Burlesque is nothing new to Chicago; the peekaboo-performance revival has been working its way through local venues for the last several years. What is new to town, though, is Ivan Kane’s Forty Deuce, a troupe with home bases in Hollywood and Vegas that claims boldface names such as George Clooney among its patrons.
This past weekend marked the troupe’s début Chicago run, Thursday through Saturday at the recently reopened Le Passage—an ideal venue, since the subterranean club boasts its own speakeasy vibe. “I fell in love with the show when I saw it last year around the Oscars,” says Brook Jay of All Terrain Productions, which handles marketing for Le Passage.
I was curious: How would a burlesque show go over with a packed house of traditional club-goers? Quite well, actually. (Hey, it wasn’t a particularly modest crowd to begin with.) The nightclub’s front room was reconfigured so that a series of VIP tables (minimum $750) surrounded an elevated catwalk, with a three-piece band (drums, sax, bass) situated at the head of the runway. Performers included headliners from the Vegas revue, one of whom started the show by sauntering down the runway, wearing little more than a see-through robe, with just the right mix of tease-meets-tasteful. This was certainly sexier than any strip club. The trained performers got down to a pair of tassels, some fishnets, and a garter, all while shimmying through stunts that would make a gymnast blush: dropping from the rafters, swinging from silk drapes, and doing back-bends and splits.
The nightlifers—women and men alike—went wild (Forty Deuce founder Kane says more than 50 percent of the troupe’s typical audience is female). The show I attended Friday scored standing ovations at multiple points throughout the performance. I spotted Kill Hannah’s Mat Devine and Lovehammers’ Marty Casey, whom I’d seen the previous Tuesday at Pete Wentz’s Obama fundraiser, and a source tells me Thursday-night attendees included Gym Class Heroes’ Travis McCoy and Velvet Revolver drummer Matt Sorum.
Just like J.T., Kane’s Forty Deuce is bringing sexy back. Perhaps Kane should follow the lead of another J: Jay-Z, who’s reportedly expanding his chain of 40/40 Clubs by five more locations, including one here in Chicago.
Photography: Courtesy of Sarah Preston