By Lilly Milman
Co-producers Taylor Vidic and Cameron Brockett put on their fifth burlesque show in Skagway on Aug. 2 and 3, featuring over 20 people performing to a sold-out room at the Red Onion Saloon, where both of them work seasonally. There were about 130 people in attendance on each night.
The theme of this year’s show was “Guilty Pleasures,” with individual performances ranging from food and wine to the “Twilight” book series (vampire-themed fantasy romance novels). The highlight of this year’s show was the cohesion between performances, Vidic said.
“I heard the word cohesive a lot from people who are watching it,” Vidic said. “I love the show every year, but it’s nice to know that we are growing artistically. The word cohesive just felt so good.”
Vidic and Brockett began putting on shows under the name The Nude & Rude Review after Brockett took a burlesque class in Seattle, right before their first season in Skagway. The two grew up in Juneau, where they were best friends in high school, and each has a background in performing in other ways — as do all of the other participants in the show, who got started in theater, vocal performance or dance, Vidic said. Her own background in event planning was also helpful, she added.
While it is common to associate burlesque with stripping, Vidic said she often forgets that taking off her clothing is a part of the performance.
“Yes, there’s stripping involved, but for me, it gives you a way to tell a fun story,” Vidic said. “It’s like a small piece of art, where you get to make beautiful costumes and glue rhinestones. You get to come up with a storyline, you get to pick a piece of music, you get to have over-the-top facial expressions and dance moves. And then sometimes you get to play with a full band of musicians behind you, or you get to do it with your friends.”
The first show in 2015 showcased eight performers and three musicians, with most of the acts set to recorded music. This year, the live band played for over three-quarters of the show. Band members Jack Lienhard and Cody Russell even hopped on stage to perform their own burlesque skits.
For the second year in a row, Vidic and Brockett will select a few members of the troupe and band to embark on a five-week tour, stopping in Whitehorse and Dawson City, Yukon Territory, and Ketchikan, Juneau and Sitka. They will go to Seattle too. It will be their first time in Dawson City, where they will perform at Diamond Tooth Gerties — Canada’s oldest casino, inspired by one of the gold rush era’s notorious “dance hall girls” Gertie Lovejoy.
The tour will partially be funded by some of the proceeds from this year’s Skagway show, during which the girls collected a laundry basket of cash tips thrown onto the stage during performances. Troupe members also help pay for travel expenses, which might be higher this year because of cutbacks to the state ferry schedule. Last year, the troupe relied on Alaska Airlines and the Alaska Marine Highway for travel since they cannot drive to many of the cities, Vidic said.
The tour will begin at the end of September and will run until the first weekend in November.