The Lansing Unionized Vaudeville Spectacle, a old time music-inspired performance art group, performs at the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies at the Grand Rapids Public Arts Museum in September. The group presents its annual holiday show this weekend.
Courtesy Photo

Some holiday enthusiasts start unpacking the Christmas ornaments and breaking out their holiday records as soon as Thanksgiving’s leftovers are in the fridge. The Lansing Unionized Vaudeville Spectacle, however, starting planning for the season when temperatures were still in the 80s.

"The holiday show is its own enterprise," said manager and performer Lindsay Gluf Magar. "We start working on in it September. It takes months to put together."

Founded in 2011 by Dylan Rogers, the musical group specializes in vaudeville-style performance with elements drawn from what Rogers describes as "fringe performance art." The group’s shows feature everything from strong man acts to standup comedy to puppetry. This year is the group’s fourth annual holiday show.

"The holiday show is a little different from what we do throughout the rest of the year," Rogers said. While the holiday show includes many of the band's usual antics — and a few familiar characters from past years — the group hopes to step up its game in a few key areas.

"We have a great puppeteer who has built and designed a large-scale puppet that's going to help us narrate our show," said Rogers.

"Dylan wrote an original tune that will be debuting during this show," added Gluf Magar. "We're upping our sketch comedy game this time around. Dr. Dan will be returning with his crazy experiments that never quite go right."

And of course, there's holiday music. The group presents its own vaudevillian take on classic tunes, with swinging arrangements that draw influence from Americana, blues and gypsy jazz.

This year’s concert also features a new element, which was constructed by Rogers and his wife, Jeana-Dee Allen. The duo put together a cantastoria, which is a storytelling tradition that features a singer narrating a story, accompanied by illustrations rolling by on a long banner wrapped around two crank shafts. The practice, which would typically take place on public streets, dates back centuries.

"It's a really fun micro-theatrical thing," Rogers said. "We like to incorporate elements of street performance in our shows."

Rogers and Allen are also owners and operators of the Robin Theatre, where the holiday show is being held.

“It’s exciting for us to have the chance to perform at our home venue,” said Rogers. “We really designed the theater from a performance art background. The beautiful theater curtain, the blacked out stage, the decorative elements — I think all of that makes a perfect environment for the show.”

With months of preparations and the ideal venue, Lansing Unionized Vaudeville Spectacle is hoping to pack the theater all weekend. The Friday night show sold out two weeks ago, and the Saturday evening show is also sold out. A Sunday matinee was added to accommodate interest.

“We’re excited that it’s now part of people’s holiday traditions,” Gluf Magar said. “It’s a charming, magical, hour-and-a-half journey with twists and turns, and we hope that we somehow add some joy to your holidays.”

Lansing Unionized Vaudeville Spectacle’s fourth annual Holiday Show

7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 16; 2:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 17; 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 18
The Robin Theatre
1105 S. Washington Ave., Lansing