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Trav S.D.’s Vaudeville show gives variety back its good name
BY SCOTT STIFFLER | Long before television — when the masses packed Lower East Side theaters yearning to be entertained on the cheap — they used to call it “Vaudeville.” By the time Ed Sullivan was brining us plate spinners and the Beatles, it was called “variety.” Decades later, modern day torture sessions such as “The X Factor” and “America’s Got Talent” are trite travesties that make one long for the sophisticated stylings of Sonny & Cher or Donny & Marie.
Thank your lucky stars, then, for this fine publication’s very own Downtown theater columnist. Long before he landed that plumb gig, Trav S.D.’s American Vaudeville Theatre (AVT) was helping the format reclaim its rightful function as a source of diverse, high quality entertainment served in short bursts and at a breakneck pace.
As host of the proceedings, Mr. S.D. often employs the overinflated carnival barker banter of P.T. Barnum — but that’s where his clever ruse begins and ends. A typical AVT show delivers surreal comedy, music and a cavalcade of world-class (and irony-free) vaudeville, circus and burlesque performers who seem as if they’ve emerged from a 1920s Coney Island kinescope.
As part of the New York Musical Theatre Festival (NYMF), “Travesties of 2012” promises a diverse mash-up of American entertainment styles in a revue format that’s both naughty and nostalgic. The cast, drawn from what Trav S.D. describes as “the cream of New York’s Vaudeville Aristocracy,” includes ventriloquist Carla Rhodes, clowns Jennifer Harder and Glen Heroy, operatic comedians Jenny Lee Mitchell & Dandy Darkly, rodeo rope artist AJ Silver, contortionist The Amazing Amy, mentalist/mind reader Rory Raven and performers from other NYMF musicals.
Trav S.D.’s next monthly Downtown theater column (a preview of August events) will appear in the July 25 edition of this publication. For more info on the history of Vaudeville, kindly consider purchasing Trav S.D.’s excellent book: “No Applause — Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous.”