With May the 4th come and gone, Star Wars Celebration a beautiful memory, and The
Last Jedi teasing us for the next several months, American pop culture cannot escape
from the ‘galaxy far, far away.’ But while the general public has only recently
returned to the Star Wars bandwagon, one popular Los Angeles based burlesque
troupe has kept the lightsaber lit long before the “force awakened.”
Anyone familiar with the Los Angeles ‘nerdlesque’ scene has probably heard of Star
Girls Burlesque, a burlesque parody show put on by the infamous Devil’s Playground.
The original Star Girls Burlesque show, created by Devil’s Courtney Cruz, has been
running in California at various locations since 2010 and has since become one of its
most well known shows.
For a time the Star Girls home base was located at the Dragonfly in Los Angeles,
California. With its large, open concert stage equipped with stripper poles and wide
spectator pit area the Dragonfly allowed the performers of the nerdlesque show to
come up with some pretty big acts. And by big, think TIE-fighter big. Performers
would routinely come on stage inside replicas of the various space-fairing vehicles
of the Star Wars universe such as TIE-Fighters and X-wings, complete with working
laser lights. At a previous Star Girls show, the audience was able to watch Boba Fett
dance gloriously around a carbonite encased Han Solo.
However, the show has a new home, Harvelle’s Long Beach. The classy So Cal
nightclub is the sister venue to the historic Santa Monica location established in
1931. Harvelle’s Santa Monica is the oldest live music venue on the Westside. It’s
younger sister in Long Beach, while not as historic, still offers a dark and sexy space
for enjoying live acts.
“We started [performing the Star Girls Show] in Long Beach in February 2017,” said
Cruz. “We had never offered the show in Long Beach and I love Harvelle’s [because]
it is an intimate, more interactive environment. Plus the venue has a great
reputation for having top not burlesque shows.”
Star Girls is not the only burlesque show to run at Harvelle’s Long Beach. The
venue’s noir atmosphere has also drawn another well-known burlesque boss to
bring his production to the Long Beach night club – Bobbie Burlesque.
“I first brought my show Seduction: Classic Burlesque Stripshow to Harvelle's [in]
August 2014,” said Bobbie Burlesque. “Since then my show has become a resident
production at Harvelle's of Long. I also bring special themed shows as well
including: Tim Burton Burlesque and American Horror Story Burlesque.”
Since the move to Harvelle’s, Courtney Cruz has made Bobbie Burlesque the show’s
on-site producer. Cruz had previously performed at Harvelle’s for one of Bobbie’s
Tim Burton burlesque shows as the Joker, and she approached him afterward with
her ideas about bringing Star Girls to Long Beach. The two originally met back in
2009, and Bobbie admits to being an avid fan of the Star Girls show even before
being brought on to the staff.
While there is no denying that Harvelle’s is a unique venue, full of sensual 1930s
charm, it does have one drawback in regards to live performance art; the stage area
is not very big. The venue makes great use of its space logistically – the stage sits
high off the ground, the raised seating along the walls has good line-of-sight, the
seated cocktail tables are spread out in a way that still offers good visibility, and
even the view from the bar is not all that bad – but there is only so much you can do
with the amount of space the main stage offers. But burlesque performers have
found a clever way around the lack of stage space, they use the entire venue as an
interactive runway to the bar counter, which they use as a secondary stage.
While the smaller space prevents performers from using larger set pieces such as
TIE-fighters in their acts, the bar offers a surprising amount of versatility. Some
performers even go as far as hanging upside down from the ceiling to show off their
impressive dexterity. Others dance among the crowded row of tables, interacting
with the dining patrons. Guests can even request “tip guns,” which shoot dollar bills
out at the burlesque performers like a storm cloud of currency.
Another element that hasn’t changed since Star Girls’ days at the Dragonfly is the
impressive costumes. To simply call them cosplay-worthy would undersell just how
elaborate they are. Not only do many of the outfits look screen-accurate to the
characters they represent, but the performer must also be able to take them off with
ease during the routine, meaning much of the accouterments must be “tear away.”
Stripping off an entire suit of armor while not missing a beat to a lightning-fast
dance number cannot be an easy task, but the Star Girls performers make it appear
“The Star Girls ‘Fempire’ has grown to over 30 different characters, so every time
you see it, it’s a different lineup,” said Cruz. “I have 3 new characters making their
debut over the next couple months of shows at Harvelle’s.”
Star Wars fans who happen to be in the Long Beach area on June 16th should
consider checking out Devil’s Playground’s next Harvelle’s show. Tickets for the
show can be purchased at courtneycruz.net. Cruz is currently looking for a new Los
Angeles venue to keep the show running in LA as well.
Have you been to a show? If so, let Nerdbot know how much fun you had in the comments!