Vaudeville performers from Birmingham will unite at historic Sloss Furnaces the night of August 10 for “Lighting the Lyric,” a benefit performance scheduled to help raise funds to restore the Magic City’s magnificent old vaudeville house on Third Avenue North downtown.
Hosted by Scott Autrey of Birmingham Vaudeville, this show’s lineup will feature burlesque and song from Tuscaloosa’s Pink Box Burlesque, comedy by veteran performer Michael McCall, fire and fusion belly dancing by Erynias Tribe and human sideshow performance by Carnevil Circus.
The decision to help raise money for the Lyric was an easy one for Autrey, who moved to Birmingham from Las Vegas, where he also did vaudeville shows. “I discovered the Lyric and fell in love,” Autrey tells Weld. “I haven’t talked to anyone who didn’t fall in love. It’s magical.”
Autrey also fell in love with the wealth of overlooked showbiz talent here in the Magic City after he began looking for venues for shows and talking to other performers. “What I learned is that [Birmingham is] blowing up with talent,” he said. “There are so many amazing people. I didn’t know it. I told someone Birmingham has a lot more to offer than people here know.”
Autrey was looking for a way to help the Lyric and to help some of the city’s performers get some much-deserved attention. “I wanted these amazing performers to have shows, and I was trying to figure out how to do it and to help the Lyric, so I will bring back this old-school vaudeville show,” he said. “It was never one act.” He adds, “This was an opportunity to [feature] a few acts I’ve seen and liked who are pros and have done this for several years and deserve something like this.”
Veteran Tuscaloosa performers Pink Box Burlesque, including group founder Mama Dixie, will make an all-too rare Birmingham appearance. Autrey likes PBB’s classic vibe. “Unlike the Vegas shows where I would do a newer vaudeville, new acts and new kinds of thing, Pink Box really embraces the classic mode where they embrace comedy and sexy flirting and costumes — the whole period scene,” he says.
He sings the praises of dance troupe Eyrnias Tribe. “They are just breathtakingly beautiful, and they have this amazing choreography.”
Erynias also bring their own innovations to a familiar form, according to Autrey. “They bring fusion belly dancing this whole new life,” Autrey says”The thing that got me is that they do a little bit of fire. And we have fire troupes [in Birmingham], but [Eyrnias does] fire as an accessory to their belly dancing.”
Comedian Michael McCall offers the Sloss show a needed complement or counter-element to the burlesque performers and belly dancers. “I thought he would be perfect,” Autrey says. “Michael has toured everywhere, opened for Louis CK and people like that. He’s been in the industry for 10 plus years.”
Autrey again stresses that vaudeville meant variety, several types of acts in one evening’s entertainment. “You had comics, illusionists, burlesque, and then you would have people of unusual talent,” he says. supplying those unusual talents for the benefit Aug. 10 is Carnevil Circus. “The main performner — Rock White — is a human blockhead act. He also does a bed of nails and glass eating.”
The first of a series of vaudeville and variety shows to be presented by Birmingham Vaudeville, this show will feature adult themes and adult language. It will begin at 10 p.m. Admission is for those 21 years of age and up. Tickets are $20. Doors will open at 9 p.m., and guests will be able to purchase alcohol, drinks and snacks and visit the Lyric Theater information booth.
For more information, visit birminghamvaudeville.com.
To learn more about the Lyric Theatre, which was built in 1913 and hosted such showbiz greats as Buster Keaton, Mae West, Will Rogers and the Marx Brothers, visit http://savethelyric.com.