By Catherine Jozwik, Special to OnMilwaukee   Published May 09, 2018 at 6:46 PM

Modern-day burlesque queen Dita Von Teese and her talented group of performers, the Copper Coupe Revue, brought their latest show, "The Art of the Teese," a heady mixture of vintage glamour, bawdy comedy, a whole lot of seduction and even more pasties – and I don’t mean the Cornish delicacy – to The Pabst Theater Tuesday night.

The historic theater was the ideal place to host a performer who owes a large portion of her career to old-fashioned Hollywood style.

Doors opened at 7:30 p.m., with the performance scheduled for 8. However, due to a line that wrapped around the block, the show was delayed about 40 minutes. But Von Teese and her crew made up for lost time, putting on a two-hour show with a 15-minute intermission.

Despite the crushing crowd, people-watching was almost as enjoyable as the show itself. 

The majority of the audience was female, and many women were dressed to the nines, sporting gorgeous pin-up style dresses with pencil skirts, halter dresses with cherries and floral designs, pillbox and wide-brimmed hats, and 1940s "victory rolls" in their hair. Men, many of whom appeared to be there with their wives or girlfriends, wore suspenders and fedoras. And after the performance, a gigantic, mint-condition 1964 Cadillac rolled up Wells Street.

The show was very LGBTQ-friendly, featuring a diverse and colorful cast of characters.

Johnny McGovern, the show’s animated and openly gay MC, was incredibly entertaining, introducing each performer with much fanfare (and giant fans, occasionally) and sometimes picking up the dancers’ burlesque routines where they left off, leaving the audience roaring with laughter. While appropriating a sultry pose, leg in mid-air on a red damask couch, he exclaimed, "I think it’s stuck!"

McGovern was very engaging with the audience, getting the crowd to "make some noise for Dita" and dubbing the performance "the last safe space for men to appropriately stare at boobs."

"We’re gonna have a sexy good time tonight!" he proclaimed.

Between numbers, he sang (in true Barry White-style, he sang a song warning women not to fall in love with their gay best friend, even though he’ll "take you shopping" and look fabulous) danced and cracked naughty jokes.

Von Teese, 46, was the picture of 1940s elegance, with jet-black finger waves, fire-engine red lipstick and a lithe, enviable figure.

Her routines included lots of Swarovski crystals – her signature accessory – a giant clamshell, an enormous tube of lipstick with a sparkly fuchsia tip which, clad in black fetishistic leather, she rode like a mechanical bull.

Von Teese’s show-stopper – and grand finale – featured a larger-than-life martini glass, which she splashed around in, and a large lemon peel, which she wrapped around herself and squeezed.

The music, a mix of Cab Calloway and Duke Ellington-inspired jazz, Brazilian samba and Latin-American-inspired sounds, and ‘80s and ‘90s thumping Lords of Acid-style club beats, was well-arranged and enhanced the vibe of the show.

Copper Coupe performers included Dirty Martini, a plus-size performer who, decked out in cotton-candy pink and turquoise tulle and sequins, and using a pink carousel horse as a prop, garnered thunderous cheers, hoots and whistles from the audience. She followed with a second act, where she flipped her tassels around to the tune of Dick Dale’s "Misirlou."

The blonde, voluptuous Playboy model Gia Genevieve drove the audience wild with her blue ruffled see-through robe and sexy bathtub routine, where, clad only in a thong and pasties, she sprayed herself with a shower hose.

Ginger Valentine, with her dark Bettie Page-style bangs, was reminiscent of a Western saloon girl with a royal blue feathered hairpiece and sequined teddy. The Australian Zelia Rose excited in gold outfit with a long red train, whirling and dancing to Brazilian beats.

And Jett Adore was every bit the alluring matador/Mask of Zorro with a black sequined cape, eye mask and knee-high silver sequined boots. When he threw his robe open to reveal a perfectly chiseled chest and pasties – in Von Teese’s show, most performers seem to wear them – the applause was deafening.

"It’s 2018. We can be whatever we want!" McGovern exclaimed at some point during the show, further driving home Von Teese’s message of self-love and body acceptance.

For many, whatever they wanted Tuesday night was the burlesque goddess and her Copper Coupe to provide a dazzling and welcome respite from a monotonous work week. And that's what they got.