By J. Scott Hill
One person’s dork-out is another person’s cool. We love what we love; when we love it so much that it becomes a part of us, we try to make ourselves a part of it as well. For a cult movie fan, putting on a black corset with torn fishnets and heading out to a midnight screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show is no different than Joe Normal putting on his Urlacher jersey and heading out to a sports bar to watch da Bears game.
Last year, Vaudezilla showed their Big Lebowski love with Rollin’ Outta Here Naked, a collection Lebowski-themed Burlesque dances inter-cut with live performances of favorite scenes from the Coen Brothers’ classic. The show made my list of top moments in Chicago theatre for 2009, and received great notices all around. Vaudezilla has recently remounted Rollin’ Outta Here Naked: A Big Lebowski Burlesque, at The Greenhouse Theatre Center, to coincide with Chicago’s hosting of Lebowski Fest.
Chicago’s power couple of bump-and-grind, Keith Emroll (a. k. a. Dick Dijon) and Red Hot Annie, have reworked Rollin’ Outta Here Naked a bit, cutting in and cutting out some scenes, reworking some of the stripteases. Whether you have The Big Lebowski committed to memory, or you have never seen Jeff Bridges as the Kahlua-soaked Californian called The Dude, Rollin’ Outta Here Naked is still a lot of late-night fun.
Maria May I returns as Jesus (John Turturro’s character in the film) and manages to navigate the contradiction of being completely repellant as The Dude’s pederastic bowling rival while being undeniably alluring as she peels off that character’s iconic purple jumpsuit. She makes a goatee feminine and sexy.
Red Hot Annie is a perfect fit for Maude, a role created by Julianne Moore. She wears the garb of a golden Valkyrie as naturally as if she would throw that sort of thing on to run out for a loaf of bread. Her sheet dance is a peek-a-boo delight, a tease worthy of Sally Rand.
Those who know the movie will instantly recognize the underwear scene, Marty’s dancing, and The Dude’s dream sequence, in the same way one might recognize a favorite song by the first note; these faithful adaptations of The Big Lebowski’s funnier scenes translate well to the stage. Dick Dijon really shines here, pulling triple duty as The Stranger, Marty, and Burkholter. Logan Conner is dead-on as The Dude.
In “2009: My Year in the Audience,” I raved about Wham Bam Pam, who played John Goodman’s character Walter. Unfortunately for fans of Burlesque in Chicago, Wham Bam Pam has relocated to the East Coast. Her infectious, fearless charm and her brain-melting strip out of her John Goodman fat suit are sorely missed. Another Burlesque dancer taking on the part of Walter would be trying to coax lightning to strike in the same place twice. Vaudezilla elected, I think wisely, to cast a man as Walter, and Paul Backer does an exceptional job with the part.
Even without the adorable Wham Bam Pam, there is still plenty of eye candy and raucous fun in this late-night joy. This remount has less Burlesque than last year’s show, but there is more polish. You may be unfamiliar with the film upon which this show is based, or you may be eagerly awaiting Lebowski Fest in your bathrobe and drinking White Russians while you bowl; either way, the remount of Rollin’ Outta Here Naked: A Big Lebowski Burlesque is a great time.
The show abides.
(“Rollin’ Outta Here Naked: A Big Lebowski Burlesque” runs through September 25 at The Greenhouse Theatre Center, 2257 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago.)