Page 1

Tess (the owner of Burlesque) said this to Ali as she was preparing for her first the show.


Production by Donald de Line Written by Steven Antin. Music by Christophe Beck Screen Gems, Inc and RCA Records

Illustrations and Photogr

aphy by Alyse Ryan



Ali poses for


the audience..


ictorian era was not so kind to flesh - the softer and lovelier the skin, the more fabric they dumped on top of it. Thus, when a group of young Englishwomen bleached their hair and donned flesh-coloured tights for the stage, they scandalised - and thrilled - Britain. The tights were an ingenious coup, giving the impression of naked flesh while remaining covered. What was the Queen to say? Who cared? Aristophanes was hooting from his grave. The credit for this first onstage tease goes to Lydia Thompson, the ambitious music-hall darling behind the peroxided burlesque troupe called The British Blondes. The public was outraged - and bought tickets galore. When Lydia and her Blondes arrived in New York in September 1868, the city was waiting, pleading to be ravaged ... by tights. Isn’t it astonishing what a hundred years will do? Anyway, the anticipation may have had something to do with an early mastery of publicity and the art of the fabricated story - as one report that preceded Lydia’s New York début shows: “Captain Ludoc Baumbarten of the Russian dragoons took some flowers and a glove belonging to Miss Thompson, placed them on his breast; then shot himself through the heart, leaving on his table a note stating that his love for her brought on the fatal act.” I have no idea whether the tale is true - after all, illusion is the nature of burlesque. However, stories like these so inflamed the men in America that they all seemed willing to die for Lydia - if only she would be kind enough to dash their hearts out herself. Suddenly, men were behaving as if they had never

seen ladies’ lower limbs in their lives, which was a curious thing since opera houses had been serving up “leg shows” since the Civil War. Was it Lydia herself who inspired such fervour, or the cheapie tickets and a frisson of sex? Whatever the reason, for the rest of the century, burlesque flourished, developing into a full-night’s entertainment that included chorus girls, comedy routines, and song and dance. socialising with Jean Cocteau and Oscar Wilde.“Miss”, as she was known, was born Jeanne Marie Florentine Bourgeois, an aptly named member of the new petite bourgeoisie. But her transformation occurred in more than just name. She was not a beauty and so, as she herself said, “the rest had to be created. I had to invent something ... my legs [were called] ‘the loveliest legs in the world’, [an idea that] came out of my head.” And she was convincing. Mistinguett, with her playful personality (once, when she was singing, an audience member yelled “higher!” To which she lifted her skirt!), transcended looks and bourgeois life to become one of the greatest showgirls of all time. Of course, the term “courtesan” did not then reverberate with the bells of indecency it does today. Though some disapproved, Mistinguett was generally esteemed as a model of beauty and mysterious feminine power. S he w as a c areerist, a society girl, an emulated celebrity. It may be true that she indulged in high-end affairs and accepted gifts, but who wouldn’t? Returning a gift to a prince is not equal to returning a sweater to a department store - one simply doesn’t do it. But the truth is that this courtesan was not dependent on any man. She made her living onstage. Yes, she was decadent, but is that not the art of showmanship? As Minstinguett herself put it, “We sell [the audience] a trip to nowhere, canvas, landscapes, and moonbeams. ARTICLE BY DITA VON TEESE


Ali Rose moves to Los Angeles after she quits her bar job when her boss refuses to pay her. Once in L.A., she tries and fails at every audition she does until one night, she finds herself unknowingly in a burlesque club when she hears the music on the street. She finds Tess and the dancers performing “Welcome to Burlesque” and decides to pursue a career on stage once she meets Jack. Jack refers her to Tess for an audition, but is rejected instantly and ushered out by Sean Instead of leaving, Ali begins serving customers at the club as a waitress, while Tess and Sean observe with Jack asking Tess to give Ali a chance. When Georgia becomes pregnant, auditions are held to replace her. Ali begins her audition when everyone leaves, and after performing “Wagon Wheel Watusi”, persuades Tess to allow her to become one of the club’s dancers, much to the annoyance of Nikki, a performer who is always late and caught drinking before numbers. Despite the club’s growing success, Tess is still unable to pay the bank. Tensions arise between Ali and Jack as Marcus grows increasingly infatuated with Ali, making Jack jealous. At Georgia’s wedding, Jack appears to call off his engagement, getting drunk. That night, Ali and Jack sleep together, but the following morning Jack’s fiancé, Natalie, returns unexpectedly from her play in New York and tells Ali that the engagement is still on. Jack denies this, and while trying to fix things, he asks Ali to leave. Feeling heartbroken and betrayed, Ali runs to Sean for support, who prompts her to go with Marcus after his phone call.While spending time with Marcus, Ali finds out about “air rights”, which refers to the empty space above a building and what can be done with it. Ali breaks things off with Marcus after she sees his plans to build a skyscraper on the property the club is on. Ali tells Tess, and they inform the owner of the new million-dollar condos over and


