California Clipper’s Weekly Cabaret Show is the Best $5 You’ll Ever Spend

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Eva La Feva at the California Clipper for its Tuesday Clipper Cabaret (photo by Greg Inda)

Eva La Feva at the California Clipper for its Tuesday Clipper Cabaret (photo by Greg Inda)

Ray Ray Sunshine (photo by Black Pearl Photo)

Ray Ray Sunshine (photo by Black Pearl Photo)

I can’t claim to be an expert on burlesque (the art form, not that horrid Christina Aguilera/Cher film), but, as someone that has always felt as if they were born into the wrong era, the idea of burlesque, of cabaret theater, has had a pull on me for a number of years now. I love the spirit, the bawdiness, the showmanship, the style of the costumes and the performances. In this day and age of showing all, burlesque/cabaret manages to do more by pulling back.

That’s not to say that beautiful women (or, in some cases, beautiful men) dancing seductively while taking their gorgeous costumes off isn’t titillating (spoiler alert: it is…no matter how evolved you are). But it’s an entirely different experience than visiting a strip club, which many incorrectly assume what a burlesque show to be like.

Having recently moved to Humboldt Park, precisely three blocks away from the California Clipper, a very old school bar that restaurateur Brendan Sodikoff (his company, Hogsalt, also runs Au Cheval, Green Street Smoked Meats, Doughnut Vault and many more) restored (and thankfully kept the feel of the original in the process), I found my way over on the first Tuesday of April.

Eva La Feva, Lady Jack and Jeez Loueez (photo by Greg Inda)

Eva La Feva, Lady Jack and Jeez Loueez (photo by Greg Inda)

Iva Handfull (photo by MC Newman)

Iva Handfull (photo by MC Newman)

Every Tuesday, beginning around 9:00 p.m., the California Clipper hosts a cabaret show staged by and featuring local performer Eva La Feva. Eva is, as you can see in the many photos here, a real beauty. But she’s got this incredible comic sensibility and smarts to her performances that doesn’t rely on her beauty/sexiness only. The show is meant to be fun and she shows just how joyful she is every time she performs or is the night’s “ring grrl.”

Week after week, Eva packs the Clipper Cabaret with a veritable who’s who of local talent. Most of the lineup is made up of burlesque dancers (because…boobs), but I’ve seen strong men, singers, bands, magicians, a hula hooper and more in the four shows I’ve caught thus far. This is not a show that’s just about amazingly attractive women showing their lady parts (covered, in the end, only in pasties and a g-string). This is a real, honest to goodness show. And at $5, it’s easily the best, most rewarding bargain you’ll get in this city.

So every Tuesday, you venture into the California Clipper, and you’ll hear music courtesy of Leroy Bach (formerly of Wilco), Ben Lamar Gay and Matt Lux, who play a wide range of tunes in between, about every 20 minutes, an act.

Mr. Spring & Tulga (photo by Greg Inda)

Mr. Spring & Tulga (photo by Greg Inda)

Tila Von Twirl (photo by Greg Inda)

Tila Von Twirl (photo by Greg Inda)

There’s also a pretty diverse cocktail list, and, despite not being a big drinker, the Hemingway Daiquiri hit the spot quite well on my first visit. Their Manhattan is also quite strong, which helps for a light-weight drinker like me. Otherwise, it’s a $4 Miller High Life, which works perfectly.

This past Tuesday may have been the best show yet, but, truth be told, all of them have been great. Eva brought on a few out-of-towners (the lovely Miss Tosh – seen below, the intense and arresting Iva Handfull – seen above, and Seraphina Fiero).

Brett Schneider performs a rather disturbing, but awe inspiring magic act involving sewing needles (photo by Greg Inda)

Brett Schneider performs a rather disturbing, but awe inspiring magic act involving sewing needles (photo by Greg Inda)

Lucky Bucky (photo by Black Pearl Photo)

Lucky Bucky (photo by Black Pearl Photo)

I have to be honest when I say that Miss Tosh is a breathtaking beauty. I could say that about all of these women, quite frankly. Iva Handfull had me at the first notes of Nine Inch Nails‘ “Physical,” but her performance cemented it. She put on an intense, commanding display on the stage. Eva’s dashboard hula girl act was charming, funny and very sexy. Kyle Hustedt kicked the show off right and proper with a dazzling rendition of “Cabaret.” Hustedt ended the show with “Bring On the Men,” featuring several male dancers that was sexually evocative, no matter what your sexuality. Afterwards, the whole thing turned into a Prince dance party that celebrated the late performer’s legacy. It’s sort of like the old Mickey Mouse Club’s “Anything Can Happen Day,” except it’s on a Tuesday, not Wednesday.

