Light-hearted Fringe Fest group revives variety show style.
The Five Minute Follies, a fast-paced variety show, participated for the first time in Philadelphia’s Fringe Festival on Saturday.
It was the third time the Five Minute Follies’ 95-minute show took place at the Rotunda in Philadelphia, and with the help of the Fringe Festival’s advertisements, the show sold out.
“We sold 120 seats before anybody got to the venue,” producer Michael Broussard said. “It blew my mind.”
Broussard, who studied at the Walnut Street Theater and Philadelphia Improv Theater, has always been a big fan of variety shows from the ‘70s and ‘80s. The Five Minute Follies is his attempt to resubmit the idea of variety shows into Philadelphia arts and culture.
“People who know variety, miss it,” Broussard said. “People who don’t know it, as soon as they see it, they love it.”
The show consisted of 17 different five-minute singing, dancing, magic, hula hooping, comic, improv and clown acts, providing bits of entertainment for people of all ages.
“Nothing’s on stage long enough for anyone to hate it,” Broussard said. “By the time they’re annoyed, it’s too late, they’re on to the next act.”
Broussard, who hosted the event, also performed two separate acts. In his first act called the Toenail Brothers, he sang the old country and western Mac Davis hit “It’s hard to be humble.”
“My voice isn’t that great, but I can carry it off with just being goofy,” Broussard said. He also did a music and spoken word act, called Subtle Manipulation.
Better Than Bacon, an improv group from Chester County tested their improv skills while they took words from the audience, spelled them and formed witty, humorous phrases. “The fact that they can’t spell makes it even funnier,” Cohen said. “I like the quick-witted part.”
Johnny Dellarocca, also known as “Big Daddy Cool,” traveled from Nashville, Tenn. to show his blended music and magic talent in the Five Minute Follies. Dellarocca, who has a degree in music and theater from Eastern Kentucky University, performed his well-known Mack the Knife act, which was one of the pieces that won him the International Magic Championship in 2010.
Practicing magic since he was eight years old, Dellarocca has now constructed an act where he ties razor blades on to dental floss, swallows it and then regurgitates them all together.
“People don’t know quite what to make of that act, but I love it,” Dellarocca said.
Teresa Seibel, who was on a date with her husband said, “It was fun.” Her only word of advice for future viewers was to leave the kids at home because of some inappropriate verbal context.
In aspiration of spreading the art of variety shows around Philadelphia, Broussard said, “My dream is to do one version just for kids, one version for families, one version for adults, and be able to not just do it here, but take it to schools and take it to organizational events and all kinds of things like that.”
As variety shows flourish within the city, new concepts are sure to evolve alongside. For example, Broussard discussed the next Five Minute Follies addition in February, called the Marriage Equality Cabaret. Each act is going to have something positive to say about marriage equality, in hopes of using humor and variety to highlight a human rights issue.
Lauren Hertler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.