Tuesday, June 15, 2021

593. THE WILD STUNT SHOW. From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975

Marcel Steiner, Hamlet MacWallbanger, Oscar Oswald, Tommy Shand, Nina Petrova. 

THE WILD STUNT SHOW [Comedy Revue/British] A: The Madhouse Company; P: Chelsea Theatre Center of Brooklyn; T: Chelsea Theatre, Brooklyn Academy of Music (OB); 4/9/74-4/28/74 (21); Westside Theatre/Brooklyn Navy Yard (OB):  11/7/74-3/15/75 (129) (total: 150)

Harvey MacWallbanger. (Photo: Elizabeth Wolynski.)

This British revue, originally seen in London, was a wild and wooly gallimaufry of raucous comic mayhem in which “tastelessness and immodesty know no bounds,” according to Mel Gussow. It was given first at the Chelsea’s Brooklyn home; a half-year later it opened in a return engagement at the Westside Theatre, in an intimate space called the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The humor was mostly nonsensical and non sequitur in its apparent reaching for any broadly farcical effect that would trigger a laugh, such as opening a package of frankfurters and shuffling them like playing cards. Spectators were as likely to be hit by flying wieners as were actors.

“[T]he Madhouse folk make a point of trying to be as disgusting as possible and they often succeed,” said Gussow. Their antics (at the Westside) were not confined to the cabaret/theatre but sometimes included leading the audience out of doors to a playground across Ninth Avenue. Here the critics witnessed a skinny American comic called Hamlet MacWallbanger wearing only his jockey shorts, despite the cold, attempting “in the most winning way imaginable to burn off his head,” noted Edith Oliver. John Simon offered, “The company may easily give insanity a good name.”

Others madmen and madwomen in the show were Nina Petrova, Oscar Oswald, Boris Quill, Tommy Shand, and Marcel Steiner.

Do you enjoy Theatre’s Leiter Side? As you may know, since New York’s theatres were forced into hibernation by Covid-19, this blog has provided daily posts on the hundreds of shows that opened in the city, Off and on Broadway, between 1970 and 1975. These have been drawn from an unpublished manuscript that would have been part of my multivolume Encyclopedia of the New York Stage series, which covers every show, of every type, from 1920 through 1950. Unfortunately, the publisher, Greenwood Press, decided it was too expensive to continue the project beyond 1950.

Before I began offering these 1970-1975 entries, however, Theatre’s Leiter Side posted over 1,600 of my actual reviews for shows from 2012 through 2020. The first two years of that experience were published in separate volumes for 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 (the latter split into two volumes). The 2012-2013 edition also includes a memoir in which I describe how, when I was 72, I used the opportunity of suddenly being granted free access to every New York show to begin writing reviews of everything I saw. Interested readers can find these collections on Amazon.com by clicking here. 

Next up: Will Rogers’ U.S.A.