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Burlesque: Strip, Strip, Hooray!

6 June 2016 | 1:14 pm | Fiona Cameron

"Cleavage plunged and bosoms swelled, heels were killer and a vintage fur stole - faux or otherwise - was the accessory du jour."

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The curtain went up on burlesque glamour queen Dita Von Teese on Saturday night in Sydney for her first show in Australia with her show Burlesque: Strip, Strip, Hooray!

Although some of the finery sported by the audience wound up a tad bedraggled thanks to a thorough buffeting by the weather outside, inside the people-watching opportunities were unparalleled as cleavage plunged and bosoms swelled, heels were killer and a vintage fur stole — faux or otherwise — was the accessory du jour.

Anchored by the "the hardest working middle-aged man in show business", MC Murray Hill, Von Teese was joined by performers Natasha Estrada, Catherine D'lish, Perle Noire, Ginger Valentine and Jett Adore (who according to Hill is "a biological male!!"), giving us their take on the high art of the reveal. The 'Von-terage' is a nice serving of beefcake on the side, featuring Alex from Poland and Elio from Puerto Rico, chiselled back-up dancers who fill out their gold hotpants very pleasingly.

At the heart of burlesque's enduring appeal is its sense of humour; in its early days this manifested as a delight in skewering public mores and carving steak off sacred cows. On Saturday evening, Hill rightly pointed out that the show "is a safe place to objectify women", and got the crowd laughing at its own baser instincts: "This is like Christmas-fucking-morning for the lesbians!"

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With von Teese as the anchor and standard bearer, the parade of performers assembled to delight the crowd revelled in their differences and winked at their similarities. Truly, there was something for everyone. Catherine D'lish demonstrated agility and flexibility on her spiderweb, Natasha Estrada personified buxom opulence and laughed off the uncooperative, escape-minded nipple tassels. Estrada and Hill's interpretation of the Car Wash gave them a fresh workout. Ginger Valentine's sultry beauty and sinuous athleticism wrapped in a glorious feather-trimmed sheer dressing gown raised many a pulse.

Jett Adore's hyper-masculine saucy swordsman persona claimed the stage, gleaming codpiece and sequined pasties to the fore. Perle Noire channelled her inner Josephine Baker, her performance a fitting tribute to the 1920s 'Black Pearl'.

The high points of the evening's entertainment were, of course, Dita's four routines; the first of which was her iconic, sparkling martini glass. Each of Von Teese's appearances on stage began with the star in a crystal-encrusted gown, corset, lingerie and pasties. Even her stocking seams glinted in the lights.

The saguaro cactus gracing the stage next to the mechanical bull did not escape the bedazzler — indeed there was very little that did. Even the confetti showering the audience at the finale of the first act was foil.

The second act opened with von Teese's birdcage and fan dance, included Hill's dance-off with randomly selected members of the audience who were judged on showmanship, shamelessness and danceability. "This is a special night folks," Hill said. "We are here to greet Michael as he comes out of the closet." The show closed with the Opium Den, Von Teese's latest lavish spectacle, a shower of rose petals from the confetti cannons.