across the street; fearing the loss of business that would result from the obstruction of his prospective tenants’ view, he purchases the air rights to the club’s property. The resulting money is enough for Tess to buy out Vince’s share, pay off the bank, and re-fashion the club to her own vision.Tess’s ex–husband had put all of his work ethic over the years to keep the lounge standing. In return, Tess gave him a check freeing him from his stress and misery. She also makes up with Nikki and rehires her at the club. In the end Ali, having reunited with Jack and earned Nikki’s respect, performs “Show Me How You Burlesque”, a song which Jack wrote persuing his love for music and Ali. The show finishes with lights, singing, and dancing. Artilce by

Ali, backstage, prepares for her first show as she puts on Burlesque’s very own red lipstick.

e h T

r t a

l a c i

Tess sitting in her office worries of her lounge closing as she smokes a Lucky Strike cigarette.

The 1950s were as I like to think of it a time of national undress, and not just for showgirls. Out on the street, hemlines were rising, baring first the ankle, then the calf and nearly the knee by decade’s end. Alarm consumed America and laws were passed making it illegal to wear skirts more than seven-and-a-half inches off the or three inches above the ankle. Similar regulations concerned the ever-naughty throat: in Ohio a lady could expose no more than two inches of neck. But this tale gets a vibrant makeover in writer-director Steve Antin’s toe-tapping, flamboyantly skin-deep musical “Burlesque,” which opens on Wednesday.Yes, it’s only skin-deep, and so what? Perhaps because they’re so rarely attempted these

y t r e

“oh everyone is buying , put your money in my hands”

P l a

p o r

days, recent musicals have felt a self-conscious need to dig for significance, whether it be artistic malaise (Nine), racial inequality (Dreamgirls) or media manipulation (Chicago). “Burlesque” stays aggressively on the surface, reveling in its artificiality. It was a risky bet by this first-time feature director to cast songstress Christina Aguilera, a singer who had never acted in a film. The stroke of genius here is to pair her with pop-music icon Cher. Although Aguilera is in nearly every scene and Cher appears irregularly, they nicely balance each other as they play single-minded characters passionate about their work as cabaret performers. One is at wits’ end about a possibly dying art and the other too fresh and enthused to notice. One singer-actress is an old pro and the other a superb entertainer exploring a new avenue for her talent. In this instance, “old” is a good thing and a compliment.You still look fabulous). Another successful gamble was to make a musical, traditionally a mating ritual, into a female-centric extravaganza. The movie backgrounds its male characters as best it can. Love Interest, Best (Gay) Friend, Frantic Ex-Husband, Ravenous Real Estate Developer — so the beautiful, fabulous women are front and center. Women will love this, and men won’t mind the eye candy either, so it seems this Screen Gems release can’t help becoming a hit. News stories about conflicts on the set and reshoots Besides, burlesque itself — a stage-show tradition dating to late-19th century British music halls — with its risqué humor and ample flesh (without full exposure), is making a comeback. Burlesque should seal the deal.



, sitting tron Tequlia ous drink, Pa stick. The most fam aind with her red lip sk st on Tess’s de


The movie takes place in a Sunset Boulevard theater called the Burlesque Lounge that’s on its last legs, no matter how curvy and luscious those legs may be. In walks the naive heroine from Iowa, Aguilera’s Ali Rose. She’s hooked the minute she sees Cher’s Tess, the club’s co-owner and resident diva, belt out “Welcome to Burlesque,” backed by a chorus line in fishnet stockings and eye-popping bustiers.No one will give her a job, so with the help of a handsome bartender Love Interest — she creates one out of thin air. She grabs a tray and is now a cocktail waitress only one urgent plea/ conniving manipulation/sensational audition away from that glorious stage. She gets that shot, of course, and later gets to display that big Aguilera voice, which rocks the theater.

