Cross-dressing hosts. Floozies with hula hoops. Two nearly naked men jumping in sync to Method Man’s “Release Yo’Self.” You can’t call it The Variety Show without holding true to the name. But this crazed collection of short dance-theater pieces benefits from the touch of star choreographers—Spectrum Dance’s Donald Byrd and Seattle Dance Project’s Timothy Lynch among them—and two beloved emcees, Cherdonna and Lou. It’s a hypnotic circus of cabaret and clowning, Euro disco and somber solos.
But the fun starts with the Cherdonna and Lou show, whose appearances are fleeting but memorable. Lou, rocking a gold pantsuit and George Michael scruff, plays a tiny piano as Amazonian Cherdonna—a blonde Frankenfurter in a skin-tight leotard—perches on top, singing “I Can’t Make You Love Me.” They bring the laughs, while pieces like Lola, featuring Kylie Lewallen, show a darker fury, the agony of lust. Lewallen plays the sorceress, placing a Bellatrix-style Cruciatus Curse on three men who writhe about in pain on the floor. It’s hard to look talented while playing the tortured soul; these guys pull it off.
And then there are those hula-hooping floozies: three dames in lingerie, garters and feathers trying to impress judge Tim Lynch with their less-than-stellar hula hooping. Donald Byrd directs their slow seduction, and sets it to Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s “Alabama Song.” Like the rest of the show, this piece embraces the unconventional, and gives some very talented dancers the opportunity to let loose—even forgoing the traditional curtain call to flail about the stage, with a skip and a twirl.
The Variety Show, a collaboration by Spectrum Dance Theater, Seattle Dance Project, and ACT’s Central Heating Lab, is on at ACT Apr 28–30, and then at Spectrum Dance Theater Studio May 6 & 7.