They come on in a burst of sparkles. Sparkles on their hats, sparkles on their shoes, sparkles on their costumes and on their bodies underneath their costumes, which come off pretty quickly. Even Lou’s fake mustache is sparkly.
They are self declared “world’s show busiest couple” and burlesque duo Kitten ‘n’ Lou certainly embrace the glitz and glam connotations of show biz. Kitten LaRue is pure femme fantastique, all big hair, flawless makeup and diva sass. Hailing from Seattle, where she helms acclaimed burlesque troupe The Atomic Bombshells, LaRue performs across the States and is something of an American burlesque icon. Lou Henry Hoover, her drag king sidekick, is a pocket dynamo, physically tiny yet full of elan, capturing a kind of exuberant masculine energy like the star dancer in an Old Hollywood musical.
Their style is like the wacky love child of vaudeville and club drag, as they blend dance with clowning and lip syncing to music hall style songs. There is no dialogue. Some narration is provided by a recorded voice-over but Kitten and Lou themselves rely solely on physicality and their bountiful range of facial expressions.
I haven’t seen American burlesque before but this show certainly feels very American, in the way we associate America with brashness and glamour. Costume gags abound as the duo burst onto stage in various extravagant ensembles, often glitzed up versions of classic show biz motifs such as cowboys, sailors and circus performers. Many of the acts involve them also getting out of these outfits. To their credit, they are able to do multiple strip-teases throughout the show without it feeling repetitive, as the various strip sequences vary in mood. They’ve got sultry strip tease, schmaltzy strip tease, silly strip tease, surly strip tease, even an angry couple’s argument strip tease. The focus is definitely on humour rather than sexiness, with many of the final reveals, especially in Lou’s case, being set ups for visual gags.
There is a kind of through-line, a relationship story of love under strain aided by the voiceover narration. Mostly this is a loose thread to string together various set pieces, although the melodrama parody scenes it sets up are some of the show’s stand outs. There is a sweetness to the duo’s portrayal of romance and it is no surprise to learn that LaRue and Lou’s out-of-drag alter ego, dancer Ricki Mason, are a real life married couple. The chemistry between them is palpable and acts as a grounding force in a show full of batty excess.
Using sentiment and sexuality alike to fuel its high energy performances, Overexposed is a glorious bundle of glitz and silliness. To call it over-the-top would barely do it justice. It doesn’t get much zanier, it certainly doesn’t get much sparklier, than this show from a beguiling and truly unique pair of artists.
2016 Midsumma Festival
Kitten N' Lou
Venue: The Butterfly Club | Carson Place, off Little Collins St Melbourne Vic
Dates: 26 – 31 January 2016
Tickets: $38 – $31