The Nita and Zita Show lovingly re-imagines the 1920’s vaudeville scene, whisking audiences to the Folies Bergère era with sparkling dance numbers and Hungarian gypsy tunes.
Inspired by an antique rhinestone bra found in a New Orleans costume shop, the show takes its name from two Hungarian sisters who left home in the roaring twenties to become international dance sensations. Engineered by a talented ensemble of dancers and musicians, the show offers a glitzy revue of both folk dances and vaudeville numbers from the period.
For a low-budget production, the costumes are impressive. The show begins with a flowing tribute to Loie Fuller’s long-sleeved “Danse Serpentine” and moves on to numbers showcasing sparkling dresses and gold dance shorts. There’s even a gypsy with silver shoes.
The four dancers (Audrey Elizabeth Emmett, Elena Faye, Jenny Girardi, and Agnes Kovaks) sparkle as they shimmy, but they’re outshone by the three-piece band, led by percussionist Daveed Korup. Completed by violinist Andrea Verco and accordionist Richard Nunno, the ensemble is pitch-perfect. Numbers include Brahms’ “Hungarian Dance #5,” “I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate,” and traditional Hungarian music. At one point, Korup exchanges his drum collection for a metal milk jug on which he improvises a jig.
GALA’s Theatre at Tivoli Square lends a lot of glamor to the performance. The ornate ceiling and red seats add an element of grandeur appropriate to the show’s period nostalgia. Especially once the music starts, it’s easy to imagine that the theater has become a sultry 1920’s dance hall.
At times, the show comes across a bit aimless and would benefit from more storytelling. The stories of Nita, Zita, and other female vaudeville stars are fascinating, but they require a bit of independent googling to track down, as the show offers little context.
For a mildly informed audience, however, the music is a treat, and the last number comes too quickly. Overall, The Nita and Zita Show offers a winkingly tempting look at the glitz of vaudeville stardom.
The Nita and Zita Show has 5 performances, ending July 28, 2012 at GALA Theatre, 3333 14th St NW, Washington, DC/
Details and tickets
The Nita and Zita Show
By Audrey Elizabeth Emmett
Choreography by Audrey Elizabeth Emmett
Produced by Dance Without Borders
Reviewed by Robert Duffley
Running Time: 35 minutes with no intermission on opening night. The company is adding material, so the show will undoubtedly be longer when you see it.