The third ever Front Row Paul’s Burlesque Bonanza featuring a cavalcade of internationally renowned burlesque acts was held last Saturday at the White Rabbit Cabaret in Fountain Square.
So who is Front Row Paul? The avid burlesque fan-turned-producer gained his moniker for his and his wife’s die-hard support for the art of burlesque, cheering on its performers at every possible show. Eventually, in 2016 he was invited to produce his own, which led to this evening where one could buy t-shirts with his very own logo on them. Talk about the dream!
Boo Bess from New Orleans served as hostess, dialing up the raunch for the so-called burlesque “virgins” in the audience, regaling the crowd with tampon incidents and backless dresses, even opening the second act with a sultry rendition of “The Way You Make Me Feel.”
The night was stuffed to the brim with internationally renowned acts, including Indy’s own Rocket Doll Revue who more than held their own (Gurl Haggard’s opener made the whole audience pregnant, joked Boo Bess.) The “Canary Sisters” Vagina Woolf and Frenchy La Rouge had an elegant act straight out of the Moulin Rouge; the kind of performance that made you wish you spoke a little French.
Jeez Loueez of Jeezy’s Juke Joint was back fresh from a knee injury. Her act’s subtly comic gestures and expressions reinforced why she’s so renowned. The night’s running joke was the mystery of her injury’s source, though many assumed it was from something ribald, no doubt.
Bloomington’s own Jaimee Spangle brought thrills closing the first half with her aerial Beatles-soundtracked chain act; it was as if Cirque du Soleil took a turn into S&M.
MVP of the night was Rosie Cheeks from NYC, who gave a tear-streaming hilarious showstopping turn as Beauty and the Beast’s “Gaston” just three numbers into the night. The host warned that any propensity for audience hanky-panky would be dulled by her second act, and just saying “Wendy Torrance burlesque” out loud should say enough; only vaguely grotesque but hilariously original and inspired.
But the true showstopper who ended the night was 6’5″ Mr. Gorgeous from NYC, winner of Mr. Exotic World 2014. Both acts channeled Liberace and Gorgeous George in a pitch-perfect mix of pro-wrestling showmanship, bawdy humor, and audience participation.
Front Row Paul informed me that he sequences shows like a fan would, and Boo Bess joked that the night was not for the audience but only for him. Nothing could be further from the truth, as while the acts were personally chosen, his canniness for selecting fan-favorite acts, lesser-known numbers, and originality and variety made his show uniquely captivating.
Front Row Paul the super-fan knows what the crowd wants, and on Saturday it was delivered in spades.