Burlesque has a storied history in the city of New Orleans. Against a soundtrack of early jazz, the city’s first burlesque performers pleased and teased in the Storyville red light district as early as the beginning of the last century.
Ever since Storyville, visitors have been coming to New Orleans looking for racy entertainment. Scantily clad women bumping and grinding in a performance that combines striptease, comedy, costumes and showmanship is burlesque in a nut shell. There are plenty of intimate venues around town to enjoy the sassy performance art.
Whether a venue has an in-house troupe like the House of Blues does with Bustout Burlesque or hosts nationally touring acts like the Allways Lounge does, there are plenty of options. You can choose from an authentic retro performance, or experience neo-burlesque which may have elements of circus arts, variety acts and of course, music. There are burlesque pop-ups too – or is that pop-outs? at places like Bar Redux and the Get Down in Bywater and Gravier Social Club in the CBD, with dates and times varying and always subject to change.
Burlesque has experienced a revival in New Orleans and across the country, thanks to its combination of production values, sex appeal and hard working entertainers who don’t take themselves too seriously. Shows are usually inexpensive, and involve a lot of audience participation. Most of the venues that harbor these acts are small, so you can get up close and personal with the performers as they strut their stuff.
In a city where gay-friendly is beyond the obvious, Bourbon Pub dishes regular boy-lesque shows with plenty of theatricality and high style. Every flavor is onstage during the regular Blue Book Cabaret upstairs at The Bourbon Pub, which features A-list burlesque, variety and drag artistry. Also, a kickin’ dance club, this Bourbon Street venue seduces a predominantly gay clientele, but all are welcome. Drag is an art form here, with out of town performers like Lipstixx “Ladies on Parade” and the only drag queen you can see from outer space, Big Shirli Stevenz from North Carolina. During Southern Decadence, you never know what you’ll see at Bourbon Pub.
Recommended for Burlesque Shows because: This popular dance and burlesque venue features peek-a-boo burlesque from all genders and in between.
Beth’s expert tip: This is one of the most popular gay bars during Southern Decadence, aka gay Mardi Gras.
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Live music and Green Fairy Burlesque add up to a sizzling good time in the bar just a block off of Canal Street in the lower French Quarter. Named after the original Mahogany Hall in Storyville, a lavish bordello on Basin Street operated by Madame Lulu White. A frequent haunt of musicians like King Oliver and Louis Armstrong, the original spot inspires the music and tease at the Chartres Street venue. Decked out like a speak easy, the bar specializes in absinthe cocktails along with the usual classics. There isn’t a cover to listen to jazz – don’t forget to tip the band! – but it’s $20 to catch the show in the Green Fairy Room for the Absinthe Experience in the back.
There’s a one drink minimum per set.
Recommended for Burlesque Shows because: A great location and the option for music and burlesque makes this a popular spot.
Beth’s expert tip: Burlesque dancers love to get tips – bring dollar bills if you want extra action.
Read more about Mahogany Jazz Hall and Burlesque →
Photo courtesy of Max Cusimano
How about some legs with your eggs? SoBou dishes brunch with a sassy kick every Sunday from 11:30-1:30. World-famous burlesque dancer Bella Blue performs to live music while you dine on three creative Creole courses by Chef Juan Carlos Gonzalez. New Orleans has a long history with burlesque dancing. Our city was a burlesque hot spot from the 1940s to when clubs were shut down in the 1960s. This fun brunch is Sobou’s homage to this historic and beautiful art form. The leggy burlesque show begins around 11, with dancing intermittent through 2 pm. You can drink bottomless bellinis during brunch for $25 per person – good until 3 pm.
Recommended for Burlesque Shows because: SoBou in the French Quarter is always on the cutting edge.
Beth’s expert tip: You’ll want to make a reservation for this scintillating Sunday brunch as it’s always busy.
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Talk Nerdy To Me is a weekly burlesque revue featuring the dirtiest nerds in New Orleans. The troupe that brought you Arkham ASS-ylum: A Batman Burlesque Play and A Thong of Ice and Fire: Game of Thrones Burlesque presents Talk Nerdy To Me, a burlesque revue presented by The Society of Sin every Saturday at The Dragon’s Den just off Frenchmen Street on Esplanade.
Every week there will be a different show filled with new burlesque acts as well as the talents of local comedians, sideshow performers, and musicians. Tickets are $10, available online or at the door.
Founded by Xena Zeit-Geist in 2014, The Society of Sin is a group of New Orleans burlesque and variety performers known for creating burlesque shows with a narrative. Though the Society of Sin specializes in burlesque plays, variety shows include sideshow, drag, comedy, singing, dancing, and neo-burlesque.
Recommended for Burlesque Shows because: Burlesque takes on narrative from this creative troupe of performers.
Beth’s expert tip: This troupe includes performers of all shapes, sizes, colors, genders, ages, backgrounds, orientations, and lifestyles – the idea is that all bodies are sexy and that the art of burlesque is about expressing beauty in its many different forms.
