By MIKE CHAIKEN
This weekend, you’ll be able to wrap up the final approach toward Christmas with a tassle and send it off with a drum rimshot when burlesque powerhouse Angie Pontani and her Burlesque-A-Pades gives the audience a “Christmas Shimmy!” at Bridge Street Live.
Angie and her crew, including comedian Albert Cadabra, dancer The Maine Attraction, tap dancer Helen Pontani, the Snowflake Dancers, and special Nutmeg state guest burlesque performers Dot Mitzvah and Kiki Soiree, will shimmying to the Nutmeg State Friday night.
The holiday romp offers up a burlesque-style parody of Charles Dickens’s holiday classic, “A Christmas Carol.”
We caught with Angie via to email to talk to her about the show, burlesque in general, and her recent foray down the catwalk at Lingerie Fashion Week in New York City.
Observer: For you, what is about the holidays that screams to you… “Let’s put on a burlesque show”?
Angie: The holidays are such a great time of year where people tend to get together more and are in a celebratory mood. It’s the perfect stage for a burlesque show. Plus, there are so many folks in all the different cities who have made a tradition out of coming to our holiday revue. It’s very cool to be a part of people’s season of celebration like that. Another great pairing is that burlesque fits so well with themes, so everything in the show is over the top holiday— from our set, to the costumes, and music. It’s a true celebration of the season.
O: Why is the classic, “A Christmas Carol,” a great structure for a holiday-themed burlesque performance?
A: “A Christmas Carol” is at it’s core the story of losing one-self and then going on a really colorful and crazy reflective journey of your life, and then having an awakening about the things that are really important in life, like family, friends, and enjoying the time we have here. It’s the perfect ground work for a burlesque show, burlesque is all about enjoyment and celebration and satire out of just about everything, so why not take on one of the greatest classics of all time and turn it into a song and dance extravaganza with heart.
O: So, in a nutshell, what problem do the Burlesque-A-Pades have to solve for “A Christmas Shimmy?”
A: Well, in a roasted chestnut shell, let’s just say someone in our cast wants to leave show-business to pursue more lucrative endeavors. The rest of the cast must rally together to show our misguided friend with a series of hi-jinx, that prove there are more important things in life then wealth and the other important message is that that a good kick line is great for the spirit.
O: I know you came to Bridge Street Live in Collinsville last year… how has the show evolved/ improved since last time we saw Angie Pontani and the crew?
A: The show is ever-changing. You’ll never see the same presentation twice. This year brings new costumes, a new guest star, new jokes and gimmicks, and new dance routines. We have been hard at work since you saw us last.
O: How much of what people will see are adaptations of classic burlesque bits and how much are you exploring new territory?
A: Well, classic burlesque bits are all satire, and the show is a satire of “A Christmas Carol,” so we are really going old school with our concept. In terms of actual burlesque skits, we have one classic in the show called “Pago Pago.” This skit was done regularly on burlesque stages in the ‘40s and ‘50s and it’s hilarious. The new territory is original material created with the fast-paced back and forth – double entendre style that is burlesque comedy.
O: How much costume work has been underway since we last saw you?
A: A lot. We have some amazing new costumes for the group routines and solos this year. Just today, I was literally wrangling 600 yards of tulle on my new gown. That is a lot of material to work with, but on stage it looks like a fantasy snow-globe.
O: I know you’re bringing in some of the locals like Dot Mitzvah and Kiki Soiree to help out. Talk to me about the burlesque community as a whole… how would you describe the sense of community among the performers?
A: The burlesque community spreads far and wide and one of the great things about doing a tour like this is pulling in local guest stars in every market. Over the past few years, burlesque has grown so much that you can find performers in virtually every city and there is a certain sense of camaraderie in being able to bring them in on the shows. Generally, I’ve found that the local troupes are really supportive of the touring acts that come through and that is great in not only helping to get the word out but in creating relationships within the industry.
O: I know you’ve been doing some non-burlesque things lately. I know you were part of Lingerie Fashion Week. How did that come about? And how did it feel to be part of that universe for a night?
A: I love branching out whenever possible. It’s fun to do different things. I modeled for Secrets In Lace at Lingerie Fashion Week this year. I am a longtime fan and collaborator with the brand. No one, and I mean no one does stocking and garters like Secrets In Lace. When the president of the company, Dan Whitsett, asked me to model for them I was thrilled to do it. I love modeling, it’s a blast. The best part was before we went on Dan gave us a pep talk and said, “Go out there and have fun, smile, be real, don’t be too serious” and the audience and models both loved that.
O: LFW also earned a lot of kudos for celebrating women of all shapes this year . And that’s always been one of the hallmarks of burlesque. Why do you think burlesque is seen as an empowering art form for women?
A: Yes, that was awesome to see all the accolades they got from having women of all shapes and sizes. There were gorgeous gazelle like models, curvy girls, athletic girls, tall girls, short girls, pregnant girls…It was fantastic and even more fantastic was the response. I was thrilled and honored to be a part of something like that. It parlays right back into burlesque and to what Dan said to everyone before we went on. You know you go out there, you do a good job, you’re real, and you are having fun and that is so refreshing to today’s audiences. Burlesque, much like the Lingerie Fashion Week event did, gives you the opportunity to own your body image and presentation, have fun with it, be proud of it, and celebrate it. That is a joyous thing and I think that is why women love it, it celebrates everything about being a woman.
“Burlesque-A-Pades: A Christmas Shimmy!” comes to Bridge Street Live, 41 Bridge St., Collinsville on Friday, Dec. 19 at 8 p.m. Doors open at 6 p.m. Tickets are $22 and $29. For tickets, go to 41BridgeStreet.com or call (860)693-9762
For more information about Angie Pontani and Burlesque-A-Pades, go to www.angiepontani.com or www.pontanisisters.com