Valentine's in Vaudeville: A Bawdy Bawdy Ha Ha Performance
by Maggie Nipps
Photos by Tori Fejfar
Valentine’s Day: a day for love, romance, and sensuality. But this year in Iowa City, it’s a celebration of seduction, decadence, and extravagant performance. Bawdy Bawdy Ha Ha, an eastern Iowa Burlesque troupe, gave their debut performance this Valentine’s evening at Gabe’s, bringing together all sorts of talent for one magical evening.
Before the show even started, performers in elaborate costumes lit up the space. A juggler with light up balls entertained in the back of the seating area while someone else twirls light up batons under pink fluorescent lighting on stage. Meanwhile, a harness-wearing Cupid poured champagne for those in the VIP seats. Every table was covered in rose petals and Valentine’s chocolate, setting the scene for the sweetly sinful soiree.
A live musician also took the stage, with Dolores Sparkle singing and playing Ukulele to a variety of songs, from the classic “My Funny Valentine” to Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl,” preparing the audience for the wide array of talent in store for the evening. All of this geared up to the introduction of the hostess with the most-est: none other than SinDee Hoo Hoo, self-proclaimed “Harlot of Hooville” and owner of the St. Louis School of Burlesque and Variety. In a red dress, gartered fishnet tights, and a 20s style hair feather in her retro, she looked like a Vaudeville performer with a modern flair. Addressing all of the “weirdos and queer-dos” in the audience, her humor, candidness, and stage presence created a perfect atmosphere for the variety of spectacular acts in store.
Given the long history of burlesque performing, there was plenty of retro music and fashion in store. Moxie Hart’s 1940s style tease started with her gloved hands peering around the sides of a huge heart made of roses. Ruby slippers slowly peaked over the top, building anticipation and captivating the audience. Once the gloves come off, she danced with both halves of the now broken heart with elegance and living up to her name, moxie. SinDee Hoo Hoo also took a break from hosting to perform her burlesque act to “In the Mood” by the Andrew Sisters. Starting in a black corset and red and black undergarments, her act was vivacious and certainly put the audience “in the mood.”
Not all acts this evening came from the 30s and 40s, with a whole variety of performers taking the stage. Franky D. Lover of I.C. Kings graced the stage with two drag performances, lip syncing and dancing to “I’m Your Man” by Leonard Cohen and “Love Today” by Mika. Wearing a snazzy bow tie, white suit jacket, button up, goatee, and sideburns, his look and fantastic dancing made for a sultry and sensational performance. Former I.C. King Matt Adore later took the stage alongside Moxie Hart to “Woman Woman” by Awolnation. With harnesses, blindfolds, and spanking with a dozen roses, this performance was certainly striking. This act was hard to beat, but near the end of the evening, a pole performer from the Eastern Iowa Circus collective dazzled the audience with acrobatic tricks to “I Wanna be Loved by You” by Marilyn Monroe, bringing the evening together with a perfect combination of classic music and modern performance style.
Bawdy Bawdy Ha Ha is not a show to forget, and each of the performers certainly brought their all to the stage. Everyone in the audience, from first-time burlesque viewers to vaudeville veterans, were able to find something new, unique, and dazzling in this show. From phenomenal music to perfectly executed choreography and everything in between, SinDee was right to point out that there is “serious talent in this town.” This was an evening perfect for those with a Valentine, those out with their friends for Gal-entine’s, and anyone looking to take in all of the amazing performers Iowa has to offer.