Burlesque isn’t just striptease. It’s live performance that trades in sex appeal, but it isn’t sex. Sex is the object, not the verb, you might say. Chicago has a bustling burlesque scene, never more so than in the summer season. Here’s a survey of what’s out there this month. (Maybe obvious, but, yes, there’s nudity or partial nudity in all of these shows. Plan accordingly.)
Naked July: Art Stripped Down: The whole hot month of July has been declared clothing-optional at National Pastime Theater as part of its new festival. (See also Kerry Reid’s review in this issue of its production of Tennessee Williams‘ “The Day on Which A Man Dies.”) The “Girlie-Q Variety Hour” is edgy burlesque, live music and dance on Fridays and Saturdays at midnight through Aug. 1. “Speakeasy to Me” by the Rippettes runs 10 p.m. Thursdays and 8 p.m. Sundays through Aug. 2. At National Pastime Theater, 4139 N. Broadway; all tickets are $20 at 773-327-7077 and npt2.com.
Also … Not quite burlesque, but part of Naked July and worth noting here is Scratch Media’s “The Great American Nudie Spectacular.” A sketch-comedy sendup of America’s attitudes on nudity. Such as: Why is it more threatening than violence? Friday through Aug. 1 at Theatre Building Chicago, 1225 W. Belmont Ave.; $20 at 773-327-5252 and theatrebuildingchicago.org.
Belmont Burlesque Revue: It’s back with a new show every month; July promises not to disappoint. With Lady Jack, Sean Flannery, Amazing Tomas and the Belmont Bombshells. Midnight July 25 at Playground Theater, 3209 N. Halsted St.; $10 at belmontburlesque.com.
Varietease Cabaret: This show of Chicago talent at the Lakeshore will be hosted by Backdoor Aly and feature a wide range of acts, such as Miss Tamale, Mae the Bellydancer, The Honey Buns, Dizzy Lizzy Delicious, Lyra Belecqua, Pearl Pistol, Red Hot Annie and Dolls of Doom. 10:30 p.m. July 17 at Lakeshore Theater, 3175 N. Broadway; tickets are $15 at 773-472-3492 and lakeshoretheater.com.
Blue Bayou Bar and Grill: Claiming a burlesque show by Vaudezilla with the “only bar top stage in Chicago.” 10 p.m. Thursdays at the Blue Bayou Bar and Grill, 3734 N. Southport Ave.; free, 773-871-3300 and bluebayouchicago.com.
Broadzilla! The Burlesque Beast: A pair of shows by Vaudezilla, with a list of performers too long and off-color to even think about printing here. You go and tell us how it was. 10 p.m. and 1 a.m. July 31 at Exit, 1315 W. North Ave.; free, vaudezilla.com.