Monday, August 22, 2011

Show Biz Laboratory 
There is something happening in Hancock Park that is very important. In an era when one might ask, "where are all the talented young performers these days?" the answer is, "where they have always been".  That place is the magical, enchanted, yes even haunted theatre that Floyd Thayer built.  You can read more about the unique past of what is called "the most important address in magic" by referring to my blog from a year ago about this Theatre. Or just google Brookledge Theatre on your smart phone and be stunned. Floyd Thayer built professional magic illusions but perhaps the greatest magic box he ever built was the theatre in his own back yard.
As a hopeless romantic it is hard for me not to see last night's event as a ressurection of the very spirit of Vaudeville.  It is a live controlled theatrical experiment in a day when most people are getting their taste of variety entertainment from flickering YouTube videos. It is the Manhattan project of entertainment who's impact will be no less influential. It is called the Brookledge Follies.
For an audience of less than a hundred invitation only patrons, young performers reach deep into their creative souls and give new life to classic arts, while sharing the stage with seasoned performers who have kept a light in the window waiting for the new artists to arrive.  Long time pros Goldfinger and Dove brought their unique twist to a couple of tricks.  Jonnathan Pendragon performed a classic cut the lady in half with the grand daughter of the woman who performed that very trick on the Brookledge stage many decades before.
The show begins with a piano player, audience level, lit with Gothic twin candelabras.  The baby grand seems to be in tune with a different dimension, but in definite harmony to the history of the surroundings. Like the silent movie musicians of a by gone era, the piano player provides the musical and emotional link to each autonomous performance.
There is suddenly a disembodied soprano voice filling the theatre.  It takes a moment to realize that the voice is coming from a beautiful and sultry young woman sitting in the third row. As the spot light slowly finds her, she performs what can only be called a vocal lap dance at her seat.    Only leaving her chair for a brief moment on stage where she lounges sensually, she makes artistic love to a Gershwin tune.  If it wasn't obvious by the mere surroundings one knows this is going to be a different kind of theatrical experience 
A talented comedy magician is the compere for the evening of 9 acts. Each act performs what we know as magic, juggling, comedy, sword swallowing, singing or body contortion but these artists are not so easily labeled.  It is not so much that they have unusual skills, it is the character and presentation of these skill sets that elevate them to artistic expression.  Everything old seems new again at this show.
A simple egg bag trick by a magician and his organ grinder monkey, becomes a livestock production of not only a rabbit, but a mouse, scorpion and tarantula. Each time the unsuspecting volunteer reaches into the bag.... a new... even creepier creature materializes. 
Then there is Bret, the sword swallower, who performs in a straight jacket and hospital gown to insane music looking like the very asylum inmate who would perform such inhuman feats.
The Blood Brothers turn Houdini's needle swallowing illusion into an erotic encounter reminiscent of the spaghetti scene from Lady and the Tramp. 
An Aryan female accordion player sings suggestive songs in pigeon German, wearing a sexy version of bucolic Germany garb. Think Terri Garr in "Young Frankenstein". 
A juggler performs upside down hanging from the shoulders of an unsuspecting member of the audience. 
A comic accidentally drops a cigar box off the stage, berating the man who tries to help retrieve it. He screams at him... "Don't touch that... it could be a magic box... you know nothing about magic or performing, leave it to the professionals." It is hysterically funny because the man trying to help happens to be Sigfreid, the blonde half of the world's most famous magic duo Sigfreid and Roy. 
Then there is Bonnie. A 2 foot cube is brought on stage by two gentlemen. From what we come to realize is a transparent glass box,  a beautiful girl unfurls from the confines of her tiny coffin to the music of Tom Waits. She is made up to look like a sexy Betty Boop doll dressed in a fantasy maid's outfit. She bends and twists her body in ways not even a rag doll could survive. How can one turn the ability to dislocate every joint in their body into a seductive tease? You have to see it to believe it.
And that is the very point.  You have to see it, experience it, in this theatre on this night and with these performers. Like trying to photograph lightning, a filmed reproduction of this show would not have the same impact. 
I told  Erika and Libby Larsen, the daughter and granddaughter of Brookledge's owner, how important these shows are to the variety arts.  It is the incubator for the next generation of performers.  Both ladies said how important it also was to the Brookledge Theatre itself. They said it only comes alive when there are are great shows on its stage, it radiates in the limelight of talent. It is a glove without a hand when there is not a show.  You can feel it.  There is definite pride coming from the very rafters themselves.
Thank you Irene, Erika and Libby Larsen for keeping the theatre fed and alive. I am glad to be witness and sometimes participant in the long term care of this magical jewel box.
As you were,

1 comment:

Scot Nery (juggler) said...

If I looked at the things I do as this important, I woudnt be a very good clown, but samegoes if I didn't like the attention you gave.