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The Sweet Spot is a regular feature at HOB, a burlesque variety show celebrating the sexier side of life. Performing in more than 30 cities around the country, this immersive show includes performance poets, sultry burlesque dancers, live music and comedy. Leave your rules, restriction and expectations at the door and have a blast. HOB is always up to something, from regular comedy shows to all kinds of music acts. Opened in 1994, this historic blues house offers standing room viewing of a stage that gets concert-goes right on top of the performers. Check out the 300 pieces of folk art lining the walls and hallways of the interior.
Recommended for Burlesque Shows because: House of Blues is a large venue that can accommodate big parties.
Beth’s expert tip: Burlesque is a regular happening at House of Blues but days and times change, so check the calendar in advance.
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Allways Lounge is a locals’ favorite bar located on the edge of the Marigny neighborhood of New Orleans. In the back, there is a relatively intimate theater known for hosting some pretty risque shows. Then there’s Bayou Blues Burlesque, a delicious gumbo of music, circus, sideshow and burlesque with a Southern Gothic twist and modern flair. Allways is a frequent host to top nationally touring burlesque shows like “Boobs and Goombas” a burlesque adaptation of the Super Mario Bros. if you can imagine that. Talented local dancer Lefty Lucy hosts Burlesque Bingo most Monday nights. Drag shows – including the occasional midnight jazz brunch – are also popular.
Recommended for Burlesque Shows because: St. Claude Avenue is a hot spot for locals on the edge of the Marigny with great entertainment and music.
Beth’s expert tip: If you are looking for a bizarrely wonderful burlesque show at a great venue, head for one of the Freaksheaux to Geaux performances at Allways on St. Claude Avenue.
Read more about Allways Lounge →
Photo courtesy of Trixie Minx Productions
Located inside the Royal Sonesta in the French Quarter, Jazz Playhouse offers local talent seven nights a week, no cover charge, in a swank, upscale setting. Some of the city’s best jazz performers take the stage, including The James River Movement, Michael Watson’s The Alchemy, Luther Kent and Glen David Andrews. A few others not to miss include Germaine Bazzle, a soulful jazz singer and Gerald French and the Original Tuxedo Jazz Band, a troupe that defines old school class and style. Every Friday night around 11, a few of New Orleans’ best burlesque performers – yes it’s Trixie again! from the city’s top troupes also perform.
Recommended for Burlesque Shows because: Centrally located at 300 Bourbon, Jazz Playhouse is a classy joint whether you come for music or a lot of skin.
Beth’s expert tip: The Jazz Playhouse is the perfect place to escape the Bourbon Street mania.
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Photo courtesy of Beth D’Addono
Carnaval Lounge is an alt music venue that rises to the top of the dive bar heap in a city that may just have invented the genre. Like most things New Orleans, Carnaval has multiple personalities. Mondays you’ll usually find a combo of comedy and burlesque for all kinds of fun. The bar is also a live rock and roll music venue, well not really it’s a Goth heavy metal venue. Ok, forget that. You can catch a Cajun band for sure. Or if you’re lucky, a somber Balkans folk trio that inspires what looks like Greek dancing.
There’s a convivial live and let live attitude here that is one of the best things about this town when it really comes together.
Recommended for Burlesque Shows because: Monday nights you’ll usually find burlesque and comedy on stage.
Beth’s expert tip: Order from the kitchen, Cozinha de Carnaval, at the bar, from a menu of Brazilian Street Food – get the garlic shrimp on a skewer!
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Photo courtesy of Trixie Minx Productions
One Eyed Jacks in the French Quarter of New Orleans is known as a quirky venue with a wide range of shows. One of those acts is resident burlesque troupe, Fleur de Tease. Created and produced by Trixie Minx, this modern twist on classic vaudeville showcases plenty of skin along with magicians, fire eaters, comedians and aerialists. The shows are well-produced shows and the dancers adept. The troupe also performs at The Saint Hotel and the Royal Sonesta Hotel. Sly and funny, shows might include a burlesque Halloween Revue “We put the BOO in BOOBS!!!” and Creole Sweet Tease with a traditional jazz band. Boylesque is also featured.
Recommended for Burlesque Shows because: Sly and witty, the beautiful troupe of dancers and talented variety acts is a must-see for fans of the genre.
Beth’s expert tip: Fleur de Tease puts on a monthly show at One Eyed Jacks (with 8 and 10 pm acts). An abbreviated crew performs at the Royal Sonesta every Friday for free.
Read more about Fleur de Tease →
Photo courtesy of Trixie Minx Productions
This red hot bar in the sexy Saint Hotel on Canal Street might just be the perfect date night destination. Done up in sassy retro-Bordello decor, the backlit bar is known for potent swanky drinks (spendy too, but oh well) and a variety of entertainment options. Housed in the historic Audubon Building at the corner of Canal and Burgundy, the Burgundy Bar benefited from the $40 million-plus Saint hotel renovation, evident in details like scarlet Venetian chandeliers that shimmer overhead. Cocktails are inspired by the Seven Deadly Sins – how fun is that? If you’re feeling peckish, Tempt Restaurant, home to chef Andrea Dexter’s creative fare, is across the lobby.
Recommended for Burlesque Shows because: This sassy bar offers both live music and burlesque.
Beth’s expert tip: Trixie Minx presents burlesque in the bar most Friday nights.
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