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Extra Long Laughs

May 6, 2015

BedlamExplosivoXXLVarietyHour@ZJU_PostcardBestZombie Joe’s Underground Theatre breathes life into the much needed Cabaret Variety genre in Los Angeles.

Bedlam Explosivo starts with a Pre-opening piece. Jennifer Chun provides a moving cello piece. While she plays other Players go through odd, and funny mix of pre-show rituals, and surreal weirdness. In the balcony window for instance, a silent man seems hypnotized by the goings on. He responds most to music, but movement and speech stir him as well. His mannerisms seem almost alien, similar to that of the fey, wandering upon humans at play. He seeks to seduce the humans, but is himself seduced much more by them.BedlamExplosivoVarietyHour@ZJU_PHOTO-5

The show begins with blackness, a voice booms, warning us we are in for quite a show. As the lights rise we are greeted with an opening musical number, both instrumental, and lyrical with the entire cast coming on stage. As each member enters they take up the song, and dance. This being a Cabaret there is much dance involved.

This is Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre, one shouldn’t expect a straight Cabaret, it’s full of their unique humour, and macabre mentality. The genre is all the more improved for this ZJU take on Cabaret.

Throughout the show there are several call backs, in skit, gags, and music. This is either the third or fourth show I’ve seen at ZJU since early winter that has used live instrumentals (aside from drum and piano). Guitar, woodwind, cello, in the past a violin. The musicians aren’t separate from the show, they are an integral part, they are characters, and they weave a thread through the shows they are in. In Bedlam Explosivo for instance, there is a French lilt to the music. The French lilt enhances the French atmosphere of many of the skits. Going back to French Cabaret, and the Diva status many of the performers are accused of having, an instrumentalist and a signer have it out mid performance. With a unique instrument, while another musicisian tries to remain professional.

BedlamExplosivoVarietyHour@ZJU_PHOTO-7_ScottMichaelThere is of course magic, preformed by Scott Michael, proper comedic magic. The jokes are as important as the magic. This includes well timed call backs to a previous trick. Call backs in magic, and in Cabaret reward the audience for paying attention. Seeing a pattern, learning to predict it, this cycle rewards our pleasure centers. This draws the audience in, endears them to the performer.

Being a variety show, saying too much about each piece would give away everything. I can say each bit adds to the whole of Bedlam Explosivo. I was laughing from start to finish. The atmosphere Zombie Joe’s creates feels like an old time Cabaret. They bring it to life with their macabre sense, their strange sense of humour. Chair dancers who can’t operate their chairs, Monks who dance for the audience. Every piece builds upon the other. Each may be full of different jokes, and gags but on the whole they fit a nebulous theme. One that is hard to put your finger on, but a theme that is clearly at home at Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre.

If we are lucky, this show will receive an extension. If we are very lucky, it will become a regular variety show, playing throughout the year, changing up the bits and players throughout. LA needs more Cabaret, it needs more variety. We need to be able to say “What can we do tonight?” “Oh I hear there is a variety show at Zombie Joe’s every week.”. Cabaret allows writers, directors and actors to maintain that creative element, push for new things. It gives the audience a rewarding experience. If any Theatre Troupe has the chops to keep a variety hour going, it’s Zombie Joe’s.

BedlamExplosivoVarietyHour@ZJU_PHOTO-3

Bedlam Explozivo XXL Variety Hour runs Fridays at 11pm through May 8th.

For more information please visit www.zombiejoes.com

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