By Ky Plaskon
In a space about the size of a dark swanky master bedroom, the Moon Muses burlesque show throbs to lights and music. When the action starts at The Office bar, not a person dares to move. The dancers are so close, every undulating move is catapulted by the women’s bodies, instantly hitting the stunned audience. They are slack-jawed pleasure prisoners, handcuffed to their chairs and holding on for a very mysterious ride.
The roar of motion to music is relentless for 65 minutes as the onlookers are carried across a vast universe of variety over 17 flowing acts, 17 head-to-toe costume changes, yearning guitar, siren-like vocals, a floating aerialist, wanting saxophone, reality-questioning comedy, a raunchy drag queen and graceful contortionist.
Moon Muses is the first show entirely directed, produced, choreographed and designed by long-time Reno-Tahoe performer Marla “Paulina” Richardson.
“What makes it professional is that we are not amateurs,” she said, pointing out that many traditional burlesque shows in Reno have included amateur dancers. Richardson has drawn on her deep Reno roots to pick up performers that fit the parts perfectly, from her former students to current colleagues.
“These performers are professionally-trained dancers. There are classically-trained musicians. We have a seasoned aerial artist who has been doing this for 20 years. That goes for everyone in the show. This is not their first rodeo,” she said.
“A muse is someone who you feel inspired by, and so I felt that was very fitting and I hope that the audience feels inspired and brings their muse to the show.”
She was able to draw top-notch performers by running the show on “industry off-nights,” Wednesdays and Thursdays when professional performers typically do not have other obligations.
The show is packed onto a stage that is not much bigger than two king-sized beds. It’s so small, the aerialist can’t fit on it and has to swing almost directly above the front row. The dancers brush up against the guests as they run up and down one aisle and the drag queen gets up close, leading people to laugh and clap with a song about her bad-girl attitude.
“I CAN’T fit another chair in there,” Richardson says, adding that she has tried because shows are selling out and people keep calling her about tickets.
Among the unique acts is a reversal of a common object of desire. In many of Richardson’s acts blondes are plentiful, and the star is a brunette who fills the air with her seductively powerful crooning. That singer is Richardson herself who is a seasoned singer, performing weekly as the lead singer of the ‘80s band, New Wave Crave.
The first week this show was offered, it caught the attention of venue operators from California and Hawaii that have expressed interest in drawing Richardson’s show on the road. She says that taking a show on the road is hard to do, given that all the performers have other gigs where they perform. She is going to try anyway.
So far, all the shows have sold out weeks in advance. Artown will be livestreaming one as well, potentially drawing a worldwide audience for this homegrown Reno show.
While nothing can compare to the intimate experience of a burlesque show in person, watching a livestream does have some benefits, such as getting a glimpse of the original costumes. Richardson has spent thousands of dollars on them, designing the costumes herself and even hand-crafting some of them.
“Like the hip-hop visors, sparkly canes and pink bedazzled underwire.”
This is a long-time dream come true for Richardson. “I grew up dancing since I was 3 years old. I danced all over the world. I have never directed, produced and choreographed my own show.”
She started managing The Office in downtown Reno two years ago and saw the potential right away. “It is intimate; it is not too intimidating to fill the room. It has a speakeasy vibe in it. Because I have so much freedom it just kind of all came together that way.”
They have done so many rehearsals, Richardson can’t even count them.
“I guess because I have done so many shows in the past, I know what it takes. I knew what I was getting into, but of course, when you are in it, it is like, ‘wow, this is a lot.’”
She chose the title Moon Muses because “the moon is such a powerful force,” she said. “I don’t want to get too ‘woo woo,’ but the moon controls the tides. It is the divine feminine energy which is the essence of this show . . . a muse is someone who you feel inspired by and so I felt that was very fitting and I hope that the audience feels inspired and brings their muse to the show.
The guests are part of the performance too Richardson says. “I always like to say, ‘we had a really long year and we didn’t get to go out much. So dress to impress! If you are the kind of person who likes to go out and have fun, why not, dress up with us!’”
She said she is thankful for promotional assistance from Grateful Gardens, OliverX of Reno Tahoe Tonight, Artown and Loaded TV.
For tickets to Moon Muses, visit theofficereno.eventbrite.com
Performers include Moriah Grace, Kaitlin Brit, Elenor Christine, July Nicole, Janay Sinsanity, Maria Twampson, Cory Johnson, Jason Owens, Bishop Bautista, and of course, Marla Paulina (Richardson).
Ky Plaskon is a This Is Reno contributor, local author, writer, and radio producer. www.plaskon.org