When The Ooh-La-Las Burlesque began 10 years ago, burlesque was mostly an underground aspect of the city’s performing arts community. They began performing with bands, in between sets, then found an audience seeking only burlesque. Over the years, many performers and troupes have joined the scene, performing regularly, and Columbus has supported this growth with enthusiasm.
“When people started to figure out what [burlesque] is, it opened doors because it was more acceptable,” said Betty LeRoux, who’s been with the troupe since 2006. “And it’s always nice to have a community, people you can turn to, other shows you can go to and support. It’s good to have a little friendly competition. If you’re the only troupe in town, what’s the point … there’s nothing to learn from. It’s nice to be able to see what everyone else is doing.”
Ooh-La-Las was founded by Becky Buxom, older sister of LeRoux, in 2004 with more than a dozen other performers. Many of those branched out on their own, founded (or joined) other troupes and, like Ooh-La-La, were shimmying, titillating and entertaining on stages all over town.
“We’ve also been able to perform at places we generally wouldn’t because of the growth. When we first started … people didn’t know what it was. Now people will sit down at a café table and watch, order food and bring a date. It’s evolved to being our own shows [where] we build an entire theme,” Buxom said, comparing burlesque to theater events.
This is why Ooh-La-Las incorporates classic burlesque and vaudeville elements (comedy, magic, live music) with modern fun (trivia with burlesque) in shows, to present a whole night of amusement.
“We do satire, magic, comedy, social commentary, and people get it now,” said Cherie Blondell, who’s been with the troupe since 2008. “We want people to see what a real burlesque show is … a whole production that flows really nicely.”
Yes, burlesque in Columbus has its foothold. But there are still some aspects Blondell, Buxom and LeRoux plan on enriching. They’re happy to see boy-lesque growing and want more men to take part in performing. The troupe also plans on including live music at more shows. And lastly, they’d love to see audiences dressed to the nines — like the performers with their marvelously “jazzed up” costumes and props.
“We want people to dress up … like they did in vaudeville,” LeRoux said. “That would be our ultimate goal because it’s that sort of event.”