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