On Friday, July 20, three vastly different performers will share the bill at New Hampshire's Palace Theatre in Manchester to bring back the old-time Vaudeville feeling of variety entertainment, even if only for one night.
The show,branded“Vaudeville: Dragging Variety Performance into the 21st Century,” will be headlined by quirky standup comedian Emo Philips, along with award-winning blues troubadour Samuel James, and rock 'n' roll ventriloquist Carla Rhodes.
The show is presented in association with the 18th International Sons of the Desert Convention at the Radisson Hotel in Manchester Thursday through Sunday, July 19-22.
“I got this gig because of Laurel and Hardy,” said Philips, whose unique brand of comedy has yet to be duplicated in his nearly 30-year-career. “The bookers, Dave and Ali Stevenson, are also in charge of the convention. Dave andAlihavelongknownofmy love for Laurel & Hardy and have very kindly sent me, over the years, several DVDs featuring rare footage of the immortal silent film duo. ” The thought of performing in such a classic Vaudeville theater as the Palace Theatre, located on Hanover Street, is one that excites Philips, a true fan of vintage comedy.
“For me, no performing experience can surpass that of playing an old-time theater; not just for the atmosphere, but for the historical continuity,” he said.
“I've performed on stages graced by Stan Laurel, Buster Keaton, the Marx Brothers; I've played the Leeds Varieties, the only theater still standing in Great Britain that Chaplin played. I can't claim to have felt their spirits, for I am a man of science, but I once read that it is statistically probable thatItookintomylungsafewof their molecules, and that thought thrills me no end.”
From its construction in 1915 until 1930 the Palace Theatre thrived on touring Vaudeville acts such as Jimmy Durante, Bob Hope, Harry Houdini, The Marx Brothers and Red Skelton, according to a history of the hall at palacetheatre.org.
Now, this certainly isn't the first time Philips has played a show in Manchester, but regardless of how well it goes, it might not be the most memorable for him.
“I'll never forget the first time I got booked into Manchester,” said Philips. “My agent, who lived in New York City, kept repeating, 'Fly into Boston! It's super convenient. Fly into Boston! Fly into Boston!' So I flew into Boston, and a car pickedmeupandIrode,forwhat seemed like ages, to the comedy club, only to discover that it was across a field from Manchester's airport. Things were never quite thesamebetweenmeandmy agent after that.”
Philips over the years gained a following with a stage persona that featured a page-boy haircut and a wandering falsetto tone paired with a sense of wonderment and confusion in delivering jokes with seemingly unexpected endings. In addition to several comedy albums, he has made TV and film cameos.
Philips will be joined by two other performers, the first being the aforementioned James, a roots guitarist. James grew up in Maine but was the son of a West Coast jazz session musician who wished to raise his offspring with a knowledge of black history and culture. James, who will be releasing his fourth full-length album, entitled “And For the Dark Road Ahead” in the fall, believes that his songs are a contemporary version of an older type of music quite fitting for the show.
“I think I'll be a good fit because Ali and Dave fans of mine,” said the guitarist. “They've come up to some shows and they've seen my shows down there. It'll be nice to come down and do something that is close to home instead of touring far away in the summer, and being part of something that's unique and something that's bigger than standard entertainment than I'm used to.
“I'm louder than people usually expect and being underestimated inthatwayhashelpedmycareer,” he continued. “But I always get a good reception from the New Hampshire crowd. People are anxious to see the music and the type of music I play. It's exotic.”
And perhaps the most unique of the bunch is Rhodes, a Brooklyn product and Louisville native who combines comedy, ventriloquism, and music to create a one-of-akind show.
“I'm looking forward to getting out of the city, visiting New Hampshire for the first time, meeting some new people, and performing in such a gorgeous Vaudeville theater,” said Rhodes, who appeared with her puppet, Cecil Sinclair, in an episode of the TV series “30 Rock.” “My act is a modern take on ventriloquism. I have a backing band but Cecil was made in the 1920s in London. It's going to be really cool to do it in an original Vaudeville Palace and Emo is such a clever comedian. It's a good match.”
Tickets to the “Vaudeville: Dragging Variety Performance into the 21st Century” show at 8 p.m.
Friday, July 20, are $22.50. For more details, call the box office at 668-6688 or log onto palacetheatre.org.