[Recap] Burlesque Tribute to Steven Universe at The Barbary 3/4/17

"We are the Crystal Gems."

I am admittedly very new to the world of Steven Universe, but I was aware it was a Cartoon Network creation with bright and fun artwork, well written music, and an upbeat premise based on self-love. I learned over the past few days of Steven Bombing that it is all of that and so much more! Without getting too much into it, it’s the first show on CN to be entirely created by a woman, it portrays a powerful lesbian relationship, strong female heroines, and overall acceptance, teamwork and togetherness. You guys, it’s great!

That being said, this awesome creation has a beautiful and diverse fandom that inspired Riot Nerd and Broad Street Burlesque to come together for a, dare I say, magical night. It sounds cheesy, I know, but you had to be there to feel the energy. Not only was this very mixed crowd buzzing with that awesome geek love you feel at conventions and big movie openings, so were the performers. From the band to the dancers there was just a wave of joy and happiness that even myself and the very few other attending Steven Universe noobs knew we were in for something special.

First up, the band. Steven and The Stevens, comprised of local musicians, Sarah Green, Owen Mercurio and James De La Vega, led by Mike 95 with special guests Kerri Simms and Kate Nyx. It was all guitar covers of some of the great music you’ll find in the show, and even a few ukulele versions just to keep it real. It was more of a sing along as the audience joined in for most of the popular tunes. This performance was inspired by a band from an episode in season one bearing the same name, and they were a huge hit and the perfect warm up for the Broad Street troupe.

It was a delight to see the effervescent personality of Iris Explosion grace the stage as the host of the more R-rated side of this adult tribute to a kids show, a point acknowledged, embraced and cheered on with an appropriate chant of “more bits, more bits, more bits…,” a wonderful inside joke I didn’t fully get until I binge watched about a dozen episodes the next day. Doing her best to contain her overwhelming, infectious and childlike excitement over the evening’s proceedings while looking ridiculously adorable in the traditional yellow star on a red shirt with jeans Steven Universe ensemble, Ms. Explosion did not miss a chance to call out her brother for being an SU virgin before getting rid of her jeans for a pair of sweet, donut patterned hot pants! Paying homage to the main character himself, she truly embodied the spirit that is this wonderful animated awesomeness.

We had the pleasure of starting the evening with a performer from across the bridge in the Garden State, Esmerelda May. Bringing every ounce of the BBW spirit that we see in the character of Amethyst, May was a portrait of curvaceous glamour with a rock and roll heart. Performing to Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation,” I loved every minute of watching a gorgeous big girl rock the stage in the same way I’d expect from the adorably chunky and lavender hued heroine that is Amethyst. It was easy to see that casting in this show was going to continue being on point as May was followed up by a performer so well suited for the tall, slender, and graceful character of Pearl. I really can’t imagine who else you could have cast other than the multifaceted Maso Kiss. Never ceasing to amaze me with her immense amount of talent when it comes to dance, she brought Pearl to life as a delicate but deadly ballerina.  In a routine that captured the heart of the audience, I could hear a collective sigh behind me as she entered the stage and raised herself up on her toes taking the notoriously brutal On Pointe position. Her skill as a dancer shows through in all of her routines making them a unique, original, and memorable part of any show.

So far they had nailed two of the three Crystal Gems and with the addition of Renaissance Noir as Garnet, the show continued on with its casting perfection! Garnet, a fusion gem made up of Sapphire and Ruby, is the strongest of the trio and definitely boasts one of the more popular musical numbers in the show. “Stronger Than You” is Garnet’s song and it is the embodiment of a strong, female relationship. Voiced by British singer Estelle, the song not only works as an anthem for lesbian relationships but speaks to the strength of female unity. Noir nailed all of these characteristics portraying Garnet as the warrior we have come to know and love her as.

Taking a break from the teasing and the stripping, Kate Nyx, also sporting the Steven outfit in the most adorable, asset highlighting way possible (believe me, I had a great view), came to the stage sporting her ukulele and Steven’s Songbook. Keeping her clothes on while belting out a few more of the great tunes, including the very catchy theme song, it was a delight to see her revel in being such a well-rounded entertainer. If you find Kate Nyx’s name on a flyer or ad for anything, I urge you to go and check it out, you will not be disappointed. The musical interlude not only served as a chance for the crowd to sing along with her, it also provided stage kitten, Zsu Zsu Santana a break from cleaning up the layers of tear away clothing from the stage. The kittens are often the hardest working, unseen cog in a burlesque show that deserve as much love as anyone else involved and this one held a special place in my heart since not only was she going to be performing in the Vocal Olympics at Toasted Walnut the very next evening, that I too was signed up for, but she also rocked a Riot Nerd t-shirt throughout parts of the night and damn if she didn’t make that logo look super sexy!

While the show was starting to wind down, the many burlesque first timers in the crowd could not have been prepared for the woman about to come to the stage.  Portraying Lapis, The Water Witch, Liberty Rose, who also produced and made most of the costumes for the evening, brought her unique brand of classic burlesque style and musicality to a breathtaking performance done to the song “Home,” by Edward Sharp and The Magnetic Zeros. A poignant choice for a character that consistently feels lost and imprisoned. Once removed, her home made blue skirt revealed an under layer of a sheer blue wrap around skirt that she used to create flowing and fluid like movements, all while concealing and slightly revealing “the bits” that were so delicately hidden underneath. I was thoroughly impressed by the way she was able to manipulate something as simple as a piece of fabric into a well-used, well-chosen accessory that gave you the feel of water and provided you with the complete essence of Lapis.

Of course all good things must come to an end and unfortunately this stellar show was no different. Closing out the night was none other than Steven’s mom, Rose Quartz, portrayed by yet another thick and curvy goddess with an attention grabbing moniker, Anja Keister. All the way down from the Big Apple, Anja Keister delighted us with a number that started off full of whimsy and grace and exploded into a rabble rousing routine set to the riot grrl theme song “Rebel Girl” by Bikini Kill. While still maintaining her sugary sweet charms, she rocked out with the help of a paper umbrella, using playful jabs to showcase femininity in its full glorious range from delicate to dangerous.

There was a meme flying around this week that showed a picture of a drag queen next to a fully garbed Muslim woman. The caption, meant to make fun of the members of the progressive movement, read “This Is The Future Liberals Want.” While I love the subjects in the photo and fully agree with the sentiment I have to say that if you had the pleasure of attending this show at one of the best local dives, The Barbary, then you might agree that a snapshot from this evening would be a great substitute for the original photo. Equality, acceptance, freedom to express yourself sexually and artistically, self-love, unity, and peace on earth. Yes, Steven, this is the future liberals want. AND ITS MAGICAL!

Words by Heather Fox, Photographs by Jamie See

Heather Fox, is an aspiring cook and artist in her free time. By day she teaches Literacy for the Boys&Girls Club of Philadelphia and by night she dons the role of foXXXy contin, hard hitting blocker for South Jersey Roller Derby. This native Philadelphian and self-proclaimed Geek Girl, resides in Port Richmond where she continues to feed her love of pop culture with all things horror, comic book, and Star Wars related.
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