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Published on September 26th, 2012 | by Alicia Coombes


Review of Hubba Hubba Revue

Summary: Though some of the comedic sketches lacked timing, the acrobatic and aerial performances are well worth the cover charge.


Worth the Cover

Gorgeous corsetry, punk-glamour style, kitschy comedy and daredevil aerial stunts are all on the menu at Hubba Hubba Revue, a neo-burlesque variety show based in San Francisco. Like its mother from the 30s, neo-burlesque dancers prefer to focus on the “tease” portion of a strip-tease, placing emphasis on the art of gradually revealing themselves and often ending the dance in a spectacular shimmying of certain body parts covered in pasties, corsetry or fans. (Burlesque is oh-so heavy on irreverency, taking great pleasure in juicing up higher forms of art like theater and ballet with humor and parody.)

The Revue holds a big show once a month at the DNA Lounge that features a rotating band as well as dancers, daredevils and aerealists. They also host a smaller, scaled-down version of their show every Monday night at the Uptown in Oakland. Last Friday was Hubba Hubba Revue’s 6th Anniversary Party, and Art Animal attended to get a taste of the talent seen at this fabulous monthly party.

The emcees of the evening included Kingfish and Miss Information (aka Autumn Adamme, the proprietess of Dark Garden Corsetry in San Francisco). Each deftly heckled the crowd, ushered in the performers and led a costumed team of techs across the stage to clean up the detritus after each act.

The best acts of the evening did a great job balancing the grotesque with beauty, like the masked BDSM-themed Bunny Pistol. I found her act surprising and thoughtful, especially considering that she used her mask as the final piece of clothing to be removed. Other acts relied on buffoonery and physical mastery, or parodies of high-brow art. One of the highlights was a troupe from Chicago called the Dolls of Doom, who performed a buffoon-circus contortionist act (which began inside a Chinese Dragon puppet). The Dolls of Doom and their director, Lola Martinet (who performed a “mermaid stuck in a net” arial act), are notable for their weight-shared controlled acrobatics and circus-like balancing acts. Mind-blowing performances by My Little Chernobyl (an arial “fallen angel” act) and Ariyanna laFey (a straightforward fan-dance in a feathered costume creation) were also a treat. Throughout all of these performances, I was fascinated by the way these women of all sizes were able to use their bodies so artistically to tell a complete story while still adhering to the conventions of the form.

A few local groups were also featured that night: Rubenesque Burlesque and Kitty Kitty Bang Bang. The Rubenesques were punky and edgy, and it was nice to see larger body types onstage, but they seemed to be less choreographed and imaginative than the other groups. Kitty Kitty Bang Bang performed a fun can-can gone awry. The night was rounded out by perfectly serviceable dances by Honey Lawless, Gigi DeFlower, Sparkly Devil, Pickles Kintaro and Kiss Me Kate.

Unfortunately, some of the comedic acts fell short. Balla Fire danced for an audience member who was at the Revue to celebrate his bachelor party, coming out onstage dressed in a bridal gown and finishing the act on the couch eating chips and soda before dragging her man off to the bedroom. She was a great dancer, and the idea was cute, but the humor wore out before she ended her performance. Hunny Lawless and Gigi DeFlower’s dance performance to “I Will Survive” also flopped, mainly due to the fact that the punchline was at the top of the sketch. Similarly, a dating game skit performed by a group of dancers felt way too long, being either poorly rehearsed or not well thought out.

Funnier was Lady Satan (an award-winning local “drag-king”), who appeared on the stage dressed in a 70s costume, complete with a mustache, afro and stuffed sock. Obviously enjoying herself immensely, she proceeded to perform an incredibly hilarious tease with the aforementioned bachelor. Like many of the other acts, however, the skit lasted too long, wearing out the audience before its close.

In general, the comedic pieces lacked the amount of timing, specificity and calculation that clearly went into the aerial acrobatic pieces. If the humor had been as carefully orchestrated, the payoff would have been tenfold. Instead, most of the comic sketches amounted to an indifferent audience while people onstage had fun taking their clothes off.

Despite the mixed bag of talent, however, the evening was worth the cover charge, if only to get a taste of the unique art of neo-burlesque variety entertainment.

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About the Author

Alicia Coombes is a dramaturg, director and writer. Growing up in rural Oklahoma as an outsider with a flair for the dramatic, she wasn’t exposed to very much art or theatre outside of rodeos and Halloween Hell Houses. Luckily as a teenager her family returned to the Bay Area and she quickly immersed herself in more arts and culture than she had imagined was possible. She still has a particular soft spot for the dramatic (and clowns, perhaps from the rodeo days). She graduated from San Francisco State University with a BA in Theatre with an emphasis in Dramaturgy. She was Aurora Theatre Company’s Literary Manager and Artistic Assistant for four seasons and served as resident dramaturg for the 2011-2012 Season. She has worked in many aspects of the theatre with several other Bay Area companies including Crowded Fire Theater, Marin Theatre Company, Z Space/Word for Word, Golden Thread, Woman’s Will, and CalShakes and is currently the Company Manager for San Francisco’s foolsFURY Theater.

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