The inspired pair who masterminded burlesque versions of The Nutcracker and Alice in Wonderland, Lily Verlaine and Jasper McCann, presented Burlesco DiVino: Wine in Rome, a funny and frisky baccanale that ran September 30-October 4 at the Triple Door. This play-within-a-play ran the gamut of dance: from striptease to belly dance, from ballet to go-go, and incorporated acting, singing and opulent costume design by Danial Webster Hellman. In DiVino, American Babs Lawson (Erika Zabelle) and Italian Lanzo Travaglio (McCann) are two producers who have bitten off more than they can chew. Babs and Lanzo must choreograph a new show, find a new cast, and re-costume the players, all at the whim of their patron, the widowed Donatella Bianchi (Verlaine). This interpolated tale cleverly creates a narrative through-line that connects the individual acts of several of Seattle’s burlesque superstars.
DiVino’s main characters, Babs and Lanzo, make a snappy couple with sizzling onstage chemistry as their love story develops throughout the course of the evening. Both actors show off their multiple talents in carrying the show’s dialogue, singing a full song each, and dancing through the transition scenes and set changes. Zabelle’s charisma shone as the perky, ambitious American choreographer who is determined to make her mark on 1960s Italian theater. The One The Only INGA played Bernadette Barbieri, a model out for a walk with her two leggy jaguars (Tory Tiara and Laurel Bordeaux). Accompanied by her ballet-trained cats, Barbieri performed a graceful and classic strip tease, amazing in the sexy, effortless way she shimmied out of tight, 1960s-era high waisted pants.
After Babs slips the uptight widow a copy of Sex and the Single Girl, Donatella loosens up with a little champagne and ends up as the centerpiece in a giant champagne glass, complete with a sponge “ice cube” that Verlaine uses to squeeze moisture from, to great effect. As the rest of the cast looks on adoringly, Verlaine spins in the transparent glass, spraying bubbly and giving the audience tantalizing peeks of her derrière.
In one of the most hilarious scenes, the entire cast slowly wakes up from underneath bedsheets in Babs’s apartment, as if hungover from a drunken orgy the night before. They then perform a lilting reverse striptease, putting their clothes (and sunglasses) back on, and patting their disheveled wigs back into place. In this and many other moments, the talented Corps du Burlesque showcased their strong performances alongside the solo artists.
The three belly dance fusion artists of TriBella (Honolulu Honey, Ivy D’Vine, and Juwana Heart), were highlighted in two thrilling pieces, the first as Vespa riders, and the second as more traditional tribal dancers. Wearing sporty rompers, the trio sexily waved long hair out their helmets, bent over to polish the bikes, and amusingly jiggled astride their Vespas to signify riding through bouncy terrain. This ingenious act took aspects of the classic burlesque chair dance and reworked them to fit the show’s Italian theme and individual plot, also utilizing fitting ‘60s go-go dance moves. In the second act, these three appeared again as mesmerizing belly dancers, worshipping the fire dancer Vesta, Goddess of the Hearth (played by Fireminx). Rather than being out of place alongside the burlesque numbers, this captivating tribal section fit well into the show’s mélange of genres.
Tory Tiara, Laurel Bordeaux, and Paris Original stood out as dancing grapevines in a classical piece that played to the long-limbed dancers’ strengths. The two women and one man fluttered across the stage, their nether regions adorned with purple wine grapes, all equally graceful and confident in pointe shoes. In the next scene, two harvesters entered to pluck these grapes, much to the ballet dancers’ dismay. Tiara’s exaggerated facial expressions perfectly encapsulated the spirit of DiVino’s sexually-charged sense of humor.
Wine in Rome featured a stunning cast of well-known burlesque names and a talented corps who more than held their own during the show’s extensive and varied numbers. Many of the pieces were an innovative take on classic burlesque tropes, resulting in a comedic and multi-layered show. Burlesco DiVino also incorporated a certain level of gender-bending, in which Tory Tiara performed a duet in a man’s suit, mirroring the choreography of the other men, and Paris Original danced just as effeminately as the two other ballerinas. Verlaine and McCann once again amaze with their unpredictability and the high-quality details of this witty, engaging evening.