With a legacy of comedy acts, performance art and musical numbers, the Empire Revue brings something different to the stage each month. Now, after ten years of performing, the troupe has fond memories of the past and a lot of big plans for the upcoming year.
Keith Munslow, who serves as the director, host and producer of the Empire Revue, says that the show began with a vision of an upbeat, monthly variety show. Within that vision, he and Nicky Mariani, a fellow producer and the show’s stage manager, ensure that each performance is unique. “We try to create a variety in tone, style and the types of pieces we present,” says Nicky.
In addition to the rotating guest acts, the Empire Revue features a comedy troupe and band, which Keith describes as the “anchors” of the show. The band, Superchief Trio, has contributed over 100 grand closing numbers, and the Sparkling Beatniks comedy troupe is the heart of the performance. Together, with only four rehearsals, the troupe not only performs, but writes new songs and skits each month.
Through the years, the show has celebrated many successful sketches, such as the “It Has to Be Me” power ballad detailing one tetrapod’s decision to walk on land and the reincarnation scene in which a man goes through choices for his next life. However, not all of the scenes have been hits, and Keith says they learned early on to stay away from subjects like politics and death. Rather than being informed by current events, he says the show is more about the human condition.
The audience also has a part to play in a pre-show inspired by the Neo-Futurists, an experimental theatre troup based out of Chicago. “We want people to feel engaged and energized when they come in,” says Keith. “They get to interact with the actors, and it’s definitely a fourth wall down kind of thing.” In the past, audiences have participated by taking dips in kiddie pools full of snow, eating nachos and walking a red carpet.
To fuel the fire of inspiration, Nicky and Keith began using themes. In 2017, audiences can look forward to themes including the breakfast show, the supernatural show and the ‘60s show. The troupe will also kick off 2017 with a party animal-themed bash called Revue Year’s Eve, which will last late into the night.
Looking towards the future, Keith and Nicky would like to see their audience expand. They are also hoping to increase their repertoire by performing more musicals. “The musicals we have done are really near and dear to my heart,” says Keith. He would love to see the troupe do a run of a new musical, though that may take time and some experimenting.
Both Nicky and Keith agreed that while performing is one of the best parts of Empire Revue, they hope that their work will reflect a sense of camaraderie. “When theatre is at its best, it’s about community,” says Keith. “We can all come together in one place, experience a thing, laugh and have joy.”
AS220, 115 Empire Street
Revue Year’s Eve show on December 31, all other shows the first Sunday of the month
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