Like its name suggests, Atomic Vaudeville presents a style of performance designed to wake audiences up. Combining theatre, comedy, music, dance, and puppetry with a healthy dose of vulgarity, the Victoria-based troupe detonates in Toronto in a big way this month. Not only is their award-winning show Legoland playing at Theatre Passe Muraille from November 14 to December 6, but on Sunday, November 30, they are also mounting a local installment of their monthly Vaudeville Cabaret. In order to ensure that the cabaret has a truly Torontonian flair, Atomic Vaudeville is offering local performers from all disciplines and experience levels a chance to join their ensemble.
“We’re looking for people who will have fun with the whole thing,” says Jacob Richmond, who along with Britt Small created Atomic Vaudeville and directs the monthly cabarets. “Non-actors, masters, novices, anyone and everyone! So far we’ve got a novelist, a construction worker, a painter and a journalist.” But just what are these Village People getting themselves into? Search Atomic Vaudeville on YouTube and you’ll get a taste: past cabaret acts have included an epic bout between Satan and Jesus and a rendition of Eminem’s “Stan” as sung by the severely bipolar Lamb siblings, recurring Vaudevillian characters. As Richmond promises: “There are moments of beauty in the show. But it’s equal parts crass and juvenile. We encourage people to be as sweet or as bloody minded as they want.”
The cabaret nights showcase Atomic Vaudeville’s greatest strength—a willingness, nay, eagerness to offend. “I’d far rather get the occasional boo than a quiet audience, or worse an audience that totally agrees with everything we’re saying,” Richmond explains. “Satire that dilutes itself, with any trace of being ingratiating to the crowd, is never satisfying satire. We leave all the crowd massage for our overblown song and dance classic Vaudeville numbers.”
But while the group relishes in shocking their audiences, they don’t want any surprises for their performers. Richmond hopes volunteers know exactly what they are getting into before signing up to participate: “The show is fast, dirty, occasionally vicious, but ultimately dorky.” Sound like your idea of an evening out? Think you can help amp up the speed, grit, bloodshed, and geek-factor of the evening? E-mail the company at [email protected] by Friday, November 21, explaining in one sentence what unique wicked-awesome skills you would bring to the cabaret.
While most theatre companies would be weary of blindly casting a show with strangers, especially in a foreign city, Jacob and Britt believe they have found a kindred vaudevillian spirit in Toronto. The city has shown that it uproariously “gets” Atomic Vaudeville, and is hungry for more. Legoland made its world premiere at Toronto’s Summerworks Festival in 2006, where it was heralded as brilliant… by the ten people who saw it (the show was stationed at the Canadian Pavilion at the Harbourfront Centre, a real bitch to get to, especially when your show is trying to attract a young slacker crowd). In the two years following, however, the show has picked up some serious steam, touring festivals from New York to Vancouver and receiving rave reviews. When the show returned to Toronto for Fringe 2007, it was selected as the highlight of the festival by many publications, including this one, and now Passe Muraille is giving the play its first proper run.
Legoland, written by Richmond and co-directed by Small, features Celine Stubel and Amitai Marmorstein reprising their roles as the Lamb siblings. Often directly addressing the audience, the pair tell a tale of Catholic schools, drug trafficking, and a cross-country trek across America. In summing up the eclectic show’s success, Richmond becomes philosophical: “No one leaves feeling totally violated, because singing and dancing go a long way in making people tingle as they leave the theatre. It certainly always works for me.”
Photos by Barbara Pedrick.