Vaudeville is Taking Over Carnegie Hall!

naomi snieckus and matt baram in the carnegie hall show
photo by: mandy sellers
Have you ever wondered what it would have been like to attend an evening of Vaudeville, on one of the most prestigious circuits in New York circa about 1910? Have you ever wondered what this “vaudeville” thing was all about? Well, I’m pretty sure that Vaudeville is back with a vengeance in the guise of the National Theatre of the World’s The Carnegie Hall Show.
As reviewed last spring, The Carnegie Hall Show begins with an improvised retrospective of the greatest improvised scenes of all time, and thus the audience is treated to a myriad of comedians filling the stage, a plethora of witty banter and more often than not a pratfall from Chris Gibbs. Last Wednesday saw the brilliant improvisational talents of Naomi Snieckus, Kurt Smeaton, Kate Ashby, Carolyn Taylor and Chris Craddock. Filled with organic chemistry and precise comic timing, these improvised scenes caused hearty, continuous belly laughs as the cast paid homage to the trials, tribulations and virtues of the noodle.
Carnegie Hall was also catapulted headlong back to 1931 with Nick Babatsikos’ heartfelt rendition of the Yip Harburg/ Jay Gorney gem “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime” a song frequently sung by both Frank Sinatra and Al Jolson. Indeed, Babatsikos had a sort of Jolson quality to his performance that infused it with dynamism. It is sad that this classic Depression Era song has once again found such relevance in the modern world, but it is a haunting number which is not performed very often.
There was a little bit of Burlesque with Cleopatra and the Carnegie Hall Dancers who performed the sultry production number “Big Spender,” which certainly caused the boys in the audience to sit up and take notice. It also gave the room a certain Broadway-style energy, having so many dancers running about the Bread and Circus, fluttering with bits of costumes, music, and the last minute perfecting of their dance moves.
This was followed by the return of Snieckus, Smeaton, Ashby, Taylor and Craddock as they presented a live improvised radio play, which certainly harkened back to a simpler time. Once again, the audience was treated to much clowning around, the sweet sabotage of one another’s performances, and a delight in the absurd, the chaotic and the unknown. Carolyn Taylor was particularly hilarious as this week’s radio play director, who approached her duties very seriously and attempted to rule the Improv with an iron fist.
The evening finished off with a gosh-darn sing-along, a rousing rendition of “What A Wonderful World” that the audience was encouraged to lend both their voices and their interpretive lyrics to.
In pure Vaudeville style, The Carnegie Hall Show is always looking for new acts to incorporate their show, which plays at the Bread and Circus (299 Augusta Avenue) at 9:30pm each Wednesday evening. There is always a musical guest featured in the show, but they are also looking for a variety of different acts to be showcased between the improvised sets. I cannot wait for these variety acts to come in droves and for us to be treated to buskers, magicians, fire-breathers, gymnasts, dancing of all kinds, clowning and a guy with a monkey!
Vaudeville is back; who would have ever imagined that it would reemerge from that cathedral of legitimacy– Carnegie Hall?
I hope the Bread and Circus is licensed for livestock!

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