Smile Politely

A third round of sexy: The return of the creepy carnival

Carnivàle Debauche, Champaign-Urbana’s own burlesque and Vaudeville troupe, is gearing up for another performance on October 16, 8 p.m. at the Canopy Club. Billy Boudoir, the troupe’s co-founder and Ring Master sat down with me to answer a few questions about why this upcoming performance promises to be their best yet.

This is Debauche’s third large-scale production, correct?

BB: Yes, but it’s our fifth or sixth show because we’ve also done Fishnets and Feathers shows at Pride Fest, Memphis on Main, and Industrial Night at C Street. This will be our third full performance, though.

Since Carnivàle Debauche has been on the scene for a while and has had several shows, are you concerned Champaign-Urbana is going to get burlesque burnout?

BB: Nope, we’re spreading ourselves out enough. We’re not doing weekly shows, and starting next year, we’re hopefully going to tour. We’ll be on the road going to Chicago, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Springfield, Decatur, Danville. That way we can do more shows and not saturate Champaign.

Speaking of touring, what do you think Carnivàle Debauche can add to the overall culture of burlesque in all of those cities, and here in town?

BB: We’ve got a good show, really talented performers, and a killer house band. We’re going to be one more quality troupe that is out there trying to bring the word of burlesque to the masses. Hopefully we’ll add more Vaudeville and sketch people, eventually building us into a really good road show.

I see on the flier for your upcoming show that you have Davina and the Vagabonds and Kayla Brown added to the mix.

BB: Davina and the Vagabonds is a band out of Minneapolis, and they are amazing…look them up! They embody what we do. The lead singer has a voice that would melt anything; it’s like liquid sex. The band is phenomenal, and they are even collaborating with us on one number where they will play live and we will perform to it. Kayla Brown is an amazing performer, too. We’ve been trying to collaborate for a long time but our schedules have always clashed until now. We’re floored to finally have her perform with us.

Isn’t Kayla more acoustic and folky? How will she fit in with the burlesque theme?

BB: It’s all about her style. She’s soulful and has a rich, sexy voice. We’re having her do a number with our house band, and it’s perfect for her strong style and voice. And I wouldn’t say folk music clashes with what we do, it just needs to be performed right.

Carnivàle Debauche’s premier at Canopy in June was an introduction to burlesque, and your July show was USO-themed. What will this third installment bring us that’s different from before?

BB: This show is going to be the return of the creepy carnival. All of our songs this time around are very dark. We’re close to Halloween, and although it’s not a Halloween show, things are a little creepier and darker than normal. I can wait for you to hear the tunes! I don’t want to give anything away, but they all have an edge…something that brings that dark and eerie factor.

I’ve noticed that folks attending the shows really like to get into the burlesque scene, whether it’s with how they dress or act during the festivities. How can the audience participate even if they aren’t the ones who get called up on stage?

BB: I really encourage people who come see our show to dress to the nines. Makes yourselves feel sexy, whether you’re a girl or guy. Zoot suites, corsets, pin-up dresses, anything. If you don’t want to dress up that’s fine, but you’re going to get so much more out of it if you feel like you’re a part of the night. It helps us as performers to see everyone really getting into the show. I mean, what would it be like to go see Rocky Horror Picture Show and no one dressed up? That would take so much away. We want our audience excited about what they’re about to see.

[Writer’s note: If you don’t know what you’re in for, check these acts out — and dress up to play along! Red Hot Annie, Michelle L’Amour, The Ministry of Burlesque.]

Can you tell us about the new talent you have on board?

BB: We have a new Boylesque — his name is Christian Heart, and this will be his first full Carnivàle Debauche show. Maria Macabre is another new performer whose specialty is the hula-hoop. The UI juggling and unicycling club will also be joining us.


BB: Yes, we learned a lot from our first Canopy Club show, hoping to make the sequel even bigger and better.

As far as bridging the University-community gap, this will be the first show during the academic year. How do you think students in the crowd will change the atmosphere of your performances?

BB: I am so excited the students are here! We were able to get almost 300 people at Canopy when there weren’t students in town, so I think we’ll get a huge draw from campus. It’s Saturday; they can either see a band, go get drunk, or see a burlesque-Vaudeville spectacular. I’m excited for the energy that the students are going to bring.

Do you think they’ll even know what it is?

BB: I think so. My one concern is they will see the trailer for “Burlesque” starring Cher and Christina Aguilera, and make judgments from that. God, the movie looks terrible — it’s like Showgirl meets Coyote Ugly…with Cher, who can’t even make facial expressions anymore. But, I digress. College kids are tech-savvy, hopefully they’ll You Tube burlesque and get excited about the show. It’s not something you can see every day, and it’s literally right next door to where they are.

You’ll literally be ON campus. We’ve spoken in previous articles about your performers and how they live every day lives outside of the burlesque scene. Are any of them worried about the exposure they will get with an entirely new audience? I’m thinking of performers with day jobs in education or who work at or attend the University, specifically.

BB: No, I think people need to not be so uptight about it. Why are we so worried about things like that? It’s a night of fun…and we’re classy. We’re not brash. We may be brazen, but we’re not over the line. Yes, it’s adult entertainment, but burlesque is all about the tease. It allows people to let their hair down without feeling dirty. Adults can dress up, have fun and enjoy a good time without being ridiculous. Performers and attendees alike can set an example by being sexy without acting irresponsibly. I don’t think anyone should worry about who might see them.

Good to know! What final information should we know as we gear up for the 16th?

BB: Interested folks can email [email protected] to pre-order tickets for $10. Otherwise, tickets are $15 at the door. Doors are at 8 p.m., Davina and the Vagabonds are on at 9 p.m., and the burlesque starts at 10 p.m. See you there!

For additional information about Carnivale Debauche, visit their blog or Facebook page.

Photos by Nicole Powers (top) and Fnawzm (bottom) on

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