“Vamps after Midnite! »Review: Tacky but unique beyond measure | Arts

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Theatergoers with modern sensibilities might not be used to the boisterous displays of a century-old burlesque show – especially when that show calls for the release of a herd of theater-trained bats. Burlesque troupe Boston BeauTease’s contemporary production of the infamous “Vamps After Midnite!”, Which took place at the Boston Center for the Arts from October 21 to 30, spares viewers from this zoological nightmare. However, the show still remains admirably attached to the burlesque genre, even when that means trying too hard to engage audiences. “Vamps after Midnite!” artfully weaves the parody with impressive individual performances, ultimately distinguishing himself by embracing the humor in the sheer scandal of burlesque.

The story behind “Vamps After Midnite!” is curious: in 1912, an impresario spent a large sum of money on new special effects, a large orchestra and live animals to adapt a German opera, itself inspired by a 19th century novel written by the doctor by Lord Byron. The result was a long legendary burlesque spectacle but seldom seen by the public. As explained in promotional material for the Modern Production, its predecessor closed its doors after just three performances and was not relaunched until the Boston BeauTease reportedly received the only surviving booklet from an anonymous donor. Absurdity and mystery underline the existence of the show.

The current performance tackles the original plot, which follows the conflict between a vampirology professor (accompanied by a team of nuns) and an ancient Egyptian vampire. In a makeover, artists sometimes address the audience to discuss how the show has been updated. The actors intermittently quibble with archaic dialogue and deal with the storyteller’s scripted incidents as the Professor pursues the vampire through Victorian-era London to his lair in Egypt.

The self-referential character of the production, while opening the door to a series of funny gags, seems at first banal. The show opens with the stage manager painting the set, only to panic when the director explains that the audience has already arrived. The theater itself is largely sterile, as a projection screen is the only real addition to the surroundings. Allowing the audience to observe behind-the-scenes events, which are themselves staged, immediately sounds like a form of overcompensation – an immediate but artificial excuse for the meager landscape. The humor that revolves around the performance itself, when used in excess, is both tired and dishonest, distracting from the substance of the show.

“Vamps after Midnite!” mitigates those risks, however, with form-true slapstick choreography that demonstrates remarkable individual talent. Throughout the two-hour performance, the dancers don elaborate costumes only to throw them into detailed routines that often involve props and interactions with other characters. In one scene, the former vampire visits his new home in London before his real estate agent, infatuated with the vampire’s prowess, initiates a sultry dance with his partner; sequined and feathered Victorian-era dresses gave way to corsets and pom poms.

It may just be the shock of witnessing burlesque – a decidedly old-school and relatively racy form of entertainment – in the 21st century that offsets the series’ kitsch humor, as opposed to the actual quality of the performance. Yet the audience should salute each dancer’s commitment to entertaining, without fearing the vulnerability that such risky routines demand.

Moments of raw humor and skillful choreography swap the spotlight, but the show’s highlights occur when the two are skillfully married. In one scene, a Mother Superior remembers her youth in Paris performing a striptease as images of the city scroll in a slide show on the projection screen behind her. In the midst of his routine, however, the screen displays a request for more photos before embarrassing personal images of the stage manager appear, followed by a note from the stage manager apologizing for misunderstanding that the director wanted more. of photos of Paris. The incongruity between the series ‘deliberate flaws and the actress’ talent both honors the essence that pushes the boundaries of the slapstick genre while brilliantly satirizing it with a 21st century punchline.

In keeping with the mystery surrounding the series’ origins, little information about the cast or anyone else involved has been made available to the public. Production also did not respond to emails requesting additional details about the team. After Halloween, “Vamps After Midnite!” will likely sink into obscurity once again, as the burlesque style continues to collide with modern expectations. Still, this rendition adds a distinct and commendable chapter to the show’s enigmatic storyline, transcending the cheap sparkle of its first impression. Such a performance requires remarkable creativity and courage, and the fact that the Boston BeauTease addresses this bizarre original text makes it a unique spectacle both among typical contemporary theater and the past burlesque productions that it emulates – and therefore deserves our attention. patronage.

—Editor-in-Chief Charles W. McCormick can be contacted at [email protected]


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