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Arts and Entertainment

Vaudeville meshes together diverse talent in one show

By Michael Fuchs and Bianca Ho
Published: October 2010

­From September 30 to October 2, South Stage Vaudeville put on a show with plenty of variety and lots of laughs. The vaudeville-style show, a form of entertainment once popular in the early 20th century, was directed by Jeff Knoedler, and stage managed by senior Jocelin Weiss.
Knoedler suggests that the appeal of Vaudeville lies in its range of theatrical elements. 
Vaudeville is unique in that it combines comedy with singing and dancing.  It is theatrically singular and brings together a diverse group of acts. 
Vaudeville has attracted actors of all sorts, and, in recent years, the genre has been assimilated into a more modern format. “George Burns, Milton Berle, and Harry Houdini all had careers on the vaudeville circuit, and some performers made the transition to radio and later TV.  We can still see the influence of vaudeville in sketch comedy shows and segments on late night TV such as Letterman’s Stupid Human Tricks, Knoedler said.
South’s own Vaudeville show certainly lived up to expectations, showcasing the multitude of talents of South’s students.
Sophomore Rebecca Shapiro exalts the range of theatrical elements apparent in Vaudeville’s style of entertainment, noting the “plenty of variety in our acts- there [are] comedic skits, songs, dances, gymnastics, and just about everything that could be put into a show.  
Though sporting a primarily younger cast, the show proved no less competent or engaging. The acts were peppered with clever, sometimes off-color jokes; the audience was certainly never bored.
With tones ranging from serious to comedic, acts from stunts to dances, there’s really no way to describe Vaudeville except as an amalgam of thoroughly entertaining sketches.
The show opened with the entire cast on stage, in all their costumes. “Another Openin’, Another Show, they sang, shedding light on the thoughts of performers of such vaudeville shows.
Comedic skits were plenty, even incorporating some Jewish jokes geared towards the particular audience from Newton. The announcer, “Master of Ceremonies sophomore Zoe Clayton cracked constant jokes, keeping the audience entertained throughout. Though many of these jokes, as well as others during the acts, were cringe-worthily corny, they were perfect for the show and added a great touch to the whole experience.
Unique performances included sophomore Leyah Melikian’s rhythmic gymnastics routine, with flips and ribbons. Along with junior Annie Humphrey who delighted with a gymnastics routine, the two went on later in the show to pursue an interconnected plot between their acts, with a sharp and cutting brawl between best friends.
Sophomore Raphael Kasobel amazed the crowd with his impressive command over knives, even if they were fake ones. A combination of knife spinning and a light show, it was certainly a highlight.
Sophomore Emily Ho added some ethnic variety to the acts with a Chinese dance, “A Rose for You.
Even oddities of nature were not too weird for Vaudeville. Sophomore Hayley Goldstein and Junior Charlotte Cohen played Siamese twins in “Two Peas in a Pod, a delightfully witty number that highlighted the strained relations such closeness can bring.
Musical numbers were many. Sophomores Samantha Boucher and Alex Conrad each sang beautiful solos, “My Funny Valentine and “My Man, respectively, adding a more serious tone.
Even the musical accompanist, junior Josh Harlow, got his own solo number, playing some cool jazz piano.
South Stage Vaudeville clearly lived up to the historical style of vaudevilles, and at the same time put on an enjoyable show for the modern South audience.
This year, South Stage’s decision to do a Vaudeville show means that it would replace South’s previously annual improv show and cabaret.
“South Stage Vaudeville is a combination of the previous year’s improv show and cabaret. Variety was the key to successful vaudeville shows. Producers would line up all kinds of performers from singers and actors to acrobats and animal acts.  Comedians and novelty acts were especially big draws, Knoedler said. 
According to Knoedler, the first production slot, normally held by the improv show, is better suited for a variety show. Improv, which requires a native wit, intimidates some South actors.
“For this first production slot, we need a show that has flexible casting and can be successful with an abbreviated rehearsal process. Our improv show fits this description, but since some actors are scared of improv, we weren’t getting the interest levels we needed to cast it well, Knoedler said. 
“A variety show like Vaudeville seems like a perfect solution: actors can work on their scripted pieces or songs independently over the summer and can begin rehearsals on the first day of school with the bulk of the work already in place, Knoedler said.
Even the auditions were a grab bag of performance styles. “There was a monologue audition for acting, an audition for a singing part, and a dancing part audition, too. To prepare for the show, we were given our scripts and songs over the summer to practice and memorize our lines before school started, Shapiro said. 
And, although Vaudeville was the first show of the year, Shapiro noted that students were neither anxious nor nervous about the performance. 
“I don’t think it’s more stressful because it’s the first show of the year, I think it’s more because of school just starting, so it’s difficult to balance getting used to new classes and getting work done and focusing on the show at the same time, Shapiro said.    
Since Vaudeville is a mix of comedy, music, and dance, the show developed over the course of several scenes, many of which were not related.  
“Most of the scenes aren’t related, but a few are, just by the characters in them. There are two actors playing a married couple, and they’re in multiple scenes together, though not all of the scenes are directly related besides the people in them, Shapiro said.
Ultimately, Vaudeville was certainly a success. “South Stage Vaudeville aims to take the audience back in time to 1920 with costumes and comedy sketches from the period and songs in the style of vaudeville. With an evening of song, dance, and comedy, there [was] something for everyone, Knoedler said.

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