Miss Tosh (photo by MC Newman)

Miss Tosh (photo by MC Newman)

Dizzy Lizzy (photo by Greg Inda)

Dizzy Lizzy (photo by Greg Inda)

This past Tuesday’s show was easily the best I’d seen and that’s saying something when considering that past weeks’ shows featured the delightful Lilly Rascal doing her Hairspray number, Ray Ray Sunshine‘s sultry ways, and Dizzy Lizzy‘s hula hooping.

One thing that I’ve noticed in the past month of shows is the attendance has gone up dramatically from week to week. Eva’s Clipper Cabaret is becoming a thing, it would seem. Those in attendance range from a great many other performers to regular folks. But regardless, the number of people in attendance is rising and makes the show a pretty rousing success. Credit Sodikoff for picking Eva to do her thing here – week in and week out she puts out a fabulous show at a stunning bargain  and it’s obviously paying off.

So yeah…every week I ask you to join me at the California Clipper for this stunning, ultra-fun show filled with songs, dance, naked people and all around merriment. $5 is nothing considering the sheer amount of entertainment you get. Come on out!

We did a quick Q&A with Eva via e-mail and the below is that exchange.

Tila Von Twirl & Eva La Feva (photo by Greg Inda)

Tila Von Twirl & Eva La Feva (photo by Greg Inda)

Eva La Feva (photo by Greg Inda)

Eva La Feva (photo by Greg Inda)

What is the show like and how is it different from others?

The Clipper Cabaret is an immersive burlesque and variety show – what that means is that the minute you walk in, you’re transported to a modern day vaudeville music hall. A house band plays quietly in the back of the bar, and every 20 minutes, the curtain opens and an act appears onstage.
What really distinguishes our show is that we have no host – we have a Ring Grrl walk around in the audience and present original vaudeville skits to introduce next act.
Each show is completely different, with new entertainers, bands, and concepts. You never know when the person sitting next to you might jump up and actually be part of the show.
Eva La Feva & Lilly Rascal (photo by Greg Inda)

Eva La Feva & Lilly Rascal (photo by Greg Inda)

How did the show get started? 

Eva La Feva: Brendan Sodikoff, the head of Hogsalt, reached out to me about creating a show where performances spontaneously happened throughout the night. We started off with a monthly show in August that featured 5 burlesque dancers every 30 minutes, and in February we shifted to a weekly 7-act show with acts every 20 minutes.
Mr. Spring, Tulga and Matt Griffo (photo by Greg Inda)

Mr. Spring, Tulga and Matt Griffo (photo by Greg Inda)

What’s unique about the show?
 
Eva La Feva: Lots of things. One, we put together original vaudeville bits every week for our Ring Grrl (who is different every show), and we often get to pair live singers/bands and dancers together to create new acts and numbers just for the show. As a result, this show has brought together a community of burlesque performers from different Chicago companies, and we’ve booked internationally touring performers from Rome, Los Angeles, Hawaii, Seattle, and more.
Another thing that I think is very important is the commitment to representing diversity in the cast. When Brendan and I spoke, he shared his experience with seeing shows at The Box, which is a very risque cabaret theater in New York and London, and really encouraged me as a producer to represent a wide diversity of entertainers. His support has allowed us to cast men, women, drag queens, performers of color, and performers of all sizes that were hired because of their excellence in their field.
In the burlesque industry, you more often than not encounter venue owners who prioritize a particular aesthetic over talent, so to hear him ask, “What about casting some men? Can we represent different body types onstage too?” was really gratifying.
Lady Jack (photo by Greg Inda)

Lady Jack (photo by Greg Inda)

What work goes into the show, and what does it mean to be a producer?
 
Eva La Feva: Being a producer means you are a stage manager, an accountant, a sound engineer, a costume designer, a props master, and more.
I work all week long at this show – I choreograph/commission group pieces; work closely with the Ring Grrl to develop a concept that slowly develops with each round; I hand-letter two name cards with each performer’s name for our Ring Grrl sign; edit different music every show; act as a stage manager during the show; and at some point during the night, perform!
Eva La Feva & Lilly Rascal (photo by Greg Inda)

Eva La Feva & Lilly Rascal (photo by Greg Inda)

Why is it spelled Ring “Grrl?”
Eva La Feva: The concept is based off of ring girls at wrestling/boxing matches, but the “Grrl” is meant to be inclusive of both men and women (many women also find the term “girl” demeaning, as well).
Ray Ray Sunshine (photo by Greg Inda)

Ray Ray Sunshine (photo by Greg Inda)

Clipper Cabaret

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