With its 10-person, almost-all-female troupe of beautiful, corseted dancers stripping and singing to a selection of bawdy American songbook classics, creator-director Vanessa Cate's delightfully fetish-tinged cabaret of "seduction and intrigue" might seem little more than another slightly naughty night of neo-burlesque cabaret. And what's not to like about that? But Cate has a more serious purpose in mind than mere musical titillation. The seduction begins with Natalie Stevei's schoolgirl-uniform striptease to Sally Bowles' "Don't Tell Mama" number from Cabaret
, then races through damaged torch songs like Marlene Dietrich's "Falling in Love Again" (sung by Jade Waters Burch), as well as comedy turns like Cate's double-reverse-drag rendition of Cabaret
's "Two Ladies" (with Timothy Alonzo and choreographer Natalie Hyde) and the femme fatale-full "Cellblock Tango" from Chicago
. With Gracy Ramirez's bleakly ironic, black-and-blue spin on the Ella Fitzgerald sugar-daddy standard "Gee Baby, Ain't I Good to You," Cate laces the evening's rampant hedonism with sobering hints at its emotional and physical costs. Everything is finally brought into fine focus with the closing, company-performed finale of "No Regrets": Edith Piaf's stirring anthem of resilience in the face of youthful follies neatly redeems the show's luridly pandering, all-male-authored music as rousing -- and arousing -- celebrations of female sexual empowerment. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Sat., 11 p.m.; through Sept. 15. (818) 202-4120, zombiejoes.com.
Saturdays, 11 p.m. Starts: Aug. 4. Continues through Sept. 29, 2012
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