New Age Vaudeville

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New Age Vaudeville
Medium Theatre, Television, Film
Nationality American
Years active 1983–1987
Genres Sketch comedy
Notable works and roles An Evening with Elmore & Gwendolyn Putts - The Neighbors Next Door (book, music, lyrics: Richard O'Donnell)
The TV Dinner Hour (book, music, lyrics: Richard O'Donnell)
Dr. FunnyBones’ Carnival of Life (book, music, lyrics: Richard O'Donnell)
Just Visiting (book, music, lyrics: Megan Cavanagh, Richard O'Donnell, Amy McKenzie, Todd Erickson, Bobby McGuire, Peter Neville, and Tom Purcell)

New Age Vaudeville was an American professional theater troupe that was part of the Chicago comedy boom of the 1980s.

History[edit]

In March 1983 while in New York, Peninsula PlayersTony award-winning producer, James B. McKenzie hired actor/writer Richard O'Donnell to create, develop and act in the Comedy Cabaret (a proposed after-show review) scheduled to premiere in the forthcoming summer’s upcoming season at Door County’s Peninsula Players Theater in Fish Creek, Wisconsin. The Comedy Cabaret, produced by Amy McKenzie, was so successful in its first season that it returned to Door County the following summer as New Age Vaudeville, in its own 100-seat theatre at the nearby Glidden Lodge in Baileys Harbor.

Following the initial season at The Peninsula Players Richard O’Donnell and Amy McKenzie took their troupe to Chicago for the winter, establishing themselves at CrossCurrents, in their new 100 seat Art Deco theatre located at 3206 N. Wilson. Throughout its 4-year run, O'Donnell co-produced and wrote while McKenzie co-produced and directed numerous productions starring themselves and actors Megan Cavanagh, Todd Erickson, Bobby McGuire, Peter Neville, Michael Dempsey, Caroline Schless, Lisa Keefe, Tom Purcell (head writer, Colbert Report), and Del Close.

Cult-hits[edit]

Sited by The Chicago Tribune as "...a rarity, an ensemble`s ensemble,[1] they gained a reputation for their wizardry in blending 50’s sitcom norms with comic impersonations.[2] An Evening with Elmore & Gwendolyn Putts - The Neighbors Next Door and The TV Dinner Hour (featuring Del Close on video tape doing Late Night with God)[3] were among their biggest cult-hits. Rick Kogan of the Chicago Tribune hailed both works as "Among the most polished and clever productions of the season, a pair of devilishly inventive and challenging shows that won over critics and audiences."[4]

Members[edit]

(*denotes original member)

Noted Accomplishments[edit]

Successfully negotiated the first Actors' Equity (AEA) cabaret contract in Chicago.

First comedy troupe in Chicago to use video monitors playing pre-taped intros and filler. Upon their inception Del Close warned O’Donnell that their inclusion would ruin the medium. Years later, the IO Theater opened the Del Close Theatre on Clark Street which included a permanent television monitor on stage.[5]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Kogan, Rick (May 3, 1987). "Vaudeville Troupe Takes Leave of City". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 8 July 2012. 
  2. ^ Bommer, Lawrence, (November 14, 1986) An Evening with Elmore and Gwendolyn Putts, Chicago Reader, Vol 16, No. 8
  3. ^ Bommer, Lawrence, (April 2, 1987), Theatre: The TV Dinner Hour, Windy City Times
  4. ^ Kogan, Rick (May 3, 1987), "VAUDEVILLE TROUPE TAKES LEAVE OF CITY", Chicago Tribune 
  5. ^ O’Donnell, R.,(2004), My Summer With Del, Issue 17: The Comedian Issue, StopSmiling, page 48-51