Ah, Philadelphia, home of the world-famous Trocadero, a Victorian-era theater, once a vaudeville and burlesque house, where the likes of Gypsy Rose Lee and Tempest Storm strutted their stuff, now a performing arts center. Sister cities, indeed!
Fortunately for Philadelphia and PIFA, there’s a classic vaudevillian, neo-burlesque show in town that was just the troupe to produce an “inspired by” show as the latest gig in its 13-year run.
The Peek-A-Boo Revue is a much-loved member of the city’s performing arts scene (and have sometimes performed at the restored Troc), which has been doing its thing for 13 years. They were invited by their home stage, World Café Live to create a show for PIFA, and will present two shows at the World Café at 8 and 11pm this Saturday, April 30. The shows, as you might expect, are not for children (you must be 18+ for the 8pm show, and 21+ for the 11pm show).
“It’s a good match for us,” said Lulu Lollipop, the company’s director, who has run Peek-A-Boo for the last eight years (it was founded by Molly Corsen and Five Spot owner Philip Cohen). “I’m glad Laura at World Café Live invited us to participate.”
“When we produce a new show, we take it to a bunch of other venues,” Lulu explained. “We’ll be in Philly every 2 to 3 months, and that same show travels.” So as they created the PIFA show, Peek-A-Boo was building a show that can tour, and also fits in with their vaudeville/burlesque theme (or “mission” if you’re a non-profit, and they’re workin’ on the 503c3).
Veterans and newbies can expect to see “a very bawdy show,” Lulu said. “Jokes that are very tongue in cheek; we threw in a classic French can-can and elements from shows like the Folies Bergere.”
One of the company members, Miss Sophie, has created a performance that’s an ode to Josephine Baker.
“As she started moving through her performance style, we were like ‘wow: you have this movement quality of Josephine Baker.’ So she’s doing some pieces that are Baker-inspired. One is called ‘Drums a Gogo.’”
Here’s a clip of Miss Sophie performing “Drums a Gogo.” (NSFW!)
“It’s the big opener,” she said. “With all the girls in it, and they’re all falling in love with the French gigolo who’s singing this song.”
Peek-A-Boo is a both a large and dedicated venture: the company develops its shows, then tours with them around Philadelphia, upstate Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey and splits the box office with the company.
“Our whole cast is 22 people; it’s a lot of mouths to feed,” said Lulu. In addition to the opening number, she described a running sketch with two regular Peek-A-Boo characters, Chrissy Model (played by Christa D'Agger) and her stepsister TT Model (played by Peek-A-Boo’s resident songbird Tracey Todd Superstar), “foul-mouthed old fly girls, and they’re always interrupting the show somehow. Chrissy and TT are going to Paris, so we see them leaving, some of their experiences in Paris. Then they come back at the end, and show you pictures from their trip, like the Eiffel tower and doing dirty things with baguettes.”
This edition will also include a fan dance (not exactly in the style of Sally Rand) and all the traditional components of burlesque: A brass section, and of course, some bump & grind. (If you’ve gotta bump it…The 20-some acts perform to both live and recorded music, and have even taken their show on TV, in a (slightly) more covered up version, appearing on “America’s Got Talent.”
Ed note: Kathleen Warnock received financial compensation for this post from PIFA (Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts).