A combination of highbrow sex appeal and lowbrow humour is the perfect antidote to a dull Sunday night spent on the couch watching reruns and eating takeout. This week, trade in that tired routine for an evening that celebrates eight years of tassels, pasties, and glitter at Kitty Nights Burlesque.
Voted best in Vancouver by Georgia Straight readers in 2015, Vancouver’s longest-running weekly burlesque variety show has been attracting crowds to the Biltmore Cabaret every Sunday since 2008. Host Doug Thoms and producer Kirsten Hogan—better known by their stage names, the Purrrfessor and Burgundy Brixx—promise an evening of titillating entertainment and wild feline fun.
The power couple arrived here from New York City in 2007, after working in the theatre industry for 10 years. Brixx, who coproduced a show with the same name in the Big Apple, brought Kitty Nights to Vancouver the following year.
“I produce the show, I cast the show, I do all the promotions, the graphic design, the website. I perform in the show and I cohost,” Brixx says by phone. The jill-of-all-trades has an extensive background in stage management and costume design.
Brixx doesn’t deny that taking the lead on nearly every aspect of Kitty Nights can be exhausting, but it’s her love for the very nature of burlesque—the DIY costumes, the creativity, and the comedy—that’s kept the show going for nearly a decade.
“I get these crazy ideas sometimes, and because I’m a costume designer, I’m able to manifest the visions more quickly. I can just sit down at my sewing machine and create what I have in mind. It’s the same for choreography, so it’s a great outlet for using all of my skills,” she says. When she’s not planning for a show, she teaches burlesque classes and workshops.
Brixx has played a large role in bolstering the number of burlesque performers in the city, many of whom were recently recognized at the Las Vegas Burlesque Festival.
According to the Purrrfessor, it’s all thanks to Brixx that Vancouver’s burlesque scene has become so prolific.
“In New York, the burlesque resurgence was very strong. When we came here, there were maybe three burlesque groups*, and now there are upwards of 12 to 15,” he says in a separate conversation. “I like to think that’s because Burgundy taught people to fish rather than giving them fish.”
While the Kitty Nights format hasn’t changed over the years—Brixx recruits four performers to do two numbers each, and a go-go dancer keeps the entertainment going during intermission—the Purrrfessor says the show itself has evolved to include a wide variety of performers and styles.
“We’ve gone from doing a straight burlesque show with several performers and a DJ to having a different theme every single week,” he says. Recurring themes include “nerdlesque”, where performers develop numbers based on comic books, superheroes, cult films, and more. A show in February called My Purple Valentine will be a tribute to Prince. (To see photos from Kitty Nights' Nerdlesque show on January 10, click here).
Sunday night’s anniversary bash will be a stimulating showcase of bodacious burlesque, with a selection of special group numbers, including a piece by the Viva Vancouver Showgirls. Other performers will include April O’Peel, Ginger Avenue, and of course, the star behind the show, Ms. Burgundy Brixx.
“Sometimes it’s a heavy crown to wear because I feel that I can’t ever relax, but I have to keep inventing new pieces. I have to keep reinventing the art form,” Brixx says. “It has completely taken over my life, which is not what I expected at all, but it’s been incredibly rewarding.”
Kitty Nights Burlesque’s eighth-anniversary party takes place at the Biltmore Cabaret on Sunday (January 17). For more information, visit www.kittynights.com/.
*It was brought to the attention of the Straight following the publication of this story that there were in fact seven different burlesque groups performing in Vancouver prior to Kitty Nights. The included Empire Burlesque, The Fluffgirls, The Ultra Vixen Peepshow, The Voodoo Dollz, The Screaming Chicken Theatrical Society, Sweet Soul Burlesque, and Cross'd Lovers.