Thursday, September 23, 2010

Vaudeville at the Alex Theatre

Alexvaud1Last Sunday, the Alex Film Society presented Vaudeville Returns! at the Alex Theatre and the Brother and I headed over to Glendale to catch the show.

The Alex was originally built as a vaudeville house.  It has been beautifully restored and is now used for a variety of events and screenings.  Our previous (and first) trip to the Alex was in February when they screened Psycho on the big screen.

The show started with five live acts, ranging from music, juggling and hula-hooping to mind-reading, all with lots of comedy.  We even had a card girl who came out between acts to reveal the next act.  My personal favorite was comedian Dana Daniels and his unflappable co-star Luigi, a psychic parrot.  Yes, psychic parrot.  Judging from the level of applause all the acts got when they came out for their final bows prior to intermission, I wasn't the only one who held that opinion.  All of the act were terrific in their own ways.

After the intermission, a quartet of shorts was screened.  We got a Hearst Metrotone Newsreel, which featured Adolph Hitler violating the Treaty of Versailles by sending the German military into an area annexed from Germany by the treaty, setting up the uncomfortable possibility that the "War to end all Wars" - World War I - might not be the last war after all.  It was kind of eerie, knowing what lay ahead for the people who sat in a theater and watched that newsreel so long ago.

One of the other news stories came out of nearby Montrose, which initially made the locals happy, but it was about new (at the time) firefighting techniques.  Too soon after the Station Fire, guys.
There was a rather bizarre Dave Fleischer cartoon that had the Mills Brothers dropped in the middle of it, performing a "follow the bouncing ball" sing-a-long.  The song had nothing to do with the cartoon, but it was still a neat song and the vocals were beautiful.  With the exception on one guitar, there were no instruments, just the brothers' voices, and it sounded like you were listening to a full band.  This was a trademark of their act.

The Our Gang short had the kids attempting a performance of Romeo and Juliet in which everything predictably went awry.  Featuring Alfalfa, Spanky, Buckwheat and Darla, the kids are so young here that you have to marvel at their comfort level in front of the camera.  It reminded me of the origin of Our Gang (aka The Little Rascals), when Hal Roach was distracted by a pretentious performing child auditioning in his office by a bunch of normal - and much more interesting - children playing outside his window.  They were just kids being kids.

The day wrapped up with Laurel & Hardy's Hog Wild.  Oliver Hardy's battleax of a wife insists he set up a radio antenna on the roof.  Stan Laurel shows up and Hardy enlists his help, or more accurately, "help".  Everything that can go wrong, does go wrong, with the Hardy's roof and Laurel's car among the many casualties.

The vaudeville show is an annual event at the Alex and I highly recommend it the next time it comes around.  The Brother and I had a lot of laughs, and we were also pleasantly surprised at how many kids were in attendance and actually enjoyed the show.  In addition, the theatre itself is a sight to see.  The following were taken with my Crackberry and don't do the place justice, but you get a general idea of how beautiful the Alex is and how meticulously it was restored.  It's also in the Americana at Brand area, so there are a lot of places to go for dinner, drinks or coffee before and after the show.


Alex TheatreAlex Film SocietyAlex Theatre on WikipediaIan Whitcomb - Ian Whitcomb on Wikipedia - Jeffrey DaymontThe Amazing Bornstein ExperimentMat PlendlDana Daniels - Hearst Metrotone NewsOur Gang on WikipediaWhen Yuba Plays the Rhumba on the Tuba on imdb - The Mills Brothers on Wikipedia - Hog Wild on imdb

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