The Thunder from Down Under, on their specially built stage at LaSalle Power Co.
As I walked up yesterday afternoon, a man on a ladder was changing out the plastic letters on a marquee outside the River North bar LaSalle Power Co., spelling the words that will grace the sign from now until the end of October: THUNDER FROM DOWN UNDER.
Upstairs, in their specially appointed Thunder From Down Under Showroom, a group of guys with the largest quantity of continually visible abdominal muscles I’ve ever seen in one room were practicing their moves on a freshly built stage.
Spreading the word in River North
One, a little less ripped than the others but still fetching in a Brad-Pitt-on-peroxide kind of way, approached and introduced himself as Benny. Benny is the emcee of the “world’s number one male revue direct from Las Vegas” (the guys are all natives of Australia, with knee-melting accents to match), and as his shirtless cadre showed off their breakdancing prowess in the background, he told me what the bachelorette parties of Chicago can expect when they come to watch the Thunder take it (almost) all off.
The Chaser: How come you got picked to be the spokesperson for the group?
Benny (winking while taking a sip of water from a gallon jug): Maybe it’s because I’m precocious, charismatic, and a quarter-century old.
TC: Nice, that’s a lot of adjectives. You guys were at Joe’s last summer. Why the switch to LaSalle Power Co.?
B: I really don’t know the particulars. But this place did create an actual showroom for us, so maybe that’s the reason. And it’s also closer to a denser concentration of people who want to be entertained by a strip show.
TC: What’s the difference between the Thunder and the Chippendales?
B: When American dancers are performing, it’s more about the bump and grind. It’s simulated sex. But how many hip thrusts can you do? Our show is more theatrical, more burlesque-style. We laugh at ourselves. Our goal is to penetrate—oh, maybe that’s not the best word—connect with the audience. We’re larrikin.
B: You’ve never heard that? It’s an Australian term. It means, like, mischievous and cheeky.
TC: You just enriched my vocabulary. Thank you.
Benny, the Thunder’s emcee
B: Well anyway, my whole family’s been to the show, including my grandmother. That wouldn’t be the case if I were a Chippendale.
TC: How do you guys stay buff?
B (taking another swig): The show’s very physical. And since we’re going to be in one place for so long—that’s rare—I’ve just renewed my yoga commitment. So I’m inhaling water.
TC: Where will you do yoga in Chicago?
B: I checked out this one place, Core Power in the Gold Coast, and when I walked in the door, the woman was like: “Sit. Take a breath. Calm down.”
TC: You were just being precocious, probably.
B: That’s America for you. “Oh, you seem to have a personality. Here, take this. You’ll be OK.”
TC: Do the Thunder boys like to go out after the show?
B: Some boys will party harder than others [points at self]. I love to meet new people and have them show me the town.
TC: You must know some places from last year. Where might we spot you?
B: The Underground is a sophisticated, cool spot. And we like the Viagra Triangle. It’s close to where we’re living, and it’s very cinematic. The Cedar Hotel, the Whiskey—I don’t mind going there to have some wine. But I want to find those cool jazz bars, those real places. If we get an invitation, we just might show up.
Thunder From Down Under plays every weekend night at LaSalle Power Co. through October 29. Tickets run from $39.95 to a maximum drink package of $59.95.