One of the oddest and most sinister shows of the New York fall season ends, appropriately enough, on Halloween, as Shockheaded Peter finishes its scheduled two-week run at the New Victory Theatre, Oct. 31.
A "junk opera" from the English company that brought the hit 70 Hill Lane to New York two seasons back, the 90-minute piece adapts Heinrich Hoffman's macabre stories into musical vignettes about people who pay a terrible price for bad manners. The Tiger Lillies cabaret act will back the critically well-received program with "carnival sounds" and Tom Waits-style music created by musician Martyn Jacques. Julian Crouch and Phelim McDermott co-direct and design the piece, which opened Nov. 14.
Shockheaded Peter's visual motif is striking: a tall, crook-backed and hammy Shakespearean actor-type introduces the vignettes, while a rotund, clownfaced, falsetto-voiced accordionist sings ditties in which, invariably, the protagonists wind up "dead...dead...DEAD!!!"
Coming up next at the New Victory are such gentler entertainments as: € Nov. 5-14: It's the return of Canadian lunatic Tomas Kubinek. Among his special talents: somersaulting with a wine glass on his head, flying across the stage and playing the ukelele while clucking like a chicken.
€ Nov. 18-28: Suzanne Farrell (ballet)
€ Dec. 3-Jan. 2, 2000: Kim Walker directs the Flying Fruit Fly Circus, a young, percussion-backed troupe of contortionists, balancers, jugglers and trapeze artists.
€ Feb. 4-13, 2000: England's Travelling Light Theatre Company arrives with Tir Na n'Og, the tale of two youngsters whose lives are changed by a magical white horse. Three actors play all the roles and are backed by two musicians.
€ Feb. 18-27, 2000: Get ready for The Flaming Idiots. No, not the Presidential candidates, we're talking about three guys -- "Gyro, Pyro and Walter" -- from Austin, TX, who juggle swords, fire, bean bag chairs, three-foot balloons and bullwhips.
€ March 3-12, 2000: From Glasgow comes the Visible Fictions Theatre Company and their adaptation of the Academy Award-winning film, "The Red Balloon." It's about a lonely little boy who plays hide and seek with his red balloon -- until bullies try to steal it from him.
€ March 17-26, 2000: the Chicago-based Trinity Irish Dance Company
€ March 31-April 9, 2000: It's time for Frogs, Lizards, Orbs and Slinkys. Courtesy of Portland, OR's Imago Theatre troupe, this Mummenschanz-ish entertainment features its performers as "dancing worms, scampering monkeys and devilishly destructive orbs that wreak havoc in the audience."
€ April 14-30, 2000: Also from Portland comes Extremely Physical Theatre in "Do Jump!", mixing athletics, acrobatics and comedy.
€ May 5-21, 2000: From Rotterdam, 28 life-sized puppets are featured in this look at a dog's life in St. Tropez. The Ro Theatre performers are costumed as the human counterparts of the canine puppets they manipulate.
The New Victory was the first theatre to reopen its doors under the multi-million dollar rehabilitation of 42nd Street, which also includes the renovation and 1997 reopening of Ziegfeld's old New Amsterdam Theatre (just across the street from the New Victory) as the throne of Disney's new theatre empire.
For subscription and ticket information for the New Victory season call (212) 382-4020.
-- By David Lefkowitz