I was delighted to attend the Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend at Easter for a second year. Audrey Deluxe curates a sensational Burlesque Showcase on Friday night, famed for its world class casts, with Dita Von Teese headlining this year’s three-show marathon. Burlesque Bingo, another of Audrey’s fabulous creations, ran throughout the Weekend.
Saturday night is reserved for the climactic burlesque event on the schedule: the annual Miss Viva Las Vegas burlesque competition, where ten performers of varying experience and style fight it out for audience approval. This year, hosting duties were shared by Deluxe, Viva Las Vegas visionary Tom Ingram, and a last minute masterstroke from Jeez Loueez.
Miss Glitter Painkiller kicks off the 2017 contest spiritedly with a plush red boa, and makes full use of the vast Orleans stage. Her striptease is overlaid by an intentionally jaded internal monologue, but the diction isn’t entirely clear and the quips don’t land consistently.
There needs to be sufficient contrast between the apathetic internal thoughts and a glamorous external display for full effect, but the performance is altogether too casual. The transitions on and off stage for crowd-pleasing interaction lack grace, and costume pieces are swung overhead laboriously.
Madeline Sinclaire is a statuesque black widow in a pleasingly distinctive cape and costume. She presents her thigh ceremoniously through her split dress, progressing to an athletic boa segment and pyro tricks. It’s a playful, theatrical number, but it would benefit from bigger movements and taking time to milk the tease with each removal.
Molly Moonstone from Finland struts purposefully onstage in a glittering, diamond studded jacket, giving us a moody rendition of Elvis Presley’s Heartbreak Hotel. It’s a long trailer, but it showcases her sultry, smouldering voice. She demonstrates fabulous musicality throughout, with a downright filthy floorwork segment. There is a prolonged section with her back to the audience which affects our connection with the number, but overall it is a very entertaining performance.
Blaze begins in a romantic spotlight, blues throbbing overhead, in her trademark twinkling red from head to toe. She is slow and regal in her movements, haughtily tossing her corset aside like trash. Each layer of costume is displayed, posed and held with knowing awareness, letting us drink her in.
Blaze’s huge red fans are employed skilfully, with both held confidently in one hand, before a thrashing floor finale. The act could be improved by more varied and developed choreography, but it receives deservedly enthusiastic applause.
Frankie Fictitious delivers a feisty, fluid and dramatic performance, accompanied by flaming silk fans and a mischievous dragon. She demonstrates musicality, athleticism and playful flair, butt-shimmying the length of the stage and playing a rock star guitar solo on her leg strap, with an ever popular drop split for good measure.
Nina La Voix is pretty and poised in an apricot bra and panels. The high tempo second half shows her at her best – playing to the crowd and twirling enthusiastically – but she seems to be killing time through the first segment to get to this point, and the act loses some momentum as she visibly waits for a particular section of music to begin. I feel this number would benefit greatly if the soundtrack was edited to eliminate filler and make it purposeful throughout.
Audrey Ivory performs a charming and accomplished tribute to Charlie Chaplin and the silent movie era. There are deft hat and cane tricks, tear away pants, and a total commitment to her classic comic persona. There is no final reveal at the end of the number, but it’s no less entertaining and successful for that. A well executed act which lingers in the memory.
Raven Rose positively gallops onstage in ravishing magenta and yellow. It’s an old school classic number with a time-honoured striptease soundtrack, complete with traditional stocking peels and playful shoe removal. A text book example, but not a remarkable one, largely because of an overall lack of connection with the audience and sufficient thrills and events over three songs; by the end she seems to be filling time.
Egypt Blaque Knyle’s performance is nothing short of exceptional. She poses at first in a cascade of glittering gold like the world’s most dazzling street mime, slowly coming to life with jerks, snaps and vogues.
She unveils slowly and deliberately, oozing sex, allowing the number to build to a thrilling display of dance and showmanship. The act is set to a Michael Jackson soundtrack with perfectly replicated tributes to the energy and physicality of the pop icon throughout the choreography.
For seven sensational minutes, Egypt has full command of the Orleans stage – and the foaming, shrieking audience, who rise to their feet during and after the performance. The fact that it’s a burlesque act is almost incidental: it’s a full throttle production number that defies labels. Simply killer, start to finish.
My homegirl Kitty Bang Bang closes the competition with a barnstorming, no fucks finale as her hot pink, Trash Kitty alter ego. Usually this number has a second half of feisty fire tricks, but with Orleans restrictions it’s a full length dance number this evening, recklessly en pointe.
Kitty has such a distinctive and expressive dance technique and plays to the crowd expertly, but her crude touches and raucously bored persona don’t seem to translate as effectively with this largely American, Viva Las Vegas audience. The quality of her performance is always excellent, but a tighter choreography of events would strengthen this adaptation.
I will save my effusive praise of Bunny Galore’s stepdown number for a separate feature, but it is a sophisticated, captivating departure from her winning performance last year that showcases her versatility and skill beautifully.
Ultimately, the infamous clapometer determines that Audrey Ivory is awarded third place, Egypt Blaque Knyle second, and Frankie Fictitious as Miss Viva Las Vegas 2017. The Dita’s Choice Award, decided by Dita Von Teese herself, went to Egypt Blaque Knyle.
The Miss Viva Las Vegas 2017 competition reviewed by Holli-Mae Johnson.
Find out more about the Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend burlesque events.
Burlesque Hall of Fame / Miss Exotic World Judge, 2011 Holli Mae Johnson is the founder and editor of 21st Century Burlesque Magazine, a pioneering publication created twelve years ago to unite, document and celebrate the global burlesque community. Holli is actively involved in the burlesque community on a day to day basis and is privately consulted by performers and producers at every level for promotion, critique, recommendations and encouragement. As a documenter and critic, she has seen countless burlesque and variety performances from across the world and provides an intimate perspective and insight into the lives and careers of burlesque’s greatest pioneers, performers and personalities.