A Q Brothers’ Christmas Carol: Burlesque is Back and the Audience Loves It!

q brothersCharles Dickens was an enthusiastic patron of burlesque; he noted, “the sacred lamp of burlesque” is “always crammed”.

No, the author of A Christmas Carol wasn’t a fancier of striptease clubs.

The term burlesque originally denoted a form of theatre, now almost extinct. Shadows of this, the greatest popular entertainment, may be seen in reruns of Carol Burnett’s version of Gone with the Wind, or in Mel Brooks’ films, such as Spaceballs or High Anxiety.

Nineteenth century American theater audiences liked nothing better than burlesques –humorous, satirical, ridiculous dramatic or musical works based on a serious original work. Zampa the Red Corsair was played as Sam Parr and His Red Coarse Hair, Der Freischutz became Fried Shots, and Cinderella debuted as Schinder Eller. America’s largest theaters like Chicago’s Rice Theater, McVicker’s, and Crosby’s Opera House were built to house this popular people’s theater. John Brougham even produced a burlesque, Po-ca-hon-tas, or The Gentle Savage so historically significant that theater historian Richard Moody included it in his landmark volume Dramas from the American Theatre 1762-1909, once displayed in the White House library!

Which brings us to A Q Brothers’ Christmas Carol.

Like the 19th century burlesque, A Q Brothers’ Christmas Carol parodies the serious Dickens’ Christmas drama playing everywhere this season. Like the 19th century burlesque, the Q Brothers’ work uses contemporary urban music, dance, and social stock characters to tell the story. And like the 19th century burlesque, A Q Brothers’ Christmas Carol is enormously popular, attracting a youthful audience rarely seen in “legitimate” theaters.

And like the best of 19th century American burlesque, the artistry is of the highest caliber. The players – Jackson Doran, “GQ”, “JQ”, Postell Pringle* – are triple threats- acting, dancing and singing – different characters, in different styles at the drop of a hat.

And these players are also the writers!

And what a writing accomplishment it is! Ninety minutes of rhymed verse, flowing seamlessly, compellingly, and unobtrusively. To watch the Q Brothers play is to know why verse was the historical choice of stage diction, from Aeschylus through Goethe – the powerful recurring rhythms unite the pulses of both players and audience as they navigate together, as one heart,the emotional ebbs and flows of the dramatic plot.

This is poetic drama for those who hate poetic drama.

Go to see A Q Brothers’ Christmas Carol. A long lost American theater form has been resurrected and resuscitated to the standing room delight of bopping, cheering audiences. The bop is poetry. The cheering is for artistry.

Charles Dickens would be leading the cheers.

• Postell Pringle was a student in my theater classes and college productions many years ago. I know of no thrill which can compare with seeing a former student on a professional stage, all the youthful potential now on display as full-blown stage mastery. I stood and cheered, and wiped my eye.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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