This week the Seneca Niagara Casino hosts an exclusive three-night run of the show “Burlesque to Broadway” starring Quinn Lemley. About a month ago, the show’s publicist reached out to me by phone to see if I would be interested in interviewing Lemley about the show, and when my wife overheard I was considering covering a “burlesque” show, she dismissed it as a form of striptease.
Before we get to the interview, it may be important to clarify what burlesque is, and its influence on modern culture. While traditional burlesque shows did include some bawdy elements and occasional nudity, the bulk of the show is a visual, musical and comedic extravaganza. Think Lady Gaga without the meat costume and a lot more humor.
My description of the art form does not do it justice, but Lemley, a gorgeous red head, not only stars in the show, she speaks of the art form with an infectious enthusiasm that would make even the most skeptical person want to see her show. In short, she is burlesque’s ambassador.
“Our show is not a striptease show, it is all about the power of women and a celebration of women and how they went to burlesque to Broadway and beyond,” Lemley quickly pointed out during our recent interview.
Lemley then quickly rattled off a who’s who of the art form, including Gypsy Rose Lee, Mae West, Cher, Bette Midler, Fanny Brice, and Sally Rand.
As for the misperception that burlesque is a fancy name for a bunch of strippers — “During the depression era, burlesque performers used the power of suggestion. There is neo-burlesque going on today, but women like Gypsy Rose Lee barely took anything off, she used her wit and mind to become a legend.”
That power of suggestion is somewhat of a lost art form given the modern day entertainment industries penchant for overkill in movies, music, television and video games.