One hundred years ago, the pages of Variety were full of reviews of the latest vaudeville acts to hit the stages of Manhattan: a hodgepodge of jugglers, jokers, hoofers, contortionists, dancing dogs, crooners and even faux skaters (the reviewer noted that the waltzing pair of sock-sliders did a creditable job). The national vaudeville circuits ensured that the families of Kingston were similarly entertained, and the last link to that era was experienced by those of us who were around in the 1960s to be entertained by such variety television shows as The Ed Sullivan Show, reruns of the Three Stooges and characters who expertly tripped and wisecracked in the sitcoms.
That was 50 years ago; but now the spirit of vaudeville is about to breathe again in Kingston with the Vaudeville Circus & Masquerade Ball, to be held this Saturday, January 21 at the Lounge at BackStage Productions (BSP). Located in Uptown Kingston at 323 Wall Street, the venue was itself originally a theater – gutted when it became the Standard Furniture store – so the event brings an aspect of Kingston’s lost history full circle.
The music headliner is the Lucky Jukebox Brigade, a nine-piece Albany-based band whose eclectic instrumentation – consisting of ukulele, guitar, bass, banjo, accordion, clarinet, trombone, viola, violin, euphonium, mandolin and drums – lends magic to its folk-based sound, spiffed up with a haunting Gypsylike melancholia and a vertiginous carnival brashness. It’ll be preceded by the Metropolitan Hot Club, a New Paltz-based swing band inspired by legendary guitarist Django Reinhardt and jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli, playing the music that romanced your grandparents and great-grandparents. Indie band Gig & Pop, based in Brooklyn and Beacon, will play its magpie mix of acoustic, electric, disco and New Wave, followed by burlesque performer Martina Markota, who also is a New York-based model and math tutor.
One suspects that Markota and fellow burlesque performer Dr. Lucky, whose comedic timing and over-the-top theatricality have earned her a following across the globe (she also is a PhD and faculty member at both the New York School of Burlesque and NYU, fantastically bridging the gap between low- and highbrow), will inject a frisson into the proceedings that traditionally was reserved exclusively for the saloon and the striptease joint. Filling out the bill is Honor amongst Thieves, a New Jersey-based traveling sideshow presenting the Human Cutting Board, Ladder of Swords, the Human Dynamo and other sleights of body, along with the requisite sword-swallowing and fire-breathing.
Tickets are $20; if you come dressed as a Gypsy, Bohemian or steampunk, you get a $5 discount. Call (845) 481-5185 for more information.