No Applause, Just Throw Money
nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
September 19, 2008
Trav S.D. is an expert on vaudeville. He's written an authoritative and very complete history of it (this), and as if that weren't credential enough, he's also been producing and writing and directing and starring in it for most of his professional career.
You can see him in his vaudevillian element in his new show, No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Show That Made Vaudeville Famous, inspired by his book of almost the same name. Mr. S.D. is the author of the sketches and songs, producer, director, and invaluable Emcee. Appearing with him are a stock company of five actors (Michael Criscuolo, Danny Bowes, Fred Masson, Pete MacNamara, and Art Wallace), performer Maggie Cino as a silent clownish stage manager named Factota, Leela Corman, and a rotating crop of contemporary and/or New Vaudevillians such as Todd Robbins and Hilary Chaplain who occupy two guest artist slots at each performance.
Now, readers of nytheatre.com undoubtedly know that Trav S.D. is the host of our nytheatrecast podcast series and that Michael Criscuolo has been a frequent contributor to this website for nearly a decade (and Danny Bowes and Maggie Cino are also members of our reviewing team). So I make no pretense of objectivity as I write about this show. But I had a great deal of fun at No Applause, Just Throw Money; and I believe I would have even if I weren't so well acquainted with many of its participants.
It is an authentic old-time vaudeville style bill, featuring the broad variety of acts that distinguished the form. There's a hoochy-cooch dance ("Dance of the Seven Veils," performed by Corman), a suggestive song for a brassy comedienne (Raven Snook and Goddess Susanna Perlman alternate in this spot), a selection of short comic silent films (created by Kevin Maher: they look like antiques but have a nifty contemporary feel to them; the first one, in particular, is hilarious), guest star spots (on the night I attended, these were filled by clown band The Maestrosities and comic magician Mark Mitton), a faux old-fashioned melodrama set among scrappy Lower East Side Irish at the turn of the last century, and—best of all—a dazzlingly clever playlet called "The Crime of the Rhyme" that contains some of the wittiest writing I've encountered since, well, the last time I saw something written by Trav S.D.
Criscuolo, Bowes, Masson, MacNamara, and Wallace do fine work in both of the sketches, and Criscuolo also leads the show's finale, a slightly cockeyed anthem called "New York's a Patriotic Town." (He sings and dances with real panache, talents heretofore undisclosed.)
No Applause is a showcase mostly for Trav S.D.'s comic writing, and for his expert comic performance. In between the acts, there's plenty of banter than would feel corny in lesser hands; the first act also closes with a signature musical bit of his that always makes me smile. His deep knowledge of his antecedents on the vaudeville stage—people like Fred Allen, Frank Fay, Ted Lewis, and Bobby Clark—informs the persona he assumes, yet he remains distinctly an original. That, indeed, is the hallmark of all great vaudevillians, then and now. To see one of the great ones of our time—and remember, I'm totally biased—check out this entertaining show.