There have always been a few kinks that have always come with the Shadowbox Live experience. Crammed, uncomfortable seating. The many annoyances that come with mall parking. The many annoyances that come with mall shoppers. And the a hit-or-miss sound system.
These kinks have typically gone overlooked by its fans because the value of the Shadowbox experience has always been exponentially greater than the sum of its parts.
Now that Shadowbox has moved from Columbus’ Easton Town Center to their new-and-improved space downtown in the Brewery District, the sketch comedy/rock ‘n’ roll troupe has gone from an underground darling to a Midwest destination.
The troupe opened their first showcase in the new location August 19 with “Legacy,” a musical and theatrical romp down memory lane, featuring a host of “best hits” from their 20-year history.
A quick note on the new space: The new stage area resembles the setup of a spacious 1960’s cabaret. The balcony has been replaced by a three-tiered floor plan where every seat has a perfect view of the stage. And speaking of the stage, it’s twice as large, with just a many lighting bells and whistles, and a sound quality that rivals any major theatre’s system in Columbus. The troupe’s new “Backstage Bistro” welcomes you at the front with a plush fine dining area and fully-stocked bar (as opposed to the long line down a linoleum hallway that you were usually met with atEaston). And there’s even a gift shop to entice you on your way out.
And “Legacy” definitely lives up to anything that was presented at theEastonlocation. (I took a gander at the Aug. 25th showing.) The troupe is now comprised of both their Newport and Columbus staffs and the doubled cast took complete advantage of the larger stage. And Shadowbox house band “Bill Who?” was phenomenal, sounding better than ever.
Notable moments? Stacie Boord’s goose bumps-inducing performance of Etta James’ “Ball and Chain.” The drumming explosion that resulted from Matt “The Beast” Buchwalter and Brandon Smith taking the stage on several songs with side-by-side drum sets. Shadowbox’s well known misbehaving elementary class led by a neurotic school teacher (Mary Randle) taking on “The Wizard of Oz.” The return of my favorite sketch, “Love is a Battlefield,” where the minds of a typical arguing couple turns into a over-the-top, subterranean mêlée. Shadowbox director Stev Guyer draped in a spiffy all-white suit and sounding the best I’ve ever heard him on “Whipping Post” by The Allman Brothers Band. And the show stopping, full-cast dance number on the Janet Jackson classic “Rhythm Nation” (bravely choreographed by Katy Psenicka) led by the incomparable Noelle Grandison.
“Legacy” is like watching a talented duckling turn into a rock star swan, right before your eyes. Seeing you’re scrawny, dingy t-shirt wearing nephew gain a bulky six pack and a tailored suit over the summer. The response after Ty Pennigton yells “Move that bus!” Shadowbox’s new digs are finally an outward representation of the organization’s long and well-documented inner brilliance. And “Legacy” is the perfect welcome tribute, giving the audience a glance at the strong past that lead the troupe to their shinny new present.
“Legacy” runs at Shadowbox Live, 503 S. Front Street, Columbus, through Nov. 12. Tickets are $30 for adults and $20 for students and seniors. For more information visit www.shadowboxlive.org.