Kids today. You're lucky if you can pry their attention away from the television, computer, tablet or phone. It would take a miracle to get them to sit through a musical, let alone a show where spoken words are scarce and the real delights are visuals, tricks and physicality. If you want to show your child (or your own inner child) the wonders beyond digital screens, then Do Jump!'s new show Ahhh HA! at the New Victory Theatre is the ticket to old-fashioned physical comedy, vaudevillian acts and circus entertainment with 21st century style and whimsical design.
The fun starts before the performance technically even begins with laid-back pre-show entertainment, including fanciful tap dancing. As the show starts, a delivery person (Lindsay Fischer) wanders down the aisle looking for someone named "YOU," the recipient of a curious oversized parcel. In between her search, we meet seemingly everyday street artists, passersby, and audience members who spring to life out of their ordinary roles and into larger-than-life performers onstage: dancers, "actorbats" (a term coined by the company), aerialists and jugglers, all of whom bring surprises that delight audience members. Vaudevillian and circus-inspired acts are re-imagined and as fresh as if this was the first stop on the old Orpheum circuit or circus tour. Instead of a soft-shoe number, a dancing duo shows off the Brazilian martial art-dance form of capoeira, and later, a Laurel-and-Hardy-like comedic pair performs a silly routine full of sound effects. Tipping their hat to circus entertainment, there is a contortionist as well as two delightful jugglers (Curtis Carlyle and Mike Mesa) who astound the audience with tricks, especially when using the lesser-known juggler's prop, the diabolo.
These reinvented old-school acts capitalize on a few of the production's strengths to display wonderful vivacity and playfulness that captivates young and old. The cast is all-around strong, with the Do Jump! company members providing the most natural and uninhibited performances. One stand-out is Yoji Hall, who delights the audience with his unabashed, joyous antics. Additionally, almost every silly sketch is accompanied by the Afro-Hebrew trio Klezmocracy, who provide upbeat, funky music. Above all, most acts use Do Jump!'s unique physical performance approach, and their best skits are those that let this shine, especially a clownish skit with a ladder and their goofy finale number.
Of course, not all numbers are so comical. One aerialist (Shersten Finley) has a mesmorizing number where she deftly climbs and twirls using silks. The blue lighting and New Age music make it a calming, ethereal piece and is a relaxing break between all the giggling and belly-laughing in other acts. Another number entitlted "Peace Window" is an absolutely breathtaking work with six aerialists on a rope lattice. Watching their synchronized movements to Conspirare's choral music is an almost religious experience not to be missed.
Each act is the perfect length for the kids in the crowd, totalling to just under 75 intermission-less minutes. Plus, back-to-back numbers are never the same medium, which is an especially nice format for young audience members used to frenetic cartoons, video games or texting. Ahhh HA! is the perfect show for you and your loved ones to rediscover the wonderful time-honored vaudevillian and circus traditions and Do Jump!'s delightfully inventive show is sure to be a hit.
Photo credit: Stephanie Berger