Last night, The Brewery District was reanimated with the sights and sounds of nightlife and entertainment, as Shadowbox Live hosted the grand opening of their new home at 503 South Front Street. The new venue is still a work in progress, but the move provides a breath of fresh air both for the live performance group and for the audience.
The Backstage Bistro (which despite the name, is located in the front of the building) serves multiple purposes as a pre-show concession stand, post-show watering hole, and an all-around great place to mingle with the cast and crew that isn’t the bathroom hallway at Easton.
The new performance space is a familiar setup to Shadowbox Live fans, with the band to the left, performance stage to the right, and stairs in between… but everything is a step up in terms of size. The venue seats over 300 people in a single-level tiered configuration that feels vastly larger than the Easton space. Sight lines are improved, bathrooms are closer and any claustrophobic tendencies should be relieved.
The Shadowbox Live team christens the new space with “Legacy”, a collection of their remastered greatest hits from the past 20 years. Even though this was their opening night performance in a new venue, technical glitches were practically nonexistent, and actors new and old looked comfortable in their new digs.
Some of the standout sketches include “Bad Boys” (2007), “Wedding of the Century” (2002) and “JBF Hair Products” (2005) which riffed on make believe consumer products and overacted daytime soap operas. These shorter sketches provide the audience with a tight setup and avoid fatigue by not running too long. Additionally impressive was the timing and synchronization between multiple actors and special effects controllers during “paused” segments and musical cues in these sketches.
“Love is a Battlefield” was a recent repeat from 2010 but the concept is one of the best in the show, and a nice ensemble effort to boot. And speaking of ensemble, “Wiz Kids” (2004) saw a total of 30 actors coming and going onstage for a very impressive production. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of the grown-ups-acting-live-five-year-olds comedy subgenre, and this sketch felt like it was running long only half way into it, but it finishes big and on a high note.
As always, the Shadowbox Live band BillWho? never fails to impress with their flawless technical skill, and diverse performance range, from blues to hard rock to pop anthems. The pacing of the song selection felt a bit rollercoaster-ish with head-pounding renditions of Hot for Teacher by Van Halen and Frankenstein by the Edgar Winter Group interspersed with the exciting-but-downtempo Ball and Chain by Etta James and Whipping Post by The Allman Brothers Band. Closing out the show is a large group number with Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation which left the audience giving a standing ovation.
It’s exciting to see the energy that Shadowbox Live brings to Columbus within the walls of their new home, but even more exciting is the energy that surrounds them, and the buzz that they’re bringing as a new anchor into The Brewery District and rippling into the rest of Downtown. It will be interesting to see what develops around their physical space as well as how the community grows and changes over the next few years.
Legacy runs on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays through November 12th at Shadowbox Live. General admission tickets are $30. Showtimes, tickets and more info can be found at www.shadowboxlive.org.