Squirm Burpee Circus: A Vaudevillian Melodrama
nytheatre.com review by Rohana Elias-Reyes
November 13, 2010
Squirm Burpee Circus: A Vaudevillian Melodrama, now running at the New Victory, is a delight for all ages and has something to offer everyone—and I mean everyone! You like street busking juggler sensibility? They got it. You like ingenious steampunk contraptions and gorgeous 1920s inspired costumes and sets that look like Singin' in the Rain and The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus had a love child? They got it. '20s style animation? Check. Tap dance—check, swing dance—yup...melodramatic mustachio-twirling villain...audience interaction...confetti canon...ukulele number...fart jokes...Thriller reference? Done, done, and done!
In the marvelously zany world of The Handsome Little Devils, a Denver, Colorado company making its New York debut, all this and more (oh yes, there is even more) are knit together with a simple melodrama plot to make for a kid-friendly theatrical adventure. What binds the disparate elements is the consistently high energy of the cast, the dispensing of the fourth wall, and lots of audience interaction. That means even the littlest ones in the audience, who may have some difficulty following a few of the plot twists and turns, are kept engaged. The characters are cartoon-broad, which fits right in with the general silliness. However, this is at the expense of any real relationships between characters or emotional connection with the audience. For the most part that works out fine, the audience doesn't need a lot of emotional connection to enjoy hat, cane, and ball juggling or to hiss at the villain. The downside is that it makes the Lovely Little Lolo's solo song numbers, which are the show's only attempt at emotional character motivation, seem a bit superfluous and ungrounded.
The slight plot leaves plenty of room for the vaudeville routines promised in the title. The juggling brothers, Dashing Dave and Mike the Handsome, and their assistant the Lovely Little Lolo (Mike's old flame from elementary school in disguise) are putting together a new show. Unbeknownst to the troupe, the nefarious Baron Vegan von Hamburger is out to destroy the act, with a little help from the audience if he can get it. Will he succeed in blowing the duo sky high? Will Mike and Lolo be reunited? Will Dashing Dave the world's fourth greatest lover, played with great zest and a ridiculous accent by Dave Clay, find true love amongst the moms in the audience?
Don't let the intermission-free running time of seventy-five minutes deter you. Bring your kids on down to find out; in a family-friendly venue like the New Victory, it's ok if the energy level and bouncing in the audience nearly matches that on the stage.