Acrobatics dazzle, story rather lifeless in ‘Theatre of the Vampires’
Scantily clad performers committed great feats of agility and courage some 20 feet above the heads of the audience in Boulder’s Frequent Flyers’ production of “Theatre of the Vampires” on Thursday night at the Mackey Auditorium.
Between ethereal dance numbers ripe with burlesque, a thin plot developed. Apart from a few memorable one-liners, it was by and large the dancing, and not the acting, that made Thursday night’s performance.
The first thing audience members could see as they approached the auditorium leading up to curtain time was what appeared to be a funeral pyre firelight seemingly hovering some six feet in the air. Upon drawing nearer, one could make out that the flames were mounted atop a long black hearse with steel bat wings sprouting from the roof, a grid work of iron bars across the back windows and twin rifles mounted on the hood.
All manner of creatures of the night were milling around, some resembling vampires, some punk rockers of old and many blurring the line between.
The cathedral-like facade of the auditorium, half shrouded in shadow, struck the eye as a logical housing for the “Theatre of Vampires.” Sultry vixens wearing white face paint exchanged pleasantries with vampire Elvis, who could be seen escorting the corpse of Marilyn Monroe down the isle.
As the 8 p.m. curtain time drew near, Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” echoed through the two-thirds-full house.
The show opened with the approach of a female reporter toward the stage from the back of the house. There was a hunched figure sweeping the stage in front of the curtain, and the reporter tried unsuccessfully to communicate with him, before turning to the audience and delivering an aside pregnant with clichés.
At the height of the speech, the hunched figure on stage threw off his cape, revealing himself to be the smooth-talking vampire emcee of the company, Pierre Jean-Pierre St. Pierre. In a few minutes of impotent dialogue between the two, the stage was set for the night’s performance.
Swirling, ambient music played on and on and fog billowed down from the stage into the house. Dancers in tight leather and mesh climbed up and down ropes, swung from trapezes, made nonsensical hand gestures and emulated intercourse all across the stage. It was all very pleasing to the eye, which took in strange, fantastical images flying high above the stage.
The mind behind the eye, however, was hard put to make any sort of sense out of what was happening up there.
Dance steps and acrobatics, at first sight breathtaking, quickly became redundant.
The pace picked up considerably for the closing number of the first act with an evil, howling rendition of the old blues classic “I Put a Spell in You.”
Stilt walkers took to the trapeze for a genuine piece of visual candy. As the music tightened, so did the dance steps. It all culminated with the reporter, no longer a mere spectator but now a dazed participant in the dance, fainting and falling to the floor. Then the curtain fell and the reporter laid there on stage through the 20 minute intermission and into the second act.
It was in the second act that the show hit its stride.
Much more structured than the first, it recalled a performance in a vaudeville house. The act was complete with singers dressed in drag, tight musical numbers and innuendos.
The first dance number of the act featured a pair of “sexy sirens” chasing each other around in a swinging coffin to an eerie version of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.” The audience delighted.
Other high points included a startling dance by a victim in a blood-covered dress and a number that featured twirling red umbrellas and skeleton masks bobbing energetically to “When the Saints Go Marching In.”
After this, the show seemed to lose its steam again.
It began to take on a jerkier pace, with unnatural interruptions in the singing and dancing for spotty, lackluster acting. A somewhat serious-toned false ending to the show in which the reporter decided to join the vampires seemed lashed on. The juxtaposition created by following this ending with a performance to “The Monster Mash” fizzled any feeling the leading actors might have created.
All in all, the show was visually stunning. The dances were suggestive and the costumes delighted, if at times scandalous. The low quality of the acting did not bother too much.
Contact Campus Press staff writer Andrew Frankel at firstname.lastname@example.org