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The return of burlesque 

Will Ol' Devil Sherman and his girls bring the big show to town?

Not that she was tired of shooting weddings and family portraits, but photographer Megan Jones was looking for another, more creative focus for her lens.

She found it in pinup photography — crafting colorful images of attractive women in retro clothes, hairstyles and makeup.

When Jones was hired by pinup aficionado Bonnie Bozell for a photo shoot, Savannah hatched the first DNA of a nascent pinup community.

Bozell, a former portfolio review manager for SCAD, is a part-time model whose specialty is retro-chic and rockabilly fashion. She hired on as hair and makeup technician for Jones' burgeoning — and quickly successful — pinup business. The two got to talking, and decided to take things a step further, by creating Savannah's first-ever homegrown retro burlesque show.

"I lived out in L.A. for a couple of years, and it's huge out there," Bozell explains. "Absolutely huge. Retro culture, you can't go anywhere without seeing somebody dressed in pinup, and hearing about burlesque shows.

"I was like, 'Why don't we have any of it here?' Atlanta even has its own hub of it. So we thought 'We need to start it and get it going.'"

That's just what they've done. "Ol' Devil Sherman and the Mint Juleps" has already been booked into Muse Arts Warehouse for June 27 and 28.

"We wanted to bring pinup to the stage, to bring it to Savannah on a large scale as opposed to just one show at a time," Jones says, referring to the touring Pretty Things Peepshow, which came to Savannah for one night in February.

"And pinup onstage easily fell into burlesque onstage. We're keeping it a classy retro burlesque, with vaudeville integrated into it in a kind of variety show.

"And we're both interested in dancing. I don't know if we'll be in the show, per se, but we're getting a strong group of people together."

Let's be clear here: They're talking about an old-time burlesque show, with pretty girls in skimpy costumes, music, a bit of offbeat comedy. And maybe, just maybe, a fleeting glimpse of some freako sideshow acts.

It's planned as an 18 and older event. "There might be a little bit of fun stripping," Jones explains, "but it won't come down that much."

Adds Bozell: "Ours is more '20s and '30s. It's when vaudeville and burlesque were just starting to become known as a crossed-over entity. What they did at the Pretty Things Peepshow was pretty much in that same vein, but they put more emphasis on the burlesque performance, with the women in the tassels."

Two things have to happen before Ol' Devil Sherman (that'd be master of ceremonies Christopher Jean Soucy) and the Mint Juleps take the stage.

First, there's a matter of money. Jones and Bozell have a Kickstarter account all set up, with a bunch of neat rewards for anyone willing to contribute to the cause (the idea is to do several productions a year).

The two captains of this ship will hold auditions May 15, looking for prospective Juleps (women who have some dance or performance skills and interest in pinup culture preferred) and everything else, from a piano player to sideshow acts to those who'd like to help backstage.

It's going to be fun for everyone involved, swears Bozell. "It doesn't matter what size, what stature you are, if you have the confidence and you want to bring it to the stage. That's how they do it in L.A. and Seattle. They really perpetuate it out there like that. I think that's a good thing for Savannah, too, to have diversity and a variety of people coming out and performing."

Key to the whole thing, Jones says, is that it's to be entirely homegrown. "We're trying to make it really Savannah-themed. We're the Mint Juleps — even the name says Savannah. It's from here, for here."

If anyone requires still more incentive, how's this: All profits will go directly to Muse Arts Warehouse, which has become something of a hub for culture and performance in the city.

Ol' Devil Sherman and the Mint Juleps, Take One, is just the beginning. "This is more about getting it started in Savannah, getting a good flow going for this kind of retro culture and burlesque," Bozell adds. "It needs to start up."

CS

Ol' Devil Sherman and the Mint Juleps

Auditions: At 6 p.m. (dancers), 7 p.m. (everybody else) Wednesday, May 15 at Muse Arts Warehouse, 703 Louisville Road

Info: www.kickstarter.com/projects/466106384/ol-devil-sherman-and-the-mint-juleps

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About The Author

Bill DeYoung

Bill DeYoung

Bio:
Bill DeYoung was Connect's Arts & Entertainment Editor from May 2009 to August 2014.

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