With so much sadness, tragedy and a certain bouffanted orange man’s rants filling up our world today, couldn’t we all use a break? I can think of no better way to escape during these stressful times than through the performing arts. I’m a vintage girl at heart and I always wish that I could visit different time periods even for one day. After seeing Moxie: A Happenstance Vaudeville, I feel like I got to travel back in time and travel in the history of vaudeville in the span of one show.
Vaudeville was a style of entertainment most popular in the late 19th and early 20th century. It featured songs, dance, music, humor, drama and eccentric specialty acts such as hypnotists and jugglers. Doesn’t that sound awesome? The Happenstance Theater family has managed to bring all of this roaring back to life at their show Moxie: A Happenstance Vaudeville. Each player, armed with enormous and versatile talents prove why we should bring Vaudeville back. (Did you hear me Broadway? Let the endless musical adaptations of rom-coms from the 90s end and bring back jugglers!) Moxie contains an eclectic mix of all that made vaudeville great. It’s true to say that you’ll laugh, you’ll experience some thoughtful moments and you’ll probably feel the urge to dramatically yank a tablecloth off of a table too. Or was that just me?
Happenstance Theater is one of my favorite things about living in the DC area. Mark Jaster can transform into any manner of beast or man and like the best clowns, his performance leaves you roaring with laughter or with a lump in your throat. Sabrina Mandell, who I’d like to be when I grow up, dazzles in her fearless commitment to performing as a little girl or regal actress. Karen Hansen, my favorite one-woman band, is as adept at winsome, hilarious performance as she is creating music. Gwen Grastorf’s commitment to character in Moxie will leave you cheering for her determination and delighting in her physical comedy skills. I adore Sarah Olmsted Thomas, like in an almost embarrassing way, but I can’t help it. Whether she’s playing the accordion (my favorite instrument), walking on stilts or being ethereally beautiful in a Follies-style costume, she’s just the tops! Alex Vernon always steals the show for me. This year I’m delighted to say that our son was so enthralled by his ventriloquism act that G actually said his first “w” sound! We’ve been working on that so hard, but he had resisted it, so apparently all he needed was a little theatrical encouragement. “Walt & Woody” stands out as one of my favorite bits and there have been many exclamations of “Woody!” in our house in the past two days.
Aside from the top-notch performances another impressive feature about Happenstance productions are technical elements. The lighting, the music, the props and sets all create an immersive world for the audience. Sabrina Mandell’s costume designs are range from wonderfully silly to elegant and sumptuous.
Moxie: A Happenstance Vaudeville is perfect for all ages and would serve as a great introduction to the performing arts. There’s literally something for everyone in this show and I would encourage you to get tickets now- don’t miss this show. To all who’ll be seeing Moxie soon, get ready for a show that’s the bee’s knees!
Kari Liked: Moxie: A Happenstance Vaudeville is sheer magic and I loved everything from the performances to the sets. I’m still dreaming about the beautiful costumes.
Kari Didn’t Like: I LOVED everything about Moxie.
I really love Happenstance Theater. Their showcase of classic performance skills is rarely seen on the stage today. Their works routinely show us the roots of what make theater great, back to a time before CGI and big explosions on screen made theater feel small. In so doing, they open up our experiences, and make theater feel big again. Moxie: A Happenstance Vaudeville is no exception. This visual history lesson takes us on a journey through Vaudeville, and shows us some of the craziest aspects of the acts on the circuits.
All of the different acts will impress you. If you enjoy Mark Jaster’s saw playing, you’re in for a real treat as it is featured several times as “Mr. Sawyer.” If you haven’t, prepare to be amazed because it is really a thing of wonder. It’s hard to say what the funniest thing I saw was, between an act with Mark dressed as a bear, Vlad & Olga (Jaster and Sabrina Mandell), the ventriloquist act of Walt (Alex Vernon) & Woody, Alex as “The Hypnotizing Man,” the waiters with their meatballs (Vernon and Gwen Grastorf) or so many others that rolled through the proscenium.
Don’t think this is just a comedic treat though. There’s lots of great music too. Music was a big part of Vaudeville, so it is a big part of Moxie: A Happenstance Vaudeville as well. Karen Hansen arranged and composed some great music for this show and the selections of classic songs were perfect. I loved “Baby Sister Blues” and “I’m Following You” (both sung on swings), “The Pussy Cat Rag,” “The Calcium Moon,” but my favorite musical performance was the beautiful harmonies of “Shine on Harvest Moon.”
I can’t say enough good things about this show. It wasn’t just educational to adults either. I’m happy to say that during Walt and Woody, our little G said his first “w” sound. He was fully entertained through the whole event, and loved it.
RJ Liked: Everything!
RJ Didn’t Like: That it had to end so soon. I could spend days seeing more acts from this wonderfully gifted cast!
You can learn more about Happenstance Theater by clicking here. Moxie: A Happenstance Vaudeville runs from June 24- July 17 at Round House Theatre. Click here to buy tickets and get more information about Round House Theatre.
(We received complimentary media tickets for this performance. All thoughts and opinions are own.)