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Feel the Fight a comic look at masculine stereotypes

What: Atomic Vaudeville’s Action Revue: Feel the Fight Where: Metro Studio, 1141 Quadra St. When: Tonight, Friday, Saturday at 8 p.m. Tickets: $22, student rush $15 (ticketrocket.
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Sarah Murphy, left, and Sarah Pelzer in Atomic Vaudeville's Action Revue: Feel the Fight.

What: Atomic Vaudeville’s Action Revue: Feel the Fight
Where: Metro Studio, 1141 Quadra St.
When: Tonight, Friday, Saturday at 8 p.m.
Tickets: $22, student rush $15 (ticketrocket.co or 250-590-6291)

Outside Victoria, Atomic Vaudeville is renowned for such polished shows as Legoland and Ride the Cyclone. Within the city, the company is better known for its rough-and-tumble cabarets, focusing on skit comedy.

Atomic Vaudeville’s latest effort, Action Revue: Feel the Fight, falls somewhere in between, says artistic producer Britt Small.

“This show really merges those two worlds very much,” she says.

Ride the Cyclone is so far the 11-year-old company’s greatest hit. It scored raves last fall at the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, including a New York Times review declaring it “an unceasingly delightful new musical.”

Small says that show is poised for a New York run this fall, likely off-Broadway.

Ride the Cyclone is a quirky romp about six teens who continue in ghostly afterlife after dying in a roller-coaster crash. Action Revue: Feel the Fight has its share of violent, oddball moments — but it’s quite different.

It’s a comic exploration of masculine archetypes.

Rather than having a conventional storyline like Cