Vintage Vaudeville

Feb 5 • Art, ARTSY SMARTSYNo Comments on Vintage Vaudeville

The Moonshine Cabaret
Friday, February 8th, 9 p.m.
Juggling Gypsy Entertainment Parlor
1612 Castle Street
910-763-2223 • $5

SMOKIN’ HOT: Humor, dancing, hula-hooping, and lots of storytelling will be part of The Moonshine Cabaret’s performance at the Juggling Gypsy on February 8th. Courtesy photo

SMOKIN’ HOT: Humor, dancing, hula-hooping, and lots of storytelling will be part of The Moonshine Cabaret’s performance at the Juggling Gypsy on February 8th. Courtesy photo

Before the great depression, the 1920s were a prosperous time for the economy, literature and women’s suffrage. Due to Prohibition, the bootlegging and entertainment industry thrived immensely. To this day, the notion of a 1920’s speakeasy still holds romantic and artful qualities to it: men sporting fedoras with an illegal beverage in their hand, a booming jazz band sweating and smoking their soul out onstage, and in the spotlight, scantily clad women singing cabaret songs and performing burlesque routines.

Still today burlesque remains a performance art, which involves the exaggeration and caricature of serious works, whether it’s through literary form, dance, song, etc. Though known for its risque striptease element, the core of burlesque and cabaret is purely theater and comedy. Even the word originates from the Italian word “burlesco,” which comes from burla, meaning a joke or mockery.

Although it’s nearly a century later, there are still entertainers, like Mark Slomski, who wish to retain that Roaring Twenties vibe. Based out of Richmond, Virginia, Slomski learned much and gained fame in the local cabaret world during his time with The Slomski Brothers, a vaudeville comedy duo with his now late brother, Phil. Since, Mark has hosted and performed in variety shows and with several troupes, including the Moonshine Cabaret, a vintage burlesque group, which will come to the Port City this weekend.

All performers of the Moonshine Cabaret hail from all across the nation. Mark recalls first meeting Moonshine member Mavi Clay in Asheville. “It was fall 2010 and the annual American Burlesque and Sideshow Festival (ABSF) was happening. Mavi and I met there briefly, but we only started talking when I got a call from her months later, asking if I remembered her. It took a moment but then I remembered: When we met she was naked and painted all blue.”

The Moonshine Cabaret brings the 1920’s speakeasy experience, featuring famous vintage-style entertainment from near and far. The troupe’s show combines feats of danger, music, comedy, burlesque, vaudeville and, as they proudly declare, “a little hoochie coo!”
“All of us in the cabaret are from the East Coast, but we’re still a bit separated,” Mark explains. “It’s mostly the DC and Richmond area, though we have members based out of Philadelphia. A lot of people assume I’m the host of the troupe but, in reality, we all host during our shows.”

Belly-dancing with Mavi, a sideshow by Mab Just Mab, hula-hooper Bitsy Buttons, and narrators and comedic storytellers the Bag Ladies of the Sidetracked remain among the show’s highlights. “Occasionally we’ll have fire performances in our shows also,” Mark says. “As for me and my role: I suppose I’m the ‘uke vaudevillian’, as I have my ukulele and entertain through music, wit and, of course, whiskey.”

While our city has had moments of burlesque scenes and cabaret performers, it hasn’t remained as steady compared to Richmond, D.C. and Baltimore’s burlesque locales. With former troupes such as The Peepshow Cabaret and Mama Burque’s, it’s clear Wilmington had and still has a lot of potential. Currently, it’s mainly small groups, such as Vaudeworld Productions, and independent performers which keep the burlesque scene alive locally.

“A few of us in the troupe have been to Wilmington in the past and we’ve all really liked the city,” Mark notes. “There’s definitely something about it that draws this kind of performance art.”

The Moonshine Cabaret will be gracing the stage of The Juggling Gypsy this Friday at 9 p.m. The troupe, along with featured local performer Zina Czarina, will bring a unique vaudeville experience for only $5 before traveling to Knoxville, Tennessee. Due to the adult nature of the material, the show is for audiences 18 years or older. For more info on the troupe, visit

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