Song & Stageuncategorized

Burlesque Comes to Vail-Leavitt

This Saturday, December 1, the historic 131-year-old Vail-Leavitt Music Hall in Riverhead will return to its early years, when vaudeville was king and Saturday nights were reserved for good music, pretty dancing girls, magicians and the occasional sword swallower. “Mondo Vaude” moves in for one night only, featuring live music by the Moto-Wrays and Sunnyland Jazz Band and authentic Coney Island sideshow acts by the New York All-Stars.

Adam Realman, the emcee and head performer for the All-Stars, just won Act of the Year at a convention in the Poconos, says, “This theater is truly where this show belongs.” As a kid from Coney Island he grew up excitedly watching the sideshow. “We’ve taken something that had a foot-and-a-half in the grave and are bringing it to the masses. I would guarantee that most people have never seen a live sword swallower. At this point it’s almost a
dying art.”

But thanks to producers Bob Barta and Chris Jones, it’s alive and kicking this weekend. “I was in a local bagel shop and saw Chris,” Barta says. Jones and Barta knew each other from the jazz scene years back. Barta has been the Sunnyland Jazz Band banjo player and vocalist for over 20 years, and he manages the Vail-Leavitt. Jones is a musician and music producer whose work has been heard on such shows and commercials as Dexter, Big Love, Sopranos, Nightline, 20-20, McDonalds, Adidas and Nissan. “Chris had just recently moved back to Mattituck and we talked about doing something together.”

“I wanted to get back into producing shows,” says Jones, “…and wanted something that was more immediate and accessible to the public. The venue is really what locked it in for me…To be able to put this show on in a place that actually had vaudeville in its day was a slam-dunk.”

Barta explains that the variety show format allows for flexibility. “Its an underappreciated art… The magician has a degree in theater arts from Carnegie Mellon. You don’t think of burlesque and vaudeville as serious entertainment, but it is.” And there is tremendous electricity (especially for this show!) and immediacy to the live performance.

“In the old days,” says Barta, “The acts would come to the theater and do a dry run, come back and do the dress rehearsal, and then make it happen that night. We are doing it the same way. There is a freshness and excitement coming from the group.”

Like many downtowns, Riverhead has been hurt by the development of strip malls and big box stores. “I love Riverhead,” says Jones, “I believe in the mission of building up downtown.”

“We need to help create a presence,” Barta says. “A historic theater with a burlesque show is something that hasn’t been done.”

And it wouldn’t be burlesque without “burly-q” girls. Little Brooklyn and Creamy Stevens are multi-award winning burlesque performers. Both have made their mark through an ingenious blend of artistic interpretation, humor and wild-minded creativity, along with a healthy respect for the classic tease-styles of bygone decades. Emcee Adam Realman, a graduate and teacher of Coney Island USA’s Sideshow School is one of the premier sideshow acts in New York City. A little bit Borscht Belt, he has great audience rapport and a knack for the bizarre. His associate, the multi-talented Kryssy Kocktail, stars as sword swallower and blade box girl. And Cardone the Magician has been seen on Fox 5 News, Good Day New York and Wonderground Las Vegas, amazing audiences with his ventriloquism, escape artistry, mind-reading and humor.

Intermission will feature real old-time burlesque films prepared by Joe Lauro of Historic Films along with wine or beer.

“The entire show is really groundbreaking for Long Island. We are so excited about this,“ says Jones. “Magic, sideshow, girls, music, and that theater. We are playing hits songs from 100 years ago—what’s not to like?”


8 p.m. at the Vail-Leavitt, 18 Peconic Ave., Riverhead. Advance tickets $39 website/$44 at the door No one under 17 admitted.


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