Burlesque will raise its naughty, bawdy head at Old Cowtown's Empire House this weekend for a nostalgic return to historic wink-wink, nudge-nudge fun.
Called "An Evening of Burlesque," the show is put together by Dr. Dillinger's Freaks and Floozies, a Wichita-based vaudeville and variety troupe, with some help from out-of-state talent plus the debut of the newly formed Wichita Burlesque Troupe.
"While it's designed for a mature audience, there's nothing nasty about it. It's all about the tease," says David Jefferis, whose alter ego is Dr. Dillinger. "Where we end is where most strippers and Chippendales begin. It's not about the skin, it's about the illusion."
Jefferis, an actor-singer-dancer originally from Anthony, prefers to be called Dillinger because that's been his nickname since childhood.
"I always came home with all the other kids' toys so my family said I was a regular Dillinger," he jokes about the notorious Depression-era gangster.
After performing around the country, he moved to Wichita three years ago and formed the Freaks and Floozies troupe for industrial shows and private parties. In the past 18 months, some members have performed as street acts in Old Town. The Cowtown gig is an expansion test for what could become a more regular theatrical offering.
While the show will be in Old Cowtown, whose stated era is 1865-1875, this collection of acts will encompass the 1910-1950 era, Dillinger says. "Burlesque goes back to the Victorians of the 1870s-1880s but we aren't going back quite that far. We have a more modern twist but it will still be historic and nostalgic."
Dillinger is planning about 10 acts, introduced with title cards carried by young women as in earlier days. Headlining is Ilsa the Wolf, an exotic dancer from Tulsa who re-creates the 1940s-1950s era of Lili St. Cyr, Dillinger says. Also headlining are Twin Fish, a couple from Ponca City that specializes in fire dancing.
Filling out the program will be local song-and-dance men, classic comic skits, an all-girl ukulele band called the Ukeladies, at least two female dancers from the new Wichita Burlesque Troupe plus Dr. Dillinger himself and his banjo-playing sidekick.
Dillinger could be considered sort of a modern Ziegfeld, says Teddie Barlow, a longtime friend who is also assistant curator at Old Cowtown. Barlow occasionally performs with Dillinger's troupe as a member of the Ukeladies.
"He's been in performance art for the 20 years that I've known him, and he has a knack for finding and encouraging people who can do some surprisingly different things," Barlow says.
The burlesque show is a good fit for Cowtown, says Angela Cato, marketing director for it under the auspices of CityArts.
"It's a perfect setting because the beginnings of vaudeville and burlesque are appropriate to Cowtown's time," she says.
If you go
'an evening of burlesque'
What: Nostalgic celebration of strip tease, vaudeville skits, sideshow acts and music by Dr. Dillinger's Freaks and Floozies
Where: Empire House at Old Cowtown Museum, 1865 W. Museum Blvd.
When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday
How much: Tickets $12 in advance, $15 at door; call 316-350-3323 or visit www.oldcowtown.org.
Note: While there is no explicit nudity or harsh language, the show is for mature audiences. There will be a cash bar.