BARRE — Big boas, glam costumes, raucous comedy, and more than a glimpse of the unattired figure — burlesque offers over-the-top entertainment. Next weekend, Vermont Burlesque Festival returns to the Green Mountains for the fifth year. The festival includes a Friday night Granite City Showcase at the Barre Opera House; and in Burlington, a Sneak Peak at ArtsRiot Thursday, and a Saturday night showcase at the Flynn Center. The festival features burlesque acts from around the country and Canada, including two Vermont groups — Green Mountain Cabaret and Spielpalast Cabaret. “The festival warms up Vermont’s coldest month,” said Cory Royer, aka Luke Warm, the festival’s producer. “If you’ve never been to burlesque before, there’s nothing to be afraid of. You’ll be laughing too hard to be embarrassed,” Royer said, noting that, “there’s a lot of skin, but no full nudity,” in this adults-only show. The frisky cousin of vaudeville, burlesque has roots stretching back centuries, originally with caricature and parody in literature. Victorian burlesques, lively stage extravaganzas, were popular in the mid-1800s. Along with comedy and music, exotic dancing and striptease acts propelled the popularity of American burlesque through the 1930s. After a mid-century lull, a burlesque revival ignited in the 1990s. Today, traditional burlesque — with boas, gowns, and sultry jazz — is joined by fresh performance approaches. Its revival, Royer noted, was led by women and awareness to, “love your body, don’t judge me by my shape.” “Burlesque is a body-positive art form. Any size, shape, gender, transgender, color, religion can be in burlesque. Burlesque doesn’t discriminate,” he said. The Vermont Burlesque Festival includes a range of styles, including neo-burlesque and “Nerd-lesque.” “Neo-burlesque tells a modern story,” Royer said, with dancers typically in more contemporary attire, “maybe a trench coat, maybe dancing to Def Leppard.” “Nerd-lesque” acts connect to comic books, cartoons and pop culture. Royer, now based in Las Vegas with a television career and as a burlesque producer, hails from Colchester and is a Johnson State College alumnus. His grandparents lived for over 50 years in Barre and are buried at Quarry Hill, a connection that makes the Barre Opera House show close to his heart. He also relishes the historical connection to theaters including the opera house that hosted burlesque shows in earlier days. “A lot of people confuse burlesque with stripping,” Royer said, “but they are very different. In a strip club you find somebody on a stage taking their clothes off. Burlesque is more of a choreography. It will tell a story. It can be very funny, but it can also be deep.” The Screaming Chicken Theatrical Society, an award-winning troupe from Vancouver, will perform in the show. Dressed like their namesake fowl, they open their signature number with a “Ballet du Poulets.” From the slow ballet, the birds’ pace and number escalate. Feathers are shed. The music changes. The gyrating flock keeps the audiences laughing and enthralled. Lili VonSchtupp, an emcee of the festival, memorably performed all of “The Sound of Music,” complete with the puppets in the marionette show, in a lightning fast, multi-costumed act during her previous visit to Vermont. Names say a lot in burlesque. The festival’s lineup includes Lady Grey's Lovelies, Doctor Vu, Rosie Starlight, Silki Velour, and the Brazen Belles, and many more, promising a lively and exuberant event.   Vermont Burlesque Festival Vermont Burlesque Festival presents its Granite City Showcase at 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 19, at the Barre Opera House. Tickets are $25-$30; call 802-476-8188, or go online to www.barreoperahouse.org. For information about the Burlington shows, at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 18, at ArtsRiot, and at 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 20, at the Flynn Center, go online to www.vermontburlesquefestival.com.

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