Burlesque has a storied history in the city of New Orleans. Against a soundtrack of early jazz, the city's first burlesque performers pleased and teased in the Storyville red light district as early as the beginning of the last century.
Every since Storyville,visitors have been coming to New Orleans looking for racy entertainment. Scantily clad women bumping and grinding in a performance that combines striptease, comedy, costumes and showmanship is burlesque in a nut shell. There are plenty of intimate venues around town to enjoy the sassy performance art.
Whether a venue has an in-house troupe like the House of Blues does with Bustout Burlesque or hosts or nationally touring acts like the Allways Lounge does, there are plenty of options. You can choose from an authentic retro performance, or experience neo-burlesque which may have elements of circus arts, variety acts and always music. There are burlesque pop-ups too - or is that pop-outs? at places like Bar Redux in Bywater and Gravier Social Club in the CBD, with dates and times varying and always subject to change.
Burlesque has experienced a revival in New Orleans and across the country, thanks to its combination of production values, sex appeal and hard working entertainers who don't take themselves too seriously. Shows are usually inexpensive, and involve a lot of audience participation. Most of the venues that harbor these acts are small, so you can get up close and personal with the performers as they strut their stuff.
In a city where gay friendly is beyond the obvious, Bourbon Pub dishes regular boy-lesque shows with plenty of theatricality and high style. Every flavor is onstage during the regular Blue Book Cabaret upstairs at The Bourbon Pub, which features A-list burlesque, varietyand drag artistry. Also a kickin' dance club, this Bourbon Street venue seduces a predominantly gay clientele, but all are welcome. Drag is an art form here, with out of town performers like Lipstixx "Ladies on Parade" and the only drag queen you can see from outer space, Big Shirli Stevenz from North Carolina. During Southern Decadence you never know what you'll see at Bourbon Pub.
The Republic is a posh and cavernous dance club where you might find the electronica meets R&B act FKA Twigs one night, a house DJ another and a who's who of the world of burlesque the night after that. The place is pretty, with crystal chandeliers and two floors for dancing and watching the action. There are multiple bars, an efficient and gracious staff and and enthusiastic and generally young crowd. The crowd tends to be a little younger, but that doesn't stop all ages from having a great time here as well. The club hosted a burlesque tribute to New Orleans to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
How about some legs with your eggs? Sobou dishes brunch with a sassy kick every Sunday from 11:30-1:30. World-famous burlesque dancer Bella Blue performs to live music while you dine on three creative Creole courses by Chef Juan Carlos Gonzalez. New Orleans has a long history with burlesque dancing. Our city was a burlesque hot spot from the 1940s to when clubs were shut down in the 1960s. This fun brunch is Sobou's homage to this historic and beautiful art form. The Burlesque show begins between 11:45 and noon, followed by two more performances between then and 1:30 p.m.
For fans of impish improv and sidesplitting stand-up, NOLA Comedy Theater is a New Orleans must. This comedy club's uniquely hilarious regular shows include "Based on Real Life," which incorporates audience suggestions, and "Fear and Loathing in New Orleans," a comedic conglomeration of various themes. Voted "Best Comedy Venue" by "Where Y'at" magazine and "Best Place to See Stand-up" by "Gambit," La Nuit also features The Box Office Bar with live music and drinks. Snug theater space for stand-up & improv comedy fests, plus classes, burlesque and a lounge for beers. LaNuit is on Freret uptown, delivering icutting edge stand up, sketch and improv comedy.
Siberia is an alt music venue that rises to the top of the dive bar heap in a city that may just have invented the genre. Every Monday night, some of the best (and worst) comics in New Orleans join burlesque dancers (and one fainting, talking dog) for a very funny and fun open mic night. Comics sign up at 9, show starts at 9:30pm and you pay $5 at the door. Siberia has multiple personalities - one night you'll find comedy, another live rock and roll, or maybe Goth heavy metal venue. If you're lucky, a somber Balkans folk trio that inspires what looks like Greek dancing. There's a convivial live and let live attitude here that is one of the best things about this town when it really comes together.
Allways Lounge is a locals' favorite bar located on the edge of the Marigny neighborhood of New Orleans. In the back there is a relatively intimate theater known for hosting some pretty risque shows. Then there's Freaksheaux to Geaux, a delicious gumbo of music, circus, sideshow and burlesque, and with a Southern Gothic twist and modern flair. Allways is a frequent host to top nationally touring burlesque shows like "Boobs and Goombas" a burlesque adaptation of the Super Mario Bros. if you can imagine that. Dirty Dime Peep Show, Clue: A Burlesque Mystery and a drag burlesque show called Imposter - all great fun.
Located inside the Royal Sonesta in the French Quarter, Jazz Playhouse offers local talent seven nights a week, no cover charge, in a swank, upscale setting. Some of the city's best jazz performers take the stage, including The James River Movement, Michael Watson's The Alchemy, Luther Kent and Glen David Andrews. A few others not to miss includs Germaine Bazzle, a soulful jazz singer and Gerald French and the Original Tuxedo Jazz Band, a troupe that defines old school class and style. Every Friday night around midnight, a few of New Orleans' best burlesque performers from the city's top troupes also perform.
Roxie, Moxie, Ruby and Lady are just a few of the beautiful performers with the Slow Burn Burlesque Troupe. Slow Burn is hugely popular in New Orleans due to its anything goes, outside of the box burlesque style. The producers often mix a little grunge and a little goth into their shows, and their MCs talking points are more witty and cutting then you would get with a traditional throwback burlesque performance. The troupe prides themselves on being different and edgy, but definitely doesn't sacrifice beauty or grace while doing it. Slow Burn can usually be found performing monthly at the Howlin' Wolf backed by live band This Stunted Sextette.
One Eyed Jacks in the French Quarter of New Orleans is known as a quirky venue with a wide range of shows. One of those acts is resident burlesque troupe Fleur de Tease. Created and produced by Trixie Minx, this modern twist on classic vaudeville showcases plenty of skin along with magicians, fire eaters, comedians and aerialists. The shows are well produced shows and the dancers adept. The troupe also performs at The Saint Hotel and the Royal Sonesta Hotel. Sly and funny, shows might include a burlesque Halloween Revue – "We put the BOO in BOOBS!!!" and Creole Sweet Tease with a traditional jazz band.
No doubt, Bustout Burlesque is one of the most popular burlesque revues in the city. The house troupe at the House of Blue on Decatur Street, Bustout offers at least one show a month, with performances at 8 and 10:30 pm. National burlesque superstars Stormy Gayle, Lola van Ella and Gogo McGregor perform here regularly alongside a different out of town headliner for each show. The revues are produced by Rick Delaup, a burlesque historian. He is careful to fine tune every detail to mirror the style and verve of vaudeville shows of the 1950s. A traditional New Orleans jazz band backs the performers,