Theatre review: Vinyl Vaudeville is high-energy entertainment that could benefit from a story

With a name like Vinyl Vaudeville you’d better be cool and with a show that is anchored by a duo called the Pogo Dudes, that is exactly what is delivered.  But for all the fun among the aerialists, unicyclist, pole dancer, music and comedy, what Vinyl Vaudeville could really use is a story.

DynaMike and Eden Cheung perform in Vinyl VaudevilleA self-described throwback to those turn-of-the-century variety shows that existed long before televised talent competitions, Vinyl Vaudeville serves up a range of acts sandwiched between dinner (optional) and dancing to The Vinyls Band (again, optional).

Along with its more physical offerings it was humour that ultimately won out the night for me.  In Eden Cheung’s magic show his tricks may not have been particularly original but were delivered with a seasoned ease and quick wit and DynaMike performs a very funny comedy routine atop a unicycle and in his interactions with people plucked from the audience.

Among the more physical acts, Paz and Leah of Equilibrium Circus were graceful and daring as they performed in the rafters on the trapeze and Sylvia Louis shows off great flexibility and strength in her hoop above the stage floor.  The high-energy ending with the Pogo Dudes left us with little doubt as why they hold eight world records.  Unfortunately not everything came off without a hitch on opening night.  The opening night “drunk” who performs atop four stacked chairs was derivative and as Cheung swapped his magic wand for ladder he would have easily been buzzed away by that grumpy Brit on America’s Got Talent.

For all of its strengths though, what Vinyl Vaudeville is missing the most is a story.  For anyone that has seen similar shows like the long-running Teatro ZinZanni in Seattle or the more recent Absinthe in Las Vegas, the ingredients are the same but where they excel is in telling a story that connects it all together.  At the very least, as the show’s de facto MC, the show’s band leader needs to have his patter down perfectly.

The cavernous space of Granville Island’s Performance Works is both a blessing and a curse.  A great location as it provides the space necessary for the larger acts and aerialists to perform, it also distances the audience from some of the smaller acts like the magician and pole dancer.

This is a unique show among the more traditional theatrical offerings happening around town and with Valentine’s Day upon us it would make a great alternative to over-priced flowers and those calorie laden chocolates.

3 1/2 of 5 Stars Vinyl Vaudeville

At Performace Works on Granville Island through February 18, 2012.  Visit http://www.vinylvaudeville.com for tickets and information.

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