1st Vaudeville Spectacular celebrates American music and comedy
Rick Kissinger hopes the spirit of vaudeville will attract a new audience with a special performance this week at Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. Which is really just a fancy way of saying the professional musician hopes ‘An American Vaudeville Spectacular’ will keep people laughing as they enjoy good music, comedy and even puppetry on his modern variety show. .
“It’s Lawrence Welk meets ‘The Muppet Show’ meets ‘The Carol Burnett Show,'” Kissinger said. He will lead the 35 members LCO big band across a variety of musical genres – Broadway, jazz, orchestral pop, Latin, klezmer.
It also promises slapstick and a bit of burlesque – imagine the Gypsy Rose Lee variety, all about teasing, without taking it all off. “No nudity, no tassels,” Kissinger said with a laugh.
On the one hand, he wants the program to be accessible to all ages, like the old family variety shows.
“It concerns all generations. We’ve included things that are of interest to younger people,” he said before giving some hints: “Who doesn’t like a good piece of ‘Star Wars’ or ‘Harry Potter’?
He knows young people may not even be familiar with the term “vaudeville,” the mix of song, dance, comedy and specialty acts that made up popular entertainment in the early 1900s. But he thinks the beat fast format is ideal for those times of short attention span.
“We wanted to offer something unique,” he said, “and something that gives you the opportunity to surf the channels.”
If this first show is a success, Kissinger hopes to make it an annual appointment with a different program each year.
Kissinger’s LCO has been around since 2002 and offers a variety of sets for wedding receptions, corporate meetings and other special events. Kissinger and his musicians are a mix of music teachers and performers with years of experience at Orlando’s theme parks, including the annual Candlelight Processional Orchestra at Walt Disney World’s Epcot.
The theme park experience meant Kissinger wanted to create a show in which patrons were encouraged to laugh and otherwise react more vocally than they would in a more formal orchestral concert.
“Having been a Disney musician, part of the show engages and involves the audience,” he said.
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Guest artists will join the lead musicians, including Florida-based singers Shelley Keelor and Michael Scott Ross. Oh yeah, also look for a puppet as a guest vocalist on a “Phantom of the Opera” number. (Is that reminiscent of “The Muppet Show” or what?)
Clarinetist Adrian Huertas will also be soloing, as will trumpeter Nicole Sasser, who plays those extra-long herald trumpets in the Candlelight Processional. She’s starred on her own show on cruise ships and “is pretty comedic herself,” Kissinger said.
He’ll also wear multiple hats, putting down his conductor’s baton to pick up his instrument for a number or two.
“I’m going to start honking myself,” he joked.
To emphasize the event’s informality and ode to the Roaring Twenties, performers will wear period clothing instead of tuxedos or basic musician black. Kissinger, who describes himself as a history buff, plans to dress like an old-fashioned newsboy.
“I’m so excited,” he said. “I’m like a 40-year-old kid, I’m so excited.”
- Where: Pugh Theater at the Dr. Phillips Center, 445 S. Magnolia Ave. in Orlando
- When: 7:30 p.m. July 2
- Cost: $65 and up
- Information: drphillipscenter.org
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