Gary Linehan, The Union Democrat

They're cute, cuddly - and powerful.

A group of current and former Tuolumne County residents have banded under the leadership of Andrea Morgan to present Kountry Kittens Burlesque, a risqué song, dance and comedy revue that is poised to hit the big time.

Founded by Morgan about five years ago, the troupe has expanded from occasional shows in the Sonora area to starring roles throughout California and Nevada. They are now in the midst of filming the pilot episode of a reality television show.

Kountry Kittens is comprised of five women - Morgan, Natalie Morse, Ashleigh Keller, Heather Brady and 2012 Miss Tuolumne County Sabrina Little - plus satirical dancer Russ Russell and photographer-props manager Danny Gattoni.

All are originally from Tuolumne County, although some now live in other areas.

On stage, Morgan goes by the name Anni Boelyn, while Morse is known as the Russian maid Ivanna Polish, Keller as Gurdy Leigh, Brady as Heather Lynn and Little as Luna Tickly.

While the women do eventually remove most of their clothing during a show, they always remain at least minimally covered.

Most importantly, Morgan said, the show is not about sex.

"The focus is on all different body types, rather than looks or dancing," she said. "It's about empowerment and self-confidence."

Morgan got the idea for her burlesque troupe after posing as a pinup girl in photographs.

"I was abused in childhood and didn't have any self-confidence," she said. "Doing the pinups gave me courage and gave me my body back."

The photos also drew the attention and admiration of other women, spurring Morgan, a mother of three, and Gattoni, a Marine Corps veteran, to launch the Bee's Knees Pinups photography studio.

Kountry Kittens grew from there.

"Every girl has overcome something and they use their time on stage in self-exploration," Morgan said. "It's kind of sexy, but because they're being outrageous and have so much confidence, they look good when they're doing it - they're smart and sexy."

Morse, who joined the troupe at age 19 as one of the original members, agreed.

"People just assume we're strippers, but it's art," she said. "It's a full two-hour production and there's history behind it."

VIVE Productions of Los Angeles, with offices around the world, is betting that the troupe has international appeal.

A crew has been in Sonora filming their activities since June 13 and will conclude with a performance at 10 p.m. July 11 at the Eagle Tavern in Twain Harte. Admission is $10.

The Kittens also will appear at 9 p.m. July 6 at the Gypsy Shack in Jamestown with $5 admission.

Minimum age to attend any of their shows is 21.

Morgan is no stranger to reality television. Earlier this year she appeared on "America's Worst Tattoos," having a large merman on her right forearm covered up with a circus scene in an episode that still airs on reruns.

"They flew me to Hollywood all expenses paid and I got a $2,700 tattoo for free," she said.

Morgan's long-range ambition is to have a brand name recognized around the world, including a product line with workout videos, corsets and even eyelashes.

"I want to tour the country on a double-decker bus," she said. "That's the goal."