You have ample opportunities to have a fancy dinner with the love in your life. You could go out to a champagne and lobster dinner every night of the week if you wanted, but you only have one opportunity to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Burlesque-A-Pades. They’ll be taking over The Birchmere on February 14th for LoveLand, a cabaret show unlike any other, and we highly recommend your secure your tickets as soon as possible.
In anticipation for their return to the city, we chatted with Angie Pontani about how she got into the burlesque world, her favorite NYC date spots, and what her perfect Valentine’s Day would look like.
How did you end up in burlesque? What attracted you to it originally? What made you stick with it?
I started in burlesque by kismet! I had always been drawn to vintage clothing, music and movies and that was reflected in my style. I was working at a coffee shop in downtown NYC and one of my co-workers was a dancer in one of, if not the first “neo-burlesque” revues. It was called Dutch Weismanns and it was phenomenal. He encouraged me to audition for the show, I got in and that was it. I was hooked. I danced in that show for about two year and when that ended I struck out on my own! I fell in love hard with burlesque, it is such a quintessential and historical form of American entertainment. It truly has something for everyone and it was really the only job that I could find that allows for you do things like slink out of a giant jewel encrusted oyster shell or splash in a glass bathtub and call it work.
For those who are not familiar with you, how would you describe the Burlesq-a-pades? Why should they come?
Burlesque-A-Pades offers something for everyone. We work hard to curate a show that embodies the spirit of classic burlesque, glamorous strip tease, big dance numbers, comedy, variety and more. We want the audience to get lost in the show from the minute the first dancer steps onto the stage to the very last shimmy! Our cast brings elements to the stage that you really don’t see in other shows, like our re-interpretation of classic burlesque skits! This is one of my favorite elements of this show, in the golden era of burlesque, comedy skits were a staple. Through the years, they fell by the wayside, but we’ve brought them back and updated them for today’s audience!
This is your 10th annual Valentine’s Day show at Birchmere? Why Birchmere? Why DC?
I first played the Birchmere with my sisters as part of the World Famous Pontani Sisters with Los Straitjackets, a band we have worked with extensively over the years. We immediately fell in love with the audience, space and staff. The Birchmere is such a wonderful venue, they treat their artists like family and that is what we have become to each other. We can’t imagine a year without our Birchmere stop, we’ve got folks in the audience who come to the show every year and we love it and them! When the folks at the Birch approached us to start our Valentine’s Day residency, we were like, “YES YES YES,” it was the perfect fit! Dinner, drinks and a burlesque show for Valentine’s Day, it’s perfect!
What can the audiences both new and that have been coming to the show for year expect? Any surprises? Anything you personally are very excited for?
Ah, so much! We have such an amazing cast this year. We have brought back all your cast favorites, like The Maine Attraction, Albert Cadabra, Gal Friday and Helen Pontani, and we have added some new folks that bring so much to the stage, like the Peek-A-Boo Revue from Philadelphia, PA, these girls can dance! We also are bringing the amazing Mister Gorgeous, he is a Boylesque standout and embodies everything that I believe makes an amazing performer! On top of our super-sized cast, we are also doing some special group numbers and throwing in some really classic comedy and theatrical elements of burlesque. I can’t give away too much, but we have been having a ball at rehearsal and can’t wait to get this show on stage!
If you weren’t performing, what would your ideal Valentine’s Day look like?
I’m an old fashioned gal and I love old fashioned dates! I think my ideal Valentine’s Day would include getting dressed to the nines and going out to a fabulous dinner with my handsome husband trumpet man Brian Newman. We’d have a beautiful bottle of wine and head back home where I would soak in a luxurious bubble bath while eating a box of chocolate that only included caramels and marshmallow! I’d follow that up with slipping into some silk pajama’s and lounging on the couch while binge watching Jimmy Stewart movies (my biggest star crush)!
What are some of your favorite date spots?
