FRINGE SHORTS: “The Underpants Show” at the Ritz

Lightsey Darst is reporting back on a sampling of dance-y productions which are on stage as part of this year's Fringe Festival. Now up: Lili's Burlesque Revue's deliciously naughty "The Underpants Show."


The Underpants Show is a misnomer. I saw panties, scanties, g-strings, hip-frills, thigh-highs, and garter belts galore, but nothing I would really identify as “underpants”. Of course, “underpants” is really a nod to the show’s Midwestern setting, and the Lili’s Burlesque Revue gang (that’s what this show is called when it’s not Fringe) milk the tension between Midwest and (nearly) bare breast for all it’s worth. There’s a lot of “Oh, gee!” innocence to the peel-down patter, which plays surprisingly well, especially in a blinkingly blue monologue delivered by “Funny Bunny,” in which (let’s just say) one word gets substituted for another with hilarious results. Our hostess, Nadine Dubois, also has a girl-next-door charm, exclaiming “Did you know that was me?” after she’s done a striptease in a wig (and while she’s still wearing her silver pasties).

But the Underpants people are no amateurs. Starting from the dancehall swing of their band, the Gilded Lilies, and an Andrews Sisters-type rendition of the “Strip Polka,” Lili’s Burlesque Revue rolls out the talent, and it keeps coming: in the form of Ophelia Flame, she of the glittery shoes and amazing legs; Sweetpea, with her breathtaking hourglass figure and her equally breathtaking motor booty; more lovely singing (including a version of “I Fall to Pieces” featuring, yes, a tear-away dress), more stripping, and a few sweet novelty acts.

This is a tight, fun show, and I suggest seeing it as a post-cocktail reward after putting yourself through whatever grueling theater experience your Fringe-frenzied friends have insisted you just can’t miss.

Postmodern burlesque does call forth a confusion that will surely be studied in some cultural studies Ph.D. dissertation. I have to say that, no matter how many odd little lingerie items these women toss off in the course of a routine, I’m never really prepared for the pasties. Why? There’s something so vulnerable, so unscripted about real breasts. And make no mistake, these are the real thing–cage-free and free-range; they don’t have the pumped and plastic pec look of HBO or Hollywood breasts. When they’re unveiled, the whole male gaze/self-objectification/girl power/femininity mess goes into overdrive. (I understand some viewers have no such reaction. To them, I can only say, “Keep hooting, guys.”) This isn’t a complaint. Instead, it’s a tension that I hope the postmodern burlesquers will find some way to address.

About the writer: Lightsey Darst writes on dance for Mpls/St Paul magazine and is also a poet and editor of’s What Light: This Week’s Poem publication project.

What: The Underpants Show by Lili’s Burlesque
Where: The Ritz Theater, Minneapolis, MN
When: July 31, August 3, 5, 9 & 10 (click here for specific performance times)
Admission: $12 (plus a $3 Fringe button)

Check back regularly throughout the Fringe Festival for more short reviews on, sent in from our intrepid performance critics

Lightsey  Darst

Lightsey Darst is a writer and critic based in Durham. She has been awarded fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts for both literature and dance criticism, as well as a Minnesota Book Award. Her books of poetry are Find the Girl and DANCE (2010 and 2013, both from Coffee House Press). Her criticism is online at,, The Huffington Post, and Bookslut. …   read more