by Lisa Joy Reitman-Dobi
Let’s be clear.
Burlesque is the correct term for a comedic performance featuring skilled burlesque dance as part of a humorous satire. Burlesque is not the act of stripping whilst waggling about, philistine attempts at slapstick, prancing in pasties or acrobatically mounting a pole.
Now that this has been clarified: Peel Me a Glove is a burlesque show created, performed and hosted by Grace Gotham. Grace, so aptly named, is lovely to behold. Her voice is utterly delightful. But these qualities alone are not sufficient for a successful show.
Add Ms. Gotham’s intelligence, creativity, training, timing, talent and ingenious humor and you’ve got Peel Me a Glove. Grace Gotham brings back burlesque as it is meant to be: polished, poised and professional.
Grace has a vibrant connection to the dash and panache of the Jazz Age. Opening with “Coney Island Washboard,” Grace introduced not only a theme of the evening, but her sly wit. When she removed a bit of her garment, she revealed a –literal- washboard waist. With the swift addition of two spoons, Grace provided perfectly waggish accompaniment to top-notch pianist Chris Johnson. Johnson, a kindred spirit of the Jazz Age, turned a transitional interlude into a Gershwin-laced highlight all its own.
Before introducing her first featured performer, Grace sang “And Her Mother Came Too,” the 1921 hit made famous by Ivor Novello who wrote the score. Before Andrew Lloyd Weber came along, Novello was the songwriter with the most impressive record, decades of success. It warms my heart that Grace joins the society dedicated to reviving treasures of bygone eras. Ivor Novello was, in fact, wonderfully depicted in “Gosford Park,” (2001) a marvelous Robert Altman film.
Francine, The Lucid Dream was the first guest. Her performance to “She Wore Blue Velvet,” demonstrated the sinuous elegance of an accomplished dancer. A mesmerizing figure in a long, deep blue velvet cloak, Francine expressed a story of longing, “mixing memory with desire.” The mark of a performer’s success lies in what one recalls long after the theater has gone dark. Days after the show, Francine’s smooth, evocative dance remains a gossamer apparition, elusively rich as the memory of a dream.
Rosie Cheeks took the stage in a burst of sparkle and vitality. As she danced, her dress magically twirled away to reveal a proper Jazz Age swimsuit, the very essence of a 1925 seaside postcard brought to life. Sporting a glittering flowered bathing cap. equally glittered swimmies and a classic striped beach ball, Rosie danced with exuberance and impressive dexterity. Holding the beach ball aloft, she became that iconic Art Deco female form, clasping a sphere overhead. She was at once dancer, actor and comedian. With every swift move, precise choreography and perfectly calibrated pose, Rosie delivered a performance so vigorous and spirited that after her exit, the room resonated with her charismatic energy.
Toward the end of the show, Grace did a number she wrote: “The Lady With The Long Left Labia.” To say I laughed till my cheeks hurt is an understatement. The clever lyrics, combined with her descriptive, hilarious moves were priceless. Pulling away part of her pink gown, she revealed a long side train of the same pastel, the perfect prop to toss over her shoulder, demonstrate that as a bride, she’d slip and slide, and far more.
Peel Me a Glove is a fine tribute to burlesque. Although there were several incidents involving gauche additions from less sophisticated performance associates, such is the process of refining any show with multiple acts.
Despite the fact that Sid Gold’s Request Room has a severe lack of performance space, these seasoned artists did remarkably well. One caveat: the night I attended, there was loud, incessant, customer chatter. On nights that the audience is comprised of people who care about cabaret, the atmosphere will certainly improve.
Do see the talented Grace Gotham in Peel Me a Glove, slated for fourth Tuesday of every month at Side Gold’s Request Room.
Peel Me a Glove is scheduled for this Tuesday, September 27 at 8 pm.
Sid Gold’s Request Room is located at 165 West 26th Street.
Call for reservations: 212-229-1948