My favorite date spot in the world is Johns of 12th St. A wonderfully classic Italian spot that I’ve been frequenting for years. It’s like stepping into an Italian-American time warp with the dreamiest food and friendliest staff! Beauty and Essex is another restaurant that I love to spend date night at, you enter through a pawn shop, the food and decor are just gorgeous and over the top. And of course there is Coney Island! My husband and I spent many summer days in the amusement parks and on the beach and boardwalk.
How long do the burlesque-a-pades rehearsals/prep go? What goes into putting a show together?
We typically begin putting a show together 3 – 4 months prior, curating the line-up is a big part of preparation, balancing out everyone’s acts to make sure you’ve got a complementary and high energy line-up is a tough job! Our rehearsals begin a month or so before the show where we work on our skits and group numbers.
Burlesque performers always looks SO flawless, is there a make-up tip you’d share with our readers? Lipstick colors? Hairspray brands etc?
Burlesque make-up is fun, we do glamorous to the extreme. While trying products over the years, I’ve defiantly gone through a lot of products and there are some that I will never stop using! Red lips are a burlesque staple and the best red I have ever encountered in from Nar’s and is called Red Lizard, it’s a beautiful and bold shade and it really looks amazing on everyone. Foundation is another important element to the burlesque face, you really have to start with a great base to make a great face and currently I am obsessed with Dior’s Airflash Spray Foundation, it’s a spray and applies so light and even, I just love it! And of course, no burlesque look is complete with out a cat-eye liner look and my favorite is MAC Fluidline. It certainly takes some practice to perfect this style, but it’s worth it, it’s such a great look! And when it comes to hairspray, I am in a long term relationship with BIG SEXY HAIR, it’s strong enough to hold through every bump and grind.
The last ten years have really been a golden time of the burlesque revival – any personal highlights and anecdotes?
It’s hard to pinpoint one moment, I have been blessed to enjoy a great career in burlesque. I have traveled the world and performed in some absolutely amazing places, for some phenomenal organizations and people. I think a big highlight for me was casting the dancers and dancing myself in the PBS special live performance of Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett’s Cheek to Cheek at Lincoln Center. We used a lot of Burlesque-A-Pades dancers and it was just so amazing to be on-stage at one of NYC’s most prestigious performance venues playing with a giant orchestra, Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga. It was a wonderfully legitimizing moment for burlesque, which is often misunderstood, I was so proud to be a part of that production! And the after-party was just as epic! We took over a downtown bar (St Jeromes) and tuned the back room into a performance salon for about 30 or so people. I did a spontaneous strip tease on the bar while Lady Gaga sang “Firefly” – a life lesson was learned that night, always bring emergency pasties and wear cute underwear!
Who are some of the burlesque performers you admire and why?
One of my biggest burlesque loves in actually from your neck of the woods, Blaze Starr. She was one of my earliest inspirations and I have always loved her style as well as her business wits. I debuted a Blaze tribute performance, sanctioned by her at the Birchmere many years ago…perhaps you might get a special treat and see it again for our big ten year anniversary! And of course I admire so many of my co-workers, I fan girl on this entire cast, it is a hard job to make this job look easy and that’s what these folks do!
What do you think the future of burlesque is?
I hope that the future of burlesque is that is has found itself back in the steady stable of theater and live performance. I don’t want burlesque to be a trend and I believe it’s sustainability over the past decade and beyond has proven that it is here to stay. There are burlesque shows all over the world now, in nightclubs, theaters, supper clubs, dive bars and restaurants, people love burlesque!
Any advice to young people looking to get into the world of burlesque?
When I got into burlesque it was an emerging scene, you could just jump right in. Now is a bit different. There are classes and schools where you can learn anything from how to bump and grind, to how to make your own pasties. I would suggest if you want to take on the tease, you should drop into a class or two and go from there.
Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
Ten years from now, I think I’ll be writing my memoirs pool side while sipping a mojito… and of course planning our Birchmere 20th anniversary Valentine’s Day show!