It’s always interesting when you’re part of an enthusiastic audience, and such was the case for the Postmodern Jukebox (a.k.a. PMJ) concert at the Riviera Theatre on Tuesday night. The excitement generated onstage amped up the attending fan base, which, to be frank, was already geeked for the show to begin with.
For their “Welcome to the Twenties” tour, PMJ could hardly have picked a better venue to show up in. While the revue has had a few multiweek engagements at various Vegas hot spots, it isn’t likely that any of those temples of Mammon had an actual Wurlitzer theater organ installed. This mighty instrument rose up pre-show for a brief set of period piece tunes as a way of getting into the mood before sinking back to its below-stage home prior to the curtain rise.
The basic concept for the Postmodern Jukebox fits well within the fluid definition of “postmodern" — i.e., a state where barriers between high and low art are removed, where genre mixing meshes with humor. The tandem ideas of a revue and a “jukebox musical” — where hit songs are reasons for a show’s existence – have ended up creating a musical extravaganza that takes the original artist’s conception and sending it into an entirely different setting.
Over the course of two sets that flowed seamlessly into a well-received encore, PMJ’s program took songs like Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” Britney Spears' “Toxic” and Meghan Trainor’s “All About that Bass” and powered them into a different era through clever arrangements and impressively over-the-top vocal artistry. It was no wonder, then, that when Michael Cunio — the default emcee for the evening — asked the audience if any of them had seen the act before or would see it again, a loud affirmative roar arose from the crowd.
Every song showcased a rotating lineup, meaning you could see Cunio’s florid performance of “Video Killed the Radio Star” (originally by the Buggles), Dani Armstrong’s gorgeously torchy take on “Chandelier” (by Sia) and a series of slick tap dance routines by Demi Remick.
The costume changes between songs were fairly amazing, with the different singers draped in one specific suit or dress for a song only to return to the stage, after another performance was under way, in a whole other outfit.
All the musicians were versatile and given space to show off their musical talents and their comedic flair; the latter quality was an art brought to the fore by Tim Kubart, aka "Tambourine Guy," who burst onto the stage in a fit of smiling, kinetic abandonment that had to be seen to be appreciated.