Show Review

The 6th Annual International Ohio Burlesque Festival

                                                                                                                                Headliners Doll Carousel (© Bob Perkoski,
Lisa Sanchez​

The 6th Annual International Ohio Burlesque Festival is the only festival in the country recognized by city officials. The festival, hosted by Cleveland-based troupe Le Femme Mystique, offered patrons a full variety show experiences complete with diverse burlesque, off the cuff comedy hosting, drag, and a truly unique international experience hosted at Cleveland’s own Beachland Ballroom.
I witnessed the dazzling spectacle on Friday, August 5th, the second night in a three day long festival, and I would argue dollar for dollar it had to be the best show in Cleveland that night (and of the entire weekend). Acts from all over the country performed as well as the Le Femme Mystique performers who have made Cleveland a burlesque destination for the rest of the country.
Friday night was hosted by the witty Ken Schneck, who had me rolling around laughing in between acts, simply by exuding his enthusiasm, observational humor, and obvious love for the performers and the show.
The Beachland Ballroom was filled when I arrived. People standing along the walls and craning for a look at the performers, so I was excited that so many people attended this night of the festival. The 6th Annual International Ohio Burlesque Festival hit me with a dizzying array of acts, both local and national, to a point where it was difficult to keep notes on who was on without missing a beat.
For the first night of the festival, Thursday, the festival kicked off with “boylesque” night which is, as you might guess, sexy, fun, and creative strip teases done by men. Luckily, if you missed Thursday you still got a taste of the boylesque action with performers like Jimmy Swagger and Carriage Return on Friday.
​Both performers had a different style. Queens, New York’s Carriage Return demonstrated his ballet skills while whisking off clothes with a Starbucks-themed barista strip tease (complete with coffee lid pasties) while Jimmy Swagger did a sultry strip which caused at least one excited fan in the crowd to stand up and wave his arms. Ken Schneck put it succinctly when he said, “The only time that is appropriate is winning something on ‘The Price is Right’ or seeing Jimmy Swagger.”
The main draw of the event was the diversity of acts, including Aurelie Wilde from Iowa City, Iowa. The performer delivered sultry hoop tricks and represented her home state well. Cherry Pop Poppins, who did a Napoleon Dynamite themed strip, dazzled and amazed me at how she took off that many clothes (including the moon boots). Mimi MaShuga from Idaho also schooled the crowd on a little clown burlesque, which was both riveting and possibly terrifying depending on your coulrophobia.
Of course, the native Ohio performers of Le Femme Mystique burlesque troupe held their own with the national acts. Noella Deville of Akron performed one of my favorite numbers, beginning with the Mystery Science Theater 3000 theme song and morphing into “Strict Machine” by Goldfrapp. Lady J. Martinez also demonstrated the diversity and creativity of the troupe by hitting the stage wearing a giant, full-body puppet, only to ditch it to perform a Dolly Parton song in its entirety.
Being in the crowd of the 6th Annual International Ohio Burlesque Festival made me feel like I was in on a dirty little secret. Other attendees wore suits and elaborate dresses and the environment had an air of comfortability and freedom to enjoy this beautiful and evocative form of art.
However, the highlight of the evening came with the appropriately placed headliners, Doll Carousel and Red Herring. Doll Carousel delivered dizzying gymnastics while danging feet above the stage in suspended hoops. The Phoenix, Arizona duo mirrored each other beautifully and brought something special to the Beachland Ballroom stage. I was thrilled that they were able to show their talents to the festival crowd.
Red Herring, who I had the pleasure of seeing during Le Femme Mystique’s Nerdlesque show in March, is a singular performer that always drenches the stage in poise and utterly captivates the audience with her irresistible performance
Considering the importance to the art of burlesque, both in Cleveland and nationally, it was a beautiful sight to see so many talented performers and excited onlookers get together in the Beachland Ballroom. The three day festival has only gotten better in its six year run and I look forward to the event only getting bigger and better as the years go on. 
​                        Carriage Return  (© Bob Perkoski,
​                         Mimi MaShuga  (© Bob Perkoski,