too bad most of them spend so much time on the floor.
While the show has scantily clad women twirling about on stage, “The Making of Burlesque” is a show filled with joy. It is naughty, but not dirty.
In a brief discussion with the RED City Live Entertainment producers and owners, Susie and Reid Gustin, the duo revealed that female audience members leave feeling empowered. Everyone leaves wanting to dance, whether clothed or not, it’s astounding.
RED City Live is bringing sexy back. I have to praise them like I should.
“The Making of Burlesque” returns in February 25 to the Enclave, 1602 East Carson Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15203. For more information, click here.