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Wednesday, March 31,2010

Vaudeville lives again

Lil’ Darlins show pays tribute to days gone by

by Mary C. Cusack

 

There may not be dancing bears or a bearded lady, but the Lil’ Darlins Vaudeville Show — coming soon to a community center near you — will have comic skits, feats of strength, and the Fabulous Heftones. And that’s just a wee taste of the total show.

Organizers Ben and Katie Corr are humble but passionate about their current project: to bring a modern-day vaudeville show to the Lansing area. The April 2 show at the Hannah Community Center is the third they’ve organized in the last year. It’s a labor of love for the couple who split the organizational work, with Katie as director and Ben as artistic director.


The show is anchored by Lansing’s Vaudeville Troupe, which consists of the Corrs and three other local musicians and friends: Laura Bates, Kristina Bush and Paul Rich. The troupe will perform skits and songs throughout the show, interspersed with magicians, a strong man, a contortionist and a hula-hoop girl, among others. The show also features a live pit band, the Heartland Klezmorim.


Just how does one go about finding sideshow acts? “A lot of luck,” Katie Corr says. “The Internet — Google is awesome.”


They found their strongman in St. Johns, for instance, and also booked the Knotty Bits sideshow group, known for their appearances at the Michigan Renaissance Festival.


“The first time we did it I had never
met any of our acts,” says Katie Corr. “The day they showed up it was,
‘Nice to meet you, here’s where you go in the show.’”


Since then the
Corrs have cultivated friendships with many of the acts, hosting the
performers and holding rehearsals at their home.


The
performers themselves work for very little money — usually just meals
and enough cash to cover travel expenses. The Corrs pay out-of-pocket
for those expenses, and don’t seem too concerned if they recoup the money at the door.


What
is more important to them is creating a modernday vaudeville
experience, not a nostalgia show. Nor do they wish to capitalize on the
burlesque aspects of vaudeville, recently re-popularized by such acts
as the Pussycat Dolls.


The
Corrs feel the current social and economic environments are perfect for
relaunching a vaudeville show. From the 1880s to the 1930s, vaudeville
offered the lower and middle classes access to exotic acts, music and comedy at a low cost. This is the Corrs’ goal as well, to modernize the material but keep the basic format, providing maximum entertainment at a minimal cost.


“We’re
trying to do something that’s not just reminiscent of the time, but
something that is actually funny and fun to watch,” Ben Corr explains.
“We don’t want people to laugh to be polite, but because it’s really
funny.”


“From
beginning to end we just want it to be entertaining. We want it to be
fast and high-energy. Every other act is something totally different,”
promises Katie Corr.


Lil’ Darlins Vaudeville Show


8 p.m. Friday, April 2

Hannah
Community Center 819 Abbott Road, East Lansing $10 general admission/$8
students and seniors Email hypocritestheater @hotmail.com



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