From the real-life Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel to the fictional Tony Soprano, mobsters have become as much a part of American culture as Apple Computer. But as rich as our nation's history is with tales of organized crime, it's unlikely you have ever heard of a hoodlum who broke into a song-and-dance routine in the midst of a scathing speech until now.
In that respect, performance artist Dan Froot has the mob market covered with his latest work, Shlammer, showing at the Colony Theater March 11 and 12.
"I call it a gangster vaudeville," says the Los Angeles-based Froot. Granted, it is a variety show: eccentric and fast-paced, complete with slapstick turns, dance numbers, comic acts, and musicians the DeLuxe Vaudeville Trio performing live onstage. There is even some juggling.
But it is also deadly serious.
Fusing dark wit with a dose of Yiddish humor, this 75-minute spectacle erases the boundaries between dance, music, and theater. Through the protagonist, an old-school Jewish gangster-turned-vaudevillian, Froot brings to life not only our culture's obsession with violence but also the way society romanticizes so-called tough guys.
"It looks in a very serious way at masculinity, violence, and assimilation," notes Froot, who wrote and choreographed the show. "[Audiences] should expect to be provoked to think about how men become men."
Presented by Miami Dade College's Cultura del Lobo performance series without intermission, Shlammer meaning thug in Yiddish premiered at New York's Dance Theater Workshop almost a year ago. And though this work centers around the Jewish community, Froot assures it appeals to more than a Jewish crowd.
In the end, this is a gangster story. And you know how fond we all are of those.