Choreographer Terry Beeman’s aerial cabaret, Mental Head Circus, is a pulsating, interactive expression of the past and present. Taking a cue from our remix-obsessed culture, Beeman mixes the ultimate audio-visual cocktail—vaudeville traditions like slapstick humor, burlesque regalia and contortionists set against deep house tracks that build on classic big band riffs.
Beeman and his cast use the entire venue as their playground. Performances occur not only on the physical stage, but also around the room, far above the audiences’ head. As the King King Hollywood has limited seating, a majority of the audience remains standing for the entirety of the show. Standing, however, frees the audience to move with the performers through the space. Rather than turning their heads to follow along while remaining in the confines of a seat, audience members can easily reposition themselves in order to watch an aerial act on the opposite side of the room.
The venue is Beeman’s “mayhem,” his “antiquated machination” as he calls it at the beginning of the show. It simultaneously functions as a stage and a backstage, allowing us to observe him and his cast both in and out of the spotlight. While a vocal or aerial performance takes place in one part of the room, the cast members can be seen rigging equipment for the next act and kindly warning audience members seated nearby that a performance will soon be taking place just above their heads. Furthermore, when cast members are not in the spotlight, they sit side by side with the audience to watch. The only time Beeman and his cast disappear from the room is for a costume change. While the absence of a private backstage may sound odd and almost amateur, it actually fosters an honest connection between the audience and cast because it ensures that there is but one narrative during the course of the show.
What the audience sees is what they get. And what they get are incredible demonstrations of physical prowess: a singer with a voice like Margaret Whiting and the demeanor of Eartha Kitt; a short-haired diva on a trapeze twisting her legs in and out, up and over—joined, down below by three ladies with giant pink feathered fans, moving in time to RAC’s funky, hypnotic remix of Ella Fitzgerald’s “Too Darn Hot.” And to top it all off, Beeman performing a contortion and double hammock routine with a partner, incorporating narrative elements into the choreography that, when performed, expel complex emotions.
These are just a few of the unique experiences that Beeman built into the first half of the show. The latter half of the show—the “Holiday Spectacular”—came off as an afterthought. While the show was billed as a “Holiday Spectacular,” relegating the holiday theme to the second half looked sloppy and felt repetitive.
The lackluster second half of the show, however, does not take away from the strength of the first half. By separating the “Holiday Spectacular,” Beeman preserved the integrity of the original show seemingly because he anticipated that the execution on the “Holiday Spectacular” may not be able to match up to the precision of the first half.
What remains to be seen is how Beeman will manage to remix his own creation when Mental Head Circus returns to the stage next year. Two shows have been confirmed so far for 2014: February and March 16th. Tickets to these shows will become available on the King King Hollywood and Mental Head Circus sites by the end of this week.