The original Star Wars debuted a few years before I was born so I didn’t get to fully enjoy the fandom that arose around it. My parents loved the movie and its network television premiere was a big deal in my house however none of us ever got swept up in the mania that surrounded it during those early days. All the more reason I am so grateful for its current stronghold on pop culture and how new generations of fans have revived that fervor with their new found love of the franchise. Despite the small groups of disgruntled fanboys too rooted in some weird purism to enjoy the expansion of a story that has evolved over the decades, most of us are grateful for the many different ways we have to celebrate this story that don’t include a failed holiday special.
Perhaps one of the best things to come from this or any pop culture icon with a cult like following is the fan art. From basic drawings to fun mashups, crocheted Ewok snoods to all manner of cosplay, the way that SW fans choose to celebrate their love of a galaxy far, far away gives me all the life. But, by far one of the best things to come out of all of this, at least in my opinion, are the Burlesque tributes! Many a local troupe have taken to sexy send ups of some of our favorite characters and moments and more recently, a new crew known as Dark Side Burlesque made their debut on the nerdlesque scene with Star Whores: A Burlesque Tribute to The Last Jedi. And what a debut it was!
First of all, if you have never been to a show hosted by Flrt Vonnegut you truly have no idea what you are missing. As someone who announces derby games and is often tapped within that community to emcee various events, Flrt’s presence, quick wit, and ability to connect and banter with an audience is unmatched in this city. Whether it’s a fun and original cosplay for a tribute show or a suave coat and tie for a more upscale feel, he dresses the part and gets in on the fun on the evening while making sure everyone in the crowd does as well. His name on the bill speaks volumes for the quality of the show you are about to see but don’t take my word for, put that theory to the test, you won’t be disappointed.
Portraying the grumpy old bastard we’ve all come to know as Supreme Leader Snoke. Complete with a fantastic makeup job, even as a crotchety, unloved leader of The First Order, he set the tone for the evening, and the tone was pure, unadulterated, sexy ass fun. Yes. Flrt Vonnegut even pulls of sexy as the wrinkly, scarred Snoke. No. I was not peeking up his robe, I don’t know what you’re talking about. Moving right along to the first act, an homage to everyone’s favorite fuzzball, Chewbacca! Bugalu Boogie literally left it all on the floor as they pulled out the big blades to shear this wanted Wookie. Emerging from their mille-feuille to reveal a more clean cut version of my favorite crossbow wielding co-pilot. Boogie’s routine was a fantastic start to the evening complete with a Millennium Falcon accessory that found its way into places Han would’ve never imagined.
The gauntlet was set and it was time for the self-proclaimed President of Philadelphia burlesque, The Amazing Brettzo to take the stage as the dark and brooding half of the Skywalker twins, Luke. In a number that couldn’t have been more than 5 minutes, he managed to make my cheeks hurt from laughing and smiling. In true Brettzo fashion he took us straight to the weird side, milking a quartet of teats and slamming back the green stuff with his mom in the audience cheering him on. Shedding his clothes before disappearing into that binary sunset, Brettzo never fails to take you on a strange journey with his performances.
Not to be outdone by the outlandish Prez, up and coming new star to the scene America Online (@AOL.com) donned the feathers of the newest beloved SW creatures, the Porgs. What burlesque show would be complete without a sexy striptease done by someone dressed as a cute little bird that some have described as a cross between a Wookie and a Penguin? As if that doesn’t sound delightful enough she did it all to a whimsical Bjork song. It was by far the cutest and most endearing Porg-formance of the evening, unlike my attempt at a good Porg pun.
The next performer is no stranger to the stage and gave us her homage to Finn’s awakening in a bit of a backwards spin on the usual burlesque routine. Renaissance Noir starts off half naked and barely breathing in her galactic, clear, medical poncho complete with Resistance pasties only to rise from the infirmary and slowly put clothes on. Funny enough, while at brunch the day before with a new friend discussing all things Burlesque, she said she’s often joked to her partner that her routine would consist of putting clothes back on. Little did I know that to my delight, I would see a number just like that and I am happy to report that it was sexy as hell, just like I told my friend it would be. In all fairness though, Ren Noir has the type of beauty and stage presence that could make just about anything sexy, but still, the point remains.
