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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August 19, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 33
Kitten LaRue reflects on Atomic Bombshells before Moore Theatre blowout
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Kitten LaRue reflects on Atomic Bombshells before Moore Theatre blowout

by Jessica Price - SGN Contributing Writer

The Atomic Bombshells
August 26
Moore Theatre


Renowned Seattle burlesque troupe The Atomic Bombshells will make a unique appearance at the historic Moore Theatre August 26. The venue has flirted with burlesque previously, but this will be its first large-scale production in recent years. Built in 1907, the Moore is the oldest remaining operational theater in Seattle. (The vaudevillian Columbia City Theatre was built in 1917; the Mann building that currently houses The Triple Door was once the Embassy, a vaudeville house that opened in 1926.)

These days, the Moore's glamour is a bit faded, but still elegant - and the theater is about to dive into this uniquely feminine performance art in a grand way. The Atomic Bombshells boast three burlesque titleholders in their ranks: Miss Indigo Blue was recently crowned 2011's Burlesque Hall of Fame 'Reigning Queen of Burlesque'; Lily Verlaine followed her as second runner-up; and newest Bombshell Inga Ingénue is 'Miss Viva Las Vegas' 2011.

Bombshells founder Kitten LaRue is the Patti Smith of Seattle burlesque. Her fiercely independent talents cross into other art forms: Kitten is a choreographer, musician, and promoter (some may recall drag/burlesque/punk dance night 'Trainwreck,' the brainchild of Kitten and Lars Finberg). Most recently, Kitten has added artist management to her résumé. But her biggest accomplishment - the role for which she is best known - is Kitten LaRue, the performer and producer/artistic director of The Atomic Bombshells.

Like many performers, Kitten's before-she-was-Kitten story involves a lifelong love affair with dance - ballet, tap, jazz, as well as a stint with the 'Dixie Darlings,' the University of Southern Mississippi's drill team. ('Your typical small-town dance background,' she called it.) After college she returned to Louisiana, where the burlesque revival was taking shape. It was there that she came across the famous Shim Sham Revue.

'New Orleans has a long history of burlesque,' Kitten explained. 'And they were really doing it right & very classic, with a 10-piece jazz band.' When Shim Sham held auditions, she went - and with her dance background, plus a passion for glamorous MGM musicals imparted from her grandmother, Kitten the burlesque performer was born.

She stayed with Shim Sham from 2001 to 2003, alongside Fanny N. Flames, future co-founder of The Atomic Bombshells. Kitten credits her time as a Shim Shamette with setting the tone for her future Bombshell DNA. 'They were re-creating burlesque in a very authentic way,' she said of the experience. New Orleans legends Kitty West and Wild Cherry were brought in to workshop with the dancers, teaching them bump and grinds, hand gestures, and other tricks of the trade.

'In some ways, this set the stage and really allowed me to dream big for The Bombshells,' she explained. Fanny and Kitten, who remained Shim Shamettes until the club was sold in 2003, eventually wound up in Seattle where the classic burlesque niche had yet to be filled. The pair talked their way into a performance at The Showbox before they had even assembled a cast. But they did have a strong name and clear concept: The Atomic Bombshells.

Within a month, they held auditions and worked up choreography and costumes for their first show ever, opening for uber-showgirl Dita Von Teese. The five original members (Kitten, Indigo Blue, Fanny N. Flames, Lily Verlaine, and Honey D. Luxe) were a sensation. Within two months they were handpicked for a 30-city U.S. tour.

Of the windfall opportunity, Kitten said, 'That doesn't happen now. You have to really be on top of your production, your management, everything, all the time.' And the rest is Seattle performance history. The Atomic Bombshells returned to Seattle, paving the way for our own burlesque revival. Ivy St. Spectre, Ruby Mimosa, and Inga Ingénue have since joined the troupe, but as artistic director, Kitten hasn't strayed from her original vision: grandiose, thematic shows reminiscent of the polished choreography of those MGM musicals she watched as a child.

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