REVIEW: Rollin Outta Here Naked Burlesque (Vaudezilla)

Burlesque Revue Lands a Spare



Vaudezilla presents
Rollin’ Outta Here Naked:
     A Big Lebowski Burlesque
Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln (map)
through September 25th  |  tickets: $15   |  more info

Reviewed by Keith Ecker 

There’s no question that burlesque has seen a dramatic resurgence in popularity over the last decade, and Chicago has become a hotbed for this sultry, sexy and comedic form of entertainment.

biglebowskiburlesque2 Vaudezilla is one of the newer players in the Chicago scene. Founded by performer Red Hot Annie and producer Keith Emroll in 2008, the company began performing monthly gigs at the punk club Exit Chicago and weekly gigs at Blue Bayou in the Southport corridor. The company then achieved national recognition with the premier of Rollin’ Outta Here Naked: A Big Lebowski Burlesque.

Now Vaudezilla is back with a remounting of its signature show. If you’re a fan of the classic Cohen brothers movie, this show is definitely aimed at you. Otherwise, you might feel a little lost amongst the barrage of inside jokes. Fortunately, I am one of these diehard “Big Lebowski” fans.

Released in 1998, the movie is a surreal comedy of errors involving The Dude (Jeff Bridges), an ultra-relaxed stoner type who embodies everything Zen. He is paired with his exact foil, a large loud-mouthed Vietnam War vet named Walter (John Goodman). The two end up caught in the middle of an extortion scheme gone awry that involves a cast of colorful characters, including a disabled millionaire, an avant-garde artist, a pornographer and a band of nihilists. The Dude and Walter, along with their third-wheel friend Donny (Steve Buscemi), bowl in their spare time—thus the title of Vaudezilla’s revue.

The revue is not a dramatic retelling of “The Big Lebowski.”  It is rather more akin to a sketch show where a series of fairly unconnected scenes are strung together to form a cohesive whole. These scenes are all inspired by the movie, and some are in fact directly lifted from the film. Every three or four scenes there is a burlesque performance highlighting a different member of the Vaudezilla company. Audience members are encouraged to hoot and howl because, presumably, nothing is more awkward than undressing for a completely deadpan, silent audience.

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The highlight of the show is by far and away the burlesque scenes. Let’s be clear here: Burlesque is not stripping. Yes, the girls disrobe and tantalize the audience by gyrating and coyly revealing exposed skin. But the ladies always purposefully undercut this sexiness with their wry sense of humor. Take for example the scene titled “Nobody Fucks with The Jesus,” in which performer Maria May I dresses in drag to portray the pedophiliac bowler and Dude nemesis Jesus. Throughout the dance, in which she manipulates a bowling ball to sensual effect, she sports a fake goatee. No matter how much her conventional sexiness draws you in, you are immediately slapped in the face by the sight of her facial hair. It is a clever and entertaining bit of theater that succeeds on multiple levels.

biglebowskiburlesque8 However, non-burlesque portions of the show weigh the revue down. Meant as comedic vignettes to separate the dances, these short sketches inspired by characters and scenes in the movie feel too much like senseless filler. That’s not to say a couple don’t hit their marks, especially “Just Dropped In,” a live re-enactment of the movie’s famous dream sequence, as well as “Knox Harrington, Video Artist” in which actor Kyle Greer gives the performance of a lifetime as an operatic nut job. But overall, one finds himself wanting to see more burlesque in this burlesque revue.

Rollin’ Outta Here Naked is a gimmicky formula that could probably be applied to any cult classic (I for one would love to see “The Goonies” get the burlesque treatment). Although there are sluggish parts throughout the show, the ladies of Vaudezilla really know how to pick the energy up with their serpentine moves and flirtatious glances. If you identify with The Dude or you just really enjoy burlesque, gyrate over to the Greenhouse Theater Center.

Rating: ★★★


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Theater-related passings: Broussard, Blau, Bridges, Lang

There were a number of theater-related passings recently, including:

 Dorothy Bridges  Eric Blau

Dorothy Bridges                                        Eric Blau   


  • Pearl Lang, 87, dancer, choreographer and teacher who founded the Pearl Lang Dance Theater.  Ms. Lang began her dance training as a child and studied acting at the Goodman Theatre.  She is survived by her husband, actor Joseph Wiseman, to whom she had been married for over sixty years.  Entire obit here.
  • Stephen Broussard, 61, distinguished attorney whose skills as an actor in community theater often transferred neatly to his work as a defense attorney in the courtroom.  Mr. Broussard majored in journalism at Northwestern University, and received his law degree from Northwestern as well.  He is survived by a daugher, maya-Camille; and a sister, Sandra.  Entire obit here and here.