It’s a common myth that theaters are haunted. But it's a lesser known detail that theaters are haunted by the audience members of productions from decades past — and that these dearly departed patrons, inspired by the plays they’ve seen, perform ghostly variety shows after the theater closes down every night. At least, this is what The Bippy Boppy Boo Show purports.
A Danielle Georgiou Dance Group production, The Bippy Boppy Boo Show is a late-night show at Theatre Too, which is in the underbelly of one of Dallas’ longest-running theaters, Theatre Three. Theatre Three itself was a primary inspiration for the show. The characters of this dance musical variety show are ghosts who were audience members of Theatre Three throughout the theater’s long history.
Recalling the powerful effect theater had on them when they were alive, the ghosts are now attempting to tell their own stories. Under the leadership of the titular ghost Bippy Boppy, the ghosts incorporate Theatre Three’s actual production history into their storytelling. Their performances are a desperate attempt to bridge the gap between the living and the dead, the gleeful and the sorrowful, the humorous and the horrific.
And The Bippy Boppy Boo Show certainly balances all of these opposing elements. As a stylized '60s variety show, it seeks to entertain and delight its living audience. As a Halloween production, it wants to scare them. But it wouldn’t be a DGDG production if it didn’t carry some weighty themes with it, as well. And that’s the nature of a variety show: It checks a lot of different boxes at once.
“Some people might be coming to the show really wanting to hear a delightful comedic ditty, and the next person might be wanting to hear a dramatic ballad sung. And both will be satisfied by the show,” says Justin Locklear, who stars in and co-wrote the show with Georgiou, who also directs and choreographs.
The show’s heavier moments come from the desires and fears of the ghosts themselves. Sure, ghosts are scary — but what ghosts are scared of is even scarier. Their fears transcend the commercial Halloween season of vampires, zombies and clowns.
“What is scary?” asks Locklear. Of course, jump scares and monsters are scary. But what about the more basic human fears? “Isolation, meaninglessness, missing out, confusion, being lost." These are some of the less traditional scares that The Bippy Boppy Boo Show will throw the audience’s way. “There might be [acts] that are revolting in a sensory way, while others will be scary in a very spiritual way.”
Some of the sensory shocks might involve a summoning spell (don’t worry, the spell has been tested to ensure it doesn’t bring an actual ghost into the theater) and the witching hour, both of which lead to an interaction between the living audience and the “dead” actors.
“There are chances for the live audience to actually be onstage with the ghost, touch a ghost, have a conversation with a ghost, which is not something you can do normally,” Georgiou says.
Of course, to get the most out of the experience, one has to suspend disbelief — but isn’t that what both Halloween and live theater are all about?
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But this show isn’t just scary, and it isn’t just sorrowful — it’s also full of ghostly levity. How does one show encompass all of these elements? By making the scary parts sad, the sad parts scary, and pouring hilarity over the whole thing.
“For [the ghosts] it’s just as fun to do a fake blood gag as it is to point at their audience’s mortality,” Locklear says. This style of humor stems from a Samuel Beckett quote that constantly inspires the company: “Nothing is funnier than unhappiness.”
Beckett isn’t only an abstract inspiration for the show: his Waiting for Godot is one of the plays adapted by the ghosts for their variety show. The classic Beckett play was first produced at Theatre Three way back when the theater began, in 1961 (hence the '60s style of The Bippy Boppy Boo Show). It’s but one of several plays adapted throughout the evening — but don’t be surprised if you don’t recognize Beckett’s script. The ghosts have written their own versions of the plays based on their conceptual understanding. What the audience sees is a highly subjective adaptation that expresses how the original play affected its audience members almost 60 years ago.
This is how the play gains its historical element. It honors the theatrical tradition of Dallas, the mystical tradition of Halloween, and the funny and tragic tradition of humanity itself. So get ready to stay up late, get spooked, feel something and think something — The Bippy Boppy Boo Show will do it all. The limited engagement shows run from Oct. 27 to Nov. 1 at Theatre Three, with performances starting at 10:30 p.m.