A star may be born, but “nothing’s what it seems” — one of the many cliche lines that Antin’s screenplay indulges in with glee. The Burlesque Lounge teeters on bankruptcy. Tess’ Frantic Ex-Husband (Peter Gallagher) pleads her to sell to the Real Estate Developer (Eric Dane), while her Best (Gay) Friend (Stanley Tucci) assures her that things somehow will work out. The film’s romantic melodrama centers on Ali’s tentative flirtation with the bartender. They end up circumstantial roommates in his Hollywood apartment, but he has a “fiancée” back in New York, a nightly long-distance phone call that does nothing to warm his bed.Back at the theater, a good girl (Julianne Hough) is pregnant and a bad girl (Kristen Bell) insanely jealous of Ali’s popularity. And so the various plot lines go, serving mostly to inspire songand-dance numbers from the female performers. Occasionally, a number


takes place in the mind of its heroine. Perhaps the entire movie actually takes place there. The songs tip their hats to various showbiz traditions. “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” is a nod to ‘50s showstoppers, “Wagon Wheel Watusi” leans toward ‘60s pop, and “Something’s Got a Hold on Me” and blues pieces add a touch of soul.Dances choreographed by Denise Faye and Joey Pizzi aren’t conventional displays of happy feet and athletic agility. Instead, numbers are a series of poses built around a prop, like a chair. Hair flies this way, buttocks thrust that way, and arms strike out at abrupt angles. Virginia Katz’s editing is swift as Bojan Bazelli’s camera moves fluidly in front of the stage.Antin is in his element here. His sister Robin founded mischievous burlesque troupe the Pussycat Dolls, and he has directed a couple of their videos. He clearly loves this world. The numbers would make Ziegfeld proud; they glorify the American girl with only a little PG-13 naughtiness. Antin knows what you came to see, and he delivers. So does Aguilera. Her role is kept deliberately nondescript so she can fill it with her own personality and big voice. She does bring beguiling innocence to the part, along with a single-minded determination and a hellacious amount of performing talent. Cher gets only one other number, “You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me,” which might become her anthem just as “My Way” belonged to Sinatra. The old bump and grind receives a squeaky-clean workout in “Burlesque,” a backstage tease-o-rama about life in and out of corsets and garters. Sparkly and smiley and thoroughly goofy (sleepy and dopey make appearances too),

photo w

hen she

was a sh


the story turn s on an Iowan refugee for w Big Time mea hom the ns doing the hoochie-cooc Angeles club. hie in a Los There, where the Pilates physiq ues, the mistre dancers are dollies with ss of ceremon Alan Cummin ies should be g (who show s up now and on the sidelin again, giggling es), but turns out to be Che darnedest to r, trying her play older and wiser but with know, the wri out, you nkles and gray . Tucci has his the stage man moments as ager and Tess ’ right-hand m the melodram an to lighten a, but the othe r roles tend to blandness and lack any empa ward thy or emotio n. The worst se rved is Alan C umming. If ev should have be er a performer en at home in this milieu, it’s — who, after Cumming all, has done C abaret onstag role wind up e. Did his on the cuttin groom floor? N credit Antin w onetheless, ith pulling the film musical ba roots. With “M ck to its oulin Rouge” and “Chicago was beginning ,” the musical to look like lo ng-playing vide lesque” is a sm os. “Burart and sassy expedition ba musicals unde ck to MGM r Arthur Free d, who resem “Sweet Chari stars and the bles is Fosse’s ty.” So “Burle renaissance of sq ue” celebrates bu is that no Burl rlesque’s chee its talented ky fun. The on esque Lounge ly disappointm actually exists such a rockin ent on Sunset Bo ’ joint that an ulevard. On fil y showgirl wou m, it’s ld dream to pe rform. Article by Kirc

Tess’s p


k Honeycutt


music sheets

for the shows,

and the cover

crowd over Te ss’s desk.


In my Junior year as a Communication Design student. I was assigned to recreate props as well as a book of a typographic movie. I chose the...


In my Junior year as a Communication Design student. I was assigned to recreate props as well as a book of a typographic movie. I chose the...