“I find strippers to be generally very nice people,” says an ultradecent gentleman in a wiseman voice as he sits down next to me, simultaneously trying to persuade me he most definitely isn’t a stalker and pushing his chair way too close to mine. I peripherally glimpse him dipping his elbow in a little pile of white powder on the table in front of us, something that could be self-raising flour, anthrax or coke; and jealously watch my friends downstairs ordering the second bottle of champagne as he moves on from his failed marriage to the origin of various stains on his jacket.
Tonight, the atmosphere of Vinohrady’s Royal theatre is one of intoxicating anticipation, sweet, musky perfume and a beautifully elegant crowd to witness the premiere of Prague Burlesque first-ever stage show. One really cannot think of a better venue choice for a burlesque night than this recently revamped 1920s artdeco gem. All hats off to the new director, Jean-Christophe Gramont and his appointed designer, Renata Slamkova, for managing to restore the original beauty of this charismatic little cinema so tastefully! I just wish i wasn’t wearing my shortest dress when I set off to explore the marble details on the stairs, the intricate woodwork, columns in fine veneer and all the well-preserved balcony stuccos… The designers even went as far as furnishing the place with livingroomy red velvet chairs and serving their drinks in authentic Czech Thun porcelain to create a proper throwback effect to the roaring twenties.
The waiter seamlessly circulates between the tables, adding to the pleasant ambiance of the place and the jolly vibe of a workweek’s end. And then the curtain finally rises and the show smoothly opens up, piling up nostalgic erotica with comedy bits, music and so many stunning lingerie sets it makes my credit card itch. There’s strategic layers of Agent Provocateur, nipple tassels to be spinned, corsets that must take a whole Lord of the Rings movie to peel off; and the thinnestest stockings you have ever seen, all taken off oh-so-elegantly.
With the show (originally designed for an intimate coctail bar setting) experiencing a major re-fit and being a swift sellout all at once, there is no wonder about the notable dash of nervousness in the opening acts. And thank god for that: there is none of that over-rehearsed sanity of mechanical dolls with perfectly calculated lighting and numbers so spotless they just end up feeling distant. Sonny and his girls seem to ‘get’ the cabaret: from occasionally fighting a naughty glove to cheesy narcissistic song singing or deliciously splashing about water from inside an oversized coctail glass, it is rather refreshing to see the ensamble refusing to take themselves seriously.
“I love getting a response from the audience, be it scooping my ass or shouting out loud,” says Angelina Angelic, the voluptuous Marilynish blonde, after we’ve discussed lingerie shopping, their tough ballet training and her incredibly cute moles.
For a second, I wonder if that includes those slightly idiotic audience outbursts I witnessed, too, but then I remember the unfinished champagne and head back – just in time to see the promised midnight surprise. Sonny is back on the stage with almost more energy than before, spontaneously joined by some dancing couples and the ultimate burlesque night finale: people finally loosened up after a tough workweek, with their senses tickled just enough with a heady mix of quality booze, easy cabaret laughs and sexy striptease.
“Isn’t life just too short to spend your Friday nights anywhere else but here?” I overhear an enchanted expat conversation as I put on my jacket in the retro lobby, collecting all my old and new friends and whispering a convinced “Amen!” into the crisp October night.