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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014

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In Arts & Entertainment

Jennifer Gibson: the pretty, witty vixen

In Arts & Entertainment

Almost time for jazz hands!

Brew City Burlesque sauces the scene with talent, wit and strip tease


Whether shakin' it in sequins or poppin' it in pasties, the Brew City Burlesque troupe aims to tease.

Jennifer Gibson (aka Ophelia Knightly) and friend Lesley (aka Chassy Deluxe) formed the group, Milwaukee's only neo-burlesque posse, last fall. Since then, they added Trixie van Tassel and Sophia Vegas, and the four bawdy tease queens have bumped and grinded for packed audiences all over the city.

Although most burlesque performances feature the signature strip tease, Gibson believes burlesque is more about comedy, performance and bending gender norms than it is about sex.

"The emphasis is on what is not seen," says Gibson. "Sex in today's entertainment has been 'stripped' to the bare essentials and it's not fun any more ... burlesque is more wholesome, if you will, than stripping."

Burlesque -- which means "caricature" or "parody" -- originated in New York in the late 19th century. Traditionally, burlesque divas were curvy gals who coyly peeled away costumes down to their pasties while singing daring ditties and wielding bawdy one-liners.

Today, however, the burlesque scene is popular with both men and women and is embraced by goth, punk and psychobilly subcultures. The new burlesque-ettes often have multiple tattoos and do-it-yourself costumes, but like their flaunty foremothers, they are as voluptuous as ever.

"Burlesque gives the less-than-perfect women -- which is most of us -- a chance to strut our stuff," says Gibson. "There is even a burlesque troupe of all plus-size women called the 'Fat Bottom Revue.' It gives you the girl-next-door feeling."

All of the Brew City burlesquers must be able to sing, dance, act, make their own costumes and props, and promote themselves. Gibson says every song they belt out is more like a skit, complete with a message or theme, and that the troupe rehearses for at least a month before performances.

"Right now we are researching and teaching ourselves the cancan for some upcoming performances. It's not an easy task," she says.

Brew City Burlesque will perform at UWM's Annual Drag Show on Saturday, Feb. 26 at 8 p.m in the Union Ballroom to benefit Project Q. Also, the troupe will soon have a monthly gig at Club Anything.

The Brew City Burlesque's Web site is brewcityburlesque.iwarp.com

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