A cabaret is a nightclub or restaurant that provides live entertainment, usually improvisational, comedic or satirical in nature. Cabaret had its heyday in the ’20s but began to decline in the ’60s due to the rise of television and rock concerts. However, in recent years, there has been a resurgence of cabaret and Philadelphia is one of the centers of this resurgence. If you want to see this art form of yesteryear combined with the social commentary and sensibilities of today, you should check out one of these events.
The Peek-A-Boo Review is Philadelphia’s premiere neo-burlesque troupe. The group began at The Five Spot nightclub and grew from a Wednesday-night variety show into a popular Saturday event. Unfortunately, The Five Spot was lost to a fire, so the Peek-A-Boo Review is no longer attached to any single nightclub or theater. However, the group continues to perform in Philadelphia and DC. The troupe has performed for celebrities and at many high-profile events and festivals. If you’re in the market for a burlesque variety show, you can’t go wrong with the Peek-A-Boo Review.
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11580 Roosevelt Blvd
Philadephia, PA 19116
The Comedy Cabaret is home to Philadelphia’s best local stand-up acts as well as nationally-recognized comics. For instance, in their early careers, Jay Leno, Kevin James, Ray Ramano and Bill Maher all performed at the Comedy Cabaret. In fact, in the last 30 years, the Comedy Cabaret has had more comics perform than another other company on the east coast. If you’re interested in a night of laughs for the cost of a movie ticket, this is the place for you.
Cabaret Red Light
Cabaret Red Light has Philadelphia’s premier vaudeville performers. Its 30-plus member troupe combines live music, puppet theater, comedy and burlesque in the spirit of the Roaring 20s. Since its formation in 2008, Cabaret Red Light has performed for audiences in Philadelphia, New York and DC. The company was called a “must-see” by TimeOut New York, and it has been selected by Philadelphia’s City Paper three times as its “Agenda Pick of the Week.” For anyone interested in traditional cabaret, this is the group to check out.
Grasso’s Magic Theatre
103 Callowhill St
Philadelphia, PA 19123
Grasso’s Magic Theatre is Philadelphia’s only full-time venue for magic and variety shows, but don’t think Grasso’s is home to the cheesy magicians you saw as a little kid. Grasso’s has hosted events such as Cardone the Ultimate Vaudeville Magician, the New York Variety Superstars and Magic Burlesque which is a cross between a classic burlesque show and a vaudevillian magic show. If you’re looking for a night of entertainment that is far from the same old thing, this is the venue for you.
The Dollhouse Revue
1221 St. James St
Philadelphia, PA 19107
The Dollhouse Revue is Philadelphia’s most popular drag show. Host Mimi Imfurst presents performances by the Dollstars every Wednesday night from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. The show has an original show each week with two to three newly-choreographed group numbers, acrobatics, costume changes and more. However, because it’s a “private, after-hours club,” the venue permits smoking inside, so beware.