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The wise showman knows how to appeal to a wide range of fans, but when you’re dealing with “the holidays” — that hot button, non-secular slush zone of unbridled joy, seasonal depression and cutthroat consumerism — things can get a little strange. So what’s a Lansing-based gypsy-folk-band/ performance troupe to do for a Christmas
show but dial up the strangeness? Just ask Dylan Rogers, front man and founder of the Lansing Unionized Vaudeville Spectacle.
This weekend, LUVS presents its 5th Annual Holiday Show at its home base in REO Town, the Robin Theatre. Promising “equal parts snark and sincerity,” this year’s show continues its blend of inventive vaudeville-era songs, puppets, short skits, dances and sing-alongs. The first four shows quickly sold out, as they did last year, but today the band announced a fifth show to appeal to all those last-minute shoppers out there.
This year’s iteration has a Dickensian theme providing a storyline throughout the evening. It will all be performed by the smaller version of LUVS, which is less than half the size it was in its 16-piece heyday four years ago. We caught up with Rogers to fill us in on what’s back, what’s not and what’s next for the band.
After five years of holiday shows, can attendees still expect something new?
Every year is different. In my opinion, I think each show has been better than the last. We’ve incorporated a lot of sketches, puppet, and technology elements into this year’s show, in addition to the expected songs and dances. This year, it’s a bit of an absurdist take on “A Christmas Carol,” with lots of music and sing-alongs.
Are there any returning bits? We will be playing a few audience favorites, and “Dr. Dan” will be making a number of appearances. (Ceramics artist) Dan Nuñez crafted this vaguely Eastern European scientist about four years ago and now he’s become a mainstay of the show.
Is this just for fans of the holidays? What about those who love to hate them?
We’ve actually been talking about this recently. I tend to go in for the sincere and charming classic holiday vibe, but there’s also a lot of sarcasm and strangeness to the show. We definitely aim for a jolly-feeling show, but certainly toss a few winks to folks who aren’t that into the tinsel and sugarplum stuff.
Should the audience do anything to prepare themselves for the show?
We always encourage our audiences to interact with the show. If you want to come in costume, or study your holiday songbook, that’s never out of line. Most importantly, we want everybody to have fun and leave feeling good.
It’s been a while since we caught up with LUVS. Has the band taken any new turns?
This year’s show has the smallest ensemble to date, which is new. We’re all taking on a few more roles and stretching some creative muscles that weren’t being used before. The band is down to seven musicians, with a creative team of three, who perform puppets, dances and sketches. We also have a few new tunes in the works and hope to get some new recordings out there in 2018.
5th Annual Lansing Unionized Vaudeville Spectacle Holiday Show 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 15; 3 p.m. & 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 16; 3 p.m. & 7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 17 (all shows sold out except 7 p.m.
Sunday show) The Robin Theatre 1105 S. Washington Ave., Lansing $15/$12 advance brownpapertickets.com/ event/3095416 therobintheatre.com