We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.
Fort Fringe – Baldacchino Gypsy Tent Bar
Tuesday, July 17th, 9:00 p.m.
Saturday, July 21st, 6:30 p.m.
Sunday,July 22nd, 5:15 p.m.
Sunday, July 29th, 12:45 p.m.
They say: “Dizzy Miss Lizzie’s Roadside Revue pays a visit to their favorite 19th century writers, the Brontes, and cooks up a Yorkshire pudding of music, dance and theatrical tomfoolery. Come see Charlotte, Emily, Anne and Branwell Bronte trade Victorian repression for rock and roll expression.”
Brett’s Take: If you’re here to figure out whether you should see The Brontes, then yes. Just go already. You should know by now that, by universal consensus, Dizzy Miss Lizzie are alchemical Fringe rock n’ roll magic geniuses, and there’s no reason to miss them. (Fine, only one reason, and that’s if you literally cannot stand the heat in the tent.) Okay? Good.
The rest of you who are still here are either Dizzy Miss Lizzie newbies or just curious to see what else I’ll say. For you newbies who don’t know that no matter what the subject is, Dizzy Miss Lizzie is worth seeing, here’s a brief summary: The Bronte siblings (Charlotte, of Jane Eyre; Emily, of Wuthering Heights; Anne, of some novels you’ve never heard of; and brother Branwell, who died a drug addict) existed. They had lives. These lives they had, with the writings of those respective books, their failures and smashed hopes and early deaths, are Dizzy Miss Lizzified in The Brontes. Which is to say, they’re turned into sideshow-rock music-mini operas.
What Dizzy Miss Lizzie does for us is a lot like (bear with me) The Simpsons does, or did when the show was still awesome. They take antique stories and tropes, jokes and cliches, brew them all together, put them in a decidely of-the-now context, and serve them back to us in delightful and visceral form. The Simpsons‘ medium is cartoon sitcom; Dizzy Miss Lizzie works in the edgy revue format. No matter; the point still is that the good ol’ stuff is remade into entertaining and mind-blasting good new stuff.
In this case, we have The Brontes. Each of the four gets a few songs and vaudeville acts to tell their story. None of their stories are coherent if you look too closely, but that’s immaterial. The tightly-drilled songs are melodic, expressive and muscular. The gags and characterizations are sharp. The metaphors (e.g. the Grim Reaper reimagined as a boom-box wielding dude) are brain-tickling. The cast looks sexy and spectacular in gothy corsets and gypsy-circus mashups.
Who needs the moments to add up to something? Who needs it to make sense that Wuthering Heights is retold for Emily’s section and Emily’s life mostly ignored, while Anne’s writings are skipped over in her section in favor of looking at her struggles with making a living, when the specific moments are all so glorious? It’s no different than The Simpsons abandoning one storyline for a completely different one halfway through the episode, in order to deliver you more laffs and more unexpectedly sad twists. The Brontes lived, and died, and in the middle, there was rock music.
I don’t mean to be excessive in my praise, but this gang knows what they’re doing, and they clearly put in the hard work to bring their shows to the point where the very difficult looks effortless. Anything from our collective past that can be jazzed up Roadside Revue-style has been fair game for the Dizzy Miss Lizzie crew – all of whom deserve to be named here, but for space I’ll just mention ringleaders Debra Buonaccorsi and Steve McWilliams. Whatever darkly cool subject they’ll tackle next -now having recolonized English authoresses along with Christian saints, Irish folk heroes and Greek revengers for us – let’s hope they don’t fall off the high wire and succumb to self-parody for quite a while yet. That high-wire is the bar for Fringe shows.
See it if: You like having a good time.
Skip it if: You want your Fringe shows to stick with you after they’re done.