Handsome Little Devils in Squirm Burpee Circus (New Victory in NY, Nov 12-28)
I saw the Denver based Handsome Little Devils production Squirm Burpee Circus on the Saturday matinee at the New Victory Theatre . If you don’t know about the New Victory, you probably should — they are a beautifully restored off-broadway theatre (that is actually at 42nd and 7nth Ave, in the heart of Times Square) that specializes in presenting theatre for kids. Their seasons are almost always filled with great stuff from around the country and the world, and they do a great job of selecting really polished and wonderful shows.
DISCLOSURE: I received complimentary tickets from the theatre in hopes that I would write about it. Since I only write about things I really like or really hate– they are in luck! I promise you that the free tickets have not clouded my opinion about the show. Also, they are supposed to send me some hot press photos. When they do, I’ll add them as another post. These photos are cribbed off the Internet from the New Victory website, or from the Handsome Little Devils website (see below)
Squirm Burpee Circus is a fun and funny show- the sets and costume design are beautiful, the juggling and circus skills are impressive, the villain is dastardly, and the story keeps moving along. The show is heavily influenced by a number of different influences– I detected cartoons, the 1920’s Jazz Age, the steampunk Victorian movement, a heavy dollop of Melodrama, and just a tinge of Burlesque. (I’m guessing they’ve done a fair amount of more adult shows as well, and I think during those shows they might show a little bit more skin. ) This show was decidely in the G category.
The basic story is that the villain, mustachio’d Baron Vegan Von Hamburger has taken a dislike to the Handsome Little Devils– Handsome Mike and Dashing Dave, two twin brothers who have a circus entitled Squirm Burpee. Into the mix comes the lovely Lolo– Handsome Mike’s new assistant, and (unbeknownst to him) his long-lost childhood love. The Baron tries a number of different ways to end the HLD’s– but his plots always seem to fail. At the end of the show there is a Revelation (capital R) and that sets the story right.
There were lots of things that were absolutely right about this show– their set and prop design were spectacular, with very cool Victorian looking contraptions and bicycles, steamer trunks, and costumes. (Apparently, they utilized a kickstarter campaign to upgrade some of these items for the run at the New Vic) The costume and character design also rocked– the mustachio’d Baron was perfectly dressed, as were the Handsome brothers. During the course of the show, two or three telegrams were delivered, and they were always delivered by a character who held up a simple “bobby” mask over their face– this stratagem worked perfectly, and was amazingly effective.
I’ll also send out props to the juggling bits, especially the threeway plate juggling. You occasionally see plate juggling, but rarely a really great passing plate juggle. I was impressed. I was also impressed by the two audience volunteer moments– the performers really handled their charges well. And there was a very nicely done movie segment in the middle– it really added an extra element to the show.
There were two songs for Lolo that could have been cut– I felt they were finely done, but just not necessary in this show. As well, there was one moment that I felt wasn’t played properly. (not to ruin anything, but the Baron gets shot out of a cannon and then ends up as a filmic element for a bit. His transition into the filmic element was great, but they didn’t quite deal with his getting out of the film — I would have loved it if they could have dropped him from the film and then he appeared in real life. A quibble mostly.)
I read in their promo materials that the New Victory actually asked them to change the ending (they usually end up juggling chainsaws, bowling balls and eggs) and they did it in order to make it onto the stage. Not sure if that was the right call, although the ending was pretty nice anyways.
Overall, I highly recommend this show at the New Victory, or any where else you get a chance to see it.
Here’s a little promo video: