Burlesque show: You’ll know it when you see it

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.

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