Review: Der Vampyr

Dear Constant Reader,

This review has absolutely nothing to do with burlesque, but it is a local production that features a couple of folks that have been involved in Boston Babydoll shows.

Last week Mr. Scratch & I attended opening night of OperaHub‘s production of Der Vampyr at the BCA. It had a lot going for it: it was about vampires, the libretto was written by our friend John J. King, and it was free (well, they asked for a donation). As a bonus, the AD & fight choreographer was Joe Kidawski, who staged managed Madame Burlesque the first time around.

They kept much of the music and the rough plot, but “adapted” the libretto. That is, rewrote it completely, cramming it full of references to Dracula, Buffy, Dark Shadows, and Twilight, plus a bunch of other pop-culture jokes. After all, this is from the man who brought us the Shakespeare/James Bond mashup From Denmark With Love last year.

The script may be full of jokes, but the singers and orchestra are seriously good. And despite the lightness of the text, there’s a deep thread of feminism. The traditional passive vampire victim trope is turned on its head with independently-minded female characters (who are also strong sopranos). For example, Della Swann refuses attempts by both father and fiancé to control her destiny and feisty Muffy the Vampire Nay-Sayer chafes at being protected by Giles, despite her proven skill with hurling a stake.

Be aware that it’s long. It’s listed at two and a half hours with an intermission, but the theatre has, in Scratch’s words, 90 minute seats. I found that the vocal stylings sometimes made the clever lyrics unintelligible to my ear, but that’s a problem I have with opera in general. Perhaps someday the libretto will be available and I can see what I missed.

It’s at the BCA until Saturday and all performances are free (though you really should throw something into the hat). And pick up a hand-painted flask, made by the librettist himself.


Published in: on 25 June 2014 at 10:14 am  Leave a Comment  

Review: The Nance

Dear Constant Reader,

What a week it’s been! When the lockdown extended to Boston proper, Scratch and I were already on the road to NYC. We had tickets to see Nathan Lane in The Nance Friday night and, honestly, getting out of Boston didn’t seem like a bad idea.

I’m one of those polite people who turns off her phone the minute she takes her seat in the theatre. That night we were following the manhunt right up until the minute the house darkened. As soon as intermission started, we were back on line again to get the latest. What strange and frightening times.

Anyway, on to the show!

The Nance is the story of Chauncey Miles (Lane), a homosexual actor in 1937. He hides in plain site by performing in a burlesque show as a “nance”, a caricature of a mincing queen, flinging about double entendres and innuendo — similar to black performers working in blackface or Jewish comedians playing “Heeb” roles. I’m going to gloss over Chauncey’s story and focus on the burlesque part (as that is supposed to be why I write these little notes).

Much of the action occurs at the Irving Place theatre at the time Commissioner Moss and Mayor LaGuardia were attempting to eradicate burlesque from New York. And the show on “stage” is wonderful. We see classic burlesque comedy, like “Meet Me Round the Corner” and “Crazy House”, and iconic strip acts (usually only the beginning of it — this is Broadway, not actual burlesque) including a balloon pop and a half bride/half groom (that one was particularly exquisite). I was reminded again of the power of live music as the band punctuated both the bumps and the jokes.

The set was a fantastic 3 part turntable, with sets for Chauncy’s apartment, the stage at the Irving Place, and backstage at the theatre. One of my favorite moments came when the scene turned from a dancer on stage to the action backstage, but you could still see the dancer through the wing. After removing her gloves, she stormed backstage because the wardrobe mistress wasn’t in the wings to catch for her. This was just a little background action while the plot was going on center stage (that is, center stage on the backstage set), but some very nice business none the less.

It’s a very well-crafted play and an excellent portrayal of burlesque in the ’30’s. We found it very inspirational, especially some of the comedy. I don’t know how someone not as steeped in burlesque history would enjoy it. Nathan Lane is excellent, but all the acting was quite strong. I’m very glad we were able to see it.

And afterwards we had cheesecake at Lindy’s. Like you do.


Published in: on 22 April 2013 at 3:03 pm  Leave a Comment