After a short break that gave us just enough time for “Rap Name or Star Wars Character,” the infamous game that’s seen many incarnations at various nerdlesque shows and is always a crowd favorite, we were ready for more. It was time to get back to the action or more specifically, the newest love triangle to pop up in the Star Wars galaxy. With the newly recovered Finn up and moving towards an exit plan, we are introduced to the mighty mechanic meant to put a thorn in those plans, Rose Tico. Marvelously portrayed by the lovely co-producer Jaeda, we come across her alone and brooding over her obsession, Finn. Set to the new wave 80s hit by Animotion, Jaeda bared it all before being confronted by the idol of her infatuation who she gladly takes down for his traitorous plans and takes him away to make him hers. It was a pulsating and high energy routine that was an instant crowd pleaser.
The latest installment of the saga was not free of controversy with sensitive men the world over feeling like feminism was ruining their fandom to the point where they had to make their own femme character free cut of the movie. I’ll let you insert your own fun eye roll gif here for your pleasure. Another complaint held a bit more validity as *Spoiler Alert* we lose beloved character Admiral Ackbar in an off screen death. Yes, the strange ginger skinned alien who gave fans one of the greatest one liners of the series, “Its a trap!” was not even treated to an on screen death scene. But alas, Dark Side Burlesque wasn’t gonna have our boy go out like that and gave him a decidedly better sendoff courtesy of Clara Croquette. Sporting a white Elvis style jumpsuit and performing to The King’s “Caught In A Trap” the routine followed the fun theme of the evening as we saw the poor Admiral succumb to a number of traps while finishing it all off with some finger trap booty pasties!
While we are on the subject of delicate fanboy egos, let’s talk about the woman who plays the villain for all those oppressed men’s rights activists while simultaneously being one of the baddest warrior heroines in the Star Wars saga itself, Vice-Admiral Holdo. Her lithe stature and lavender locks were portrayed by none other than the one and only HoneyTree EvilEye. After seeing her portray an amazingly cute and bubbly BB-8 in a tribute to The Force Awakens, it was so satisfying to see her magnificently deliver this commanding performance as one of my favorite characters from The Last Jedi. Her act even incorporated the same form of mansplaining that her movie counterpart spectacularly shuts down in the film itself. I have never witnessed so many snaps, cries of “yaaaasss”, and overall thunderous cheers as her she shut down the interruptions and did her thing to Missy Elliot’s “She’s A Bitch.” I literally watched the phrase “make it rain” come to fruition as the audience seemed to want to give her all their money, which seemed only fair considering the amount of life Honeytree gave us all that night.
Can you believe that we aren’t done? Well, my friend, if you’ve been following, there are still two very important characters missing from this tribute. Saving the best for last, the other half of the producing dynamos behind this show, Kyla Ren was joined on stage by the extremely handsome and talented Genome Kelly. It was the moment we had all been waiting for, when Rey and Kylo Ren, join forces to fight off the Elite Praetorian Guard. In a stunning and masterfully choreographed duet, Kyla Ren as Rey and Genome Kelly as Kylo Ren (try saying that a few times fast) gave us a stellar ending to an evening where each act left you wondering how they could possibly top it.
Any evil Empire needs a strong support crew to take over the galaxy and let us not forget the many supporting characters who helped make this night possible. From the scruffy looking nerf herder Mack Aroon working the front door and general crowd control to the coolest droid this side of Tatooine, Whore2-D2, who was brought to life by the vivacious Violet Volatile. As usual, Dr. Fluffy was on the ones and twos bringing us all the great music of the night and have I mentioned the prize packs? Nothing to scoff at, the raffle prizes for the evening boasted a one of a kind Star Wars denim vest donated by Big Trouble, Oh So Cool Craft Crochet gave up one of those cute Ewok snoods I mentioned, plus there were vintage collectible cards, Yoda laser lights, graphic novels and even more provided by Fat Jack’s Comic Crypt.
The energy in the building on this evening was absolutely incredible. I ran into tons of fellow Star Wars fans and we all reveled in the immense amount of talent on display at Franky Bradley’s on a cold Sunday night. A few days after the show, one of them asked me what my favorite act of the night was and I honestly couldn’t pick just one! It’s easier if I just say this has been my favorite Burlesque tribute to Star Wars to date. I guess that means I’ll just have to keep going to each and every one to see if that holds true. Adventure, excitement. A Jedi craves not these things. But a Dark Side Burlesque Star Wars tribute? A Jedi will burn down a Force tree for that!
Words by Heather Fox, Photos by Jamie L. See