Burlesque at the Orpheum Theatre | Omaha, NE

(Orpheum Theatre. Circa 1890)

The original Orpheum building was built at 409 S 16th Street in 1895. By 1898, the Creighton Theater was added to the Orpheum vaudeville circuit, changing its name to the Creighton Orpheum theater, and eventually dropping ‘Creighton’ all together. A larger theater was built in 1927, changing the entrance to 16th Street. It boasted 2,600 seats and is still standing today in downtown Omaha. It featured vaudeville shows and then stage shows with motion pictures until the late 1940s when it was renovated to become solely a movie theater. It showed motion pictures until 1971 when it closed and was purchased by the Knights of Ak-Sar-Ben. Today the Orpheum Theatre is owned and operated by the Omaha Performing Arts Society.

(Omaha Daily Bee News. Orpheum Theatre Advertisement. Nov. 27, 1898)

Although the Orpheum wouldn’t be categorized as a ‘burlesque house’ (they mostly showed vaudeville), they did have stage shows from time to time that were burlesque or girlie shows from the 1920s to 1940s.

(Orpheum Theatre. William Wallace. Omaha Public Library Collection. April, 1909)

Bert Lyell, the motion picture star, appeared at the Orpheum in “The Valiant”. In addition to the drama, the exotic dancer, Natacha Nattova, performed dances with a violin soloist. (Omaha Bee News. “Bert Lyell Here for Orpheum Show.” October 13, 1927)

(Orpheum Theatre. Louis Bostwick and Homer Frohardt. The Durham Museum. March 25, 1922)

The Orpheum hosted a cornucopia of talent in July 1928. La Monte, a female impersonator, is said to have performed an impressive act with crepe paper and 6 ladies—including a singer, Isabel Brown, and an acrobatic, Madelyn Moore. (Omaha Morning Bee News. “Review of Stage & Screen.” July 9, 1928)

In 1929, Gilda Grey, an exotic dancer, appeared on the Orpheum stage in her own stage production along with 10 dancers. She acted in “Aloma of the South Seas,” “Cabaret,” and the “Devil Dancer.” Four other acts of vaudeville followed her. After her in person performances, a screening of the talkie “High Voltage” was shown. (Omaha World Herald. “Gilda Grey Tops Orpheum Bill; “Fantasma” at the World.” June 9, 1929) She arrived with 12 trunks of clothes for a week’s long engagement at the Orpheum. She was returning to the United States after 17 weeks in Europe. Her wardrobe was reported to be worth $29,000. Parisian designer, Lucien Lelong, staged a fashion show for the American ‘shimmy queen.’ (Omaha World Herald. “Gild Gray Brought $29,000 Wardrobe Back from Europe.” June 9, 1929)

Elinor Ames, Fan Dancer, on Orpheum Stage | 1933

(Omaha World Herald. October 8, 1933)
The Orpheum hosted the "World's Fair Follies" in 1933, where a fan dancer by the name Elinor Ames performed a nude fan dance.

Ella Logan's "Broadway Merry-Go-Round" | 1939

Ella Logan appeared in person at the Orpheum in her all-girl revue “Broadway Merry-Go-Round” in June 1939. Acts included Elaine Boyd and the Sisters of Swing, the eight Abdallah dancers; the comedic Blossom Sisters, Sylvia Ames’ ‘Musical Malletts,’ Hedy—The Ecstasy Girl, the Jay Sisters, and Catherine Westfield’s marionettes. (Omaha Evening World Herald. “Second stage Show Offered.” June 28, 1939)
(Omaha Evening World Herald. Orpheum Theatre Advertisement. June 29, 1939)
The stage show “Hollywood Cover Girls” graced the Orpheum stage on New Years Day 1944. It featured 50 people, 10 acts, and 30 women. (Evening World Herald. “Hollywood Cover Girls.” Advertisement for Orpheum. December 29, 1943)
(Orpheum Marquee for Ella Logan. John Savage. Durham Museum Archives. June, 1939)
Once the theater was converted to a motion picture house, burlesque films were not turned away. An on screen film about ‘Little Egypt’ the exotic dancer who brought the “Hoochy Coochy” dance to the 1893 Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition. It was also called the “muscle dance.” The Orpheum hosted the viewing of “Little Egypt” in the Fall of 1951, which was a dramatized look at the dancer 'Izora.' (Omaha Evening World Herald. “Screen in Reivew—‘Cooch’ Dance Film Feature: Picture Revives Fames Now Barred Stunt.” Jake Rachman. September 22, 1951)
(Omaha Morning World Herald. Orpheum Theatre Advertisement. Sept. 22, 1951)

Show Advertisements at the Orpheum Theatre:

  • Earl Carroll’s Vanities on stage and “Between Us Girls” on Screen. (Evening World Herald. Advertisement for Orpheum. December 7, 1942)
  • Ella Logan in “Broadway Merry Go Round.” And “Hedy” in Person—the Ecstasy Girl. (Evening World Herald. Advertisement for Orpheum. June 29, 1939)
  • ‘Little Egypt—The Shape that Shook the World!’ On the Screen. (Morning World Herald. Orpheum Advertisement. September 22, 1951)
  • The Pioneer Follies of 1944—The Gay Nineties at Their Best! On the Stage, In Person. And ‘Cry Havoc’ on the Screen. (Morning World Herald. Orpheum Advertisement. April 13, 1944)
(Omaha Evening World Herald. Orpheum Theatre Advertisement. Sept. 9, 1939)
  • Flo Ziegfeld’s ‘Whoopee” and “False Faces” on Screen. (Omaha World Herald. Orpheum Advertisement. January 13, 1933)
  • Edward G. Robinson and Kay Francis in ‘I Loved a Woman’ on Screen and ‘Sleepless Nights’ girlie show. (Omaha World Herald. Orpheum Advertisement. September 22, 1933)
(Omaha Evening Bee News. October 7, 1933)
  • Jay C. Flippen and his World’s Fair Follies. Scoop! Elinor Ames and her World’s Fair Fan Dance. On Screen ‘Love, Honor, and Oh! Baby.” (Omaha Evening Bee News. Orpheum Advertisement. October 7, 1933)
  • Ted Lewis and his band in Person with his joy packed “Happiness Follies”. On the screen is “Exclusive Story.” (Omaha World Herald. Orpheum Advertisement. February 16, 1936)
  • Harriet Calloway and her New York “Cotton Club Revue” featuring George Dewey Washington. Last 2 Days on our stage! All In Person! (Omaha World Herald. Orpheum Advertisement. January 2, 1935)
  • “Girlie-Go-Round Revue on the stage and “Wedding Present” on the screen. (Sunday Journal and Star. Orpheum Advertisement. December 13, 1936)
(Omaha Morning Bee News. January 8, 1935)

  • “Artists Models” on stage and “The House on 56th Street” on screen. (Omaha Morning Bee News. Orpheum Advertisement. January 8, 1934)
  • New Year’s Eve Midnite Jamboree with ‘The King of Swing’ Louis Armstrong and his swing band. Starting New Years Day on the stage- Swing Harlem Swing an with an All Colored Revue. On the screen ‘3 Smart Girls’ and ‘Beloved Enemy.’ (Omaha Morning Bee News. Orpheum Advertisement. December 30, 1936)
  • Blue Barron and his famous Orchestra, with Glorious “Springtime Stage Revue” featuring Sid Page & Co. “Sid Page and His Pages of Fun”; Anthony Allyn and Hodge “Dancing Humorists”; Frank Paris “King of Puppeteers” and Clyde Burke, Dick Mack, 3 blue notes, Merit Curtis, “Tiny” Wolfe, Barron Glee Club; On the screen: Marilyn Douglas & Ann Sothern in the Racy, Rip-Roarious Comedy “3 Hearts for Julie” with Lee Bowman, Reginald Owen, Felix Bressart; Riotous Comedy! Ann Fiddled while Melvyn Burned! All the Stars You’ve heard on the Blue Network’s great Sunday afternoon show and on “spotlight bands.” Radio’s Famous music of yesterday and today…styled the Blue Barron way. (Evening World Herald. Advertisement for Orpheum Theater. May 13, 1943)
(Omaha World Herald. Orpheum Theatre Advertisement. Jan. 2, 1935)
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