OGDEN — It took a very long time to finally bring last year’s “An Evening of Burlesque” to Ogden.
But now, in 2020, it’s back again.
“The 2nd Annual Evening of Burlesque” is planned for this weekend at Peery’s Egyptian Theater in downtown Ogden. The event, at 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 18, will feature an evening of classic burlesque from professional dancers hailing from across the country — two from New York City, three from Las Vegas and one from Los Angeles.
Back by popular demand will be stage performers Bettina May, Kalani Kokonuts, Mr. Gorgeous, Ruby Champagne, Calamity Chang, and Madazon Can Can.
“Burlesque shows the beauty of the dance,” said Carrie Vondrus, who with husband Richard organizes the annual show. “These performers? They perform all over the world.”
Dee Milo, of Salt Lake City, whom Vondrus calls “one of the legends of burlesque,” will also be on hand. And the mistress of ceremonies for the evening will be Las Vegas-based Ms. Redd.
“If you like Mae West,” Vondrus said, invoking the name of the 1930s Hollywood sex symbol, “you’re going to love Ms. Redd.”
The show is recommended for ages 18 and older. Tickets are $45 and $65; VIP tickets are available for $95 and include a meet-and-greet with the performers before the show as well as an after-party event with hors d’oeuvres, a cash bar, and music and dancing until 2 a.m.
The Vondruses are owners of Endless Indulgence Retro Wear on Historic 25th Street in Ogden. They say they tried for years to find a local venue that would be willing to host that very first evening of burlesque.
“It was a four-year process to bring this here,” Carrie Vondrus said. “We couldn’t find a theater that would allow it. A lot of people just don’t understand the entire concept of burlesque. Unfortunately, they have the misnomer that it is just pure stripping. But this kind of dance has been going on since the 1920s and ’30s.”
Adds Richard Vondrus: “The thing that was the hard part to get over with our first show here in Utah was that it’s not a brass pole stripping act. Which, everybody immediately thinks when you say ‘burlesque’ or ‘pinup.’”
The couple says that, four years ago, the then-manager of Peery’s Egyptian Theater told them burlesque was just “something Ogden could not handle.”
But all that changed after the Egyptian brought in a couple of exotic male dance shows — Magic Men Live in February of 2016, followed by Australia’s Thunder Down Under in May of 2018.
“When we found out the theater had hosted Magic Men and Thunder Down Under, we thought, ‘Well, they opened the door a little bit, so we’ll just kick it open,’” Carrie Vondrus said.
But even once the couple finally managed to schedule last year’s event, they couldn’t get Utah media outlets to cover it. They were told by one Park City station that burlesque was “too risque.”
Nor could they get any financial backing for the venture.
“My husband and I financed the entire thing,” Carrie Vondrus said. “We don’t have any sponsors for this, because so many people closed their doors on us.”
Still, the Vondruses say it’s all worked out, because Peery’s Egyptian is the absolute “perfect” theater for burlesque.
“We are a retro store from back in the day bringing in classic acts from back in the day, and Peery’s is a classic fit,” Carrie Vondrus said. “It has that whole burlesque/vaudeville vibe.”
Contrary to popular belief, Carrie Vondrus says burlesque is not about the reveal, but about the anticipation.
“Yes, they take their clothes off, and yes they’re wearing pasties and g-strings — although they’re Swarovski crystal pasties that are very expensive,” she added. “But it’s the art of the tease. It’s like the fan dance: You’re covered most of the time, and it’s only the last 3 to 5 seconds that the fans are down and you see anything.”
Some performers even wear body stockings, she said.
One other way the Vondruses know burlesque isn’t just about the skin is the makeup of the audience. Carrie Vondrus says the ratio of women-to-men at these shows is usually about 60-to-40.
“A lot of women attend burlesque because it’s so body-affirming,” she said. “These ladies come in all shapes and sizes.”
What’s more, the most-requested performer for the upcoming show — among both women and men — was Mr. Gorgeous, a male who used to work with Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas.
Carrie Vondrus said they couldn’t be happier with the way last year’s event turned out.
“It was fabulous,” she said. “People who walked out after the show last year could not believe their eyes. And Kalani Kokonuts said there isn’t even a show in Vegas that can compare with this one.”
Richard Vondrus said the burlesque vibe fits in well with their retro wear clothing store on 25th Street.
“You’ve got all these beautiful women who come into the store, and we get to dress them and make them more beautiful,” he said. “And it affects their personalities, too. They walk in having a bad day, and they walk out and they’re on top of the world.”
“They call it their happy place,” Carrie Vondrus added.
The couple says “The 2nd Annual Evening of Burlesque” will be a night to remember, and that it will transport audience members back to the heyday of burlesque and vaudeville.