Burlesque on the big screen? It had potential: the legendary Cher playing a legendary dancer (quite the stretch); Christina Aguilera and her killer pipes in their film debut; and all those sequins. Plenty of razzle dazzle to shine up a story that’s more than a little predictable….I mean, how could the small-town girl not save the struggling dancehall?
But when a film with such decidedly adult themes gets a PG-13 rating, is it really burlesque? “We didn’t exactly see any pasties,” said Lily Verlaine, Seattle burlesque star and artistic director of Land of the Sweets: The Burlesque Nutcracker (opening December 9 at the Triple Door). “The closest the movie ever got to true burlesque was by [Cam Gigandet, as bartender Jack],” in a cheeky scene where he opens and closes his bedroom door, each time more naked than before, until there’s nothing left but a strategically placed box of cookies. “That was really clever,” Verlaine said. “That’s how we would do it – with a box of cookies.”
Verlaine contends that all press is good press, with the exception of the lack of nudity in Burlesque and the shot of a male character slapping a female character on the butt. “The men I choose to surround myself with are respectful, and this is safe place for women,” she said. And, of course, the Hollywood version has a multimillion-dollar budget, extravagant costumes, and two of the greatest voices in music today.
“I feel like the people who wrote Burlesque aren’t practicing it in the same way we do locally,” Verlaine said. “We tend to be really queer friendly, and the mainstream tends to be hetero. The whole ‘a star is born’ mentality, and the naughty nurses and fetish cops are all first-level ideas. We take more risks, we do take our clothes off and we don’t have perfect editing or lighting. We’re putting some ‘out there’ stuff out there; it’s very liberating.”
Still, Verlaine thinks it’s great that Hollywood has taken an interest in her art; and she admits that she was at Burlesque —with her boyfriend— on Friday. The film made it to No. 4 in box office sales this Thanksgiving weekend, behind three movies geared toward a much younger crowd: the latest Harry Potter installment, Tangled, and Megamind. So despite the discrepancies, all of that coverage means something to Verlaine, who hopes it draws new and old fans alike to the fifth-anniversary production of her Burlesque Nutcracker. “A 90-year-old woman celebrated her birthday with us last year. It can be a family event. It’s a great time of year, it’s fun, and it’s as close to family fare as you can get while still maintaining a lot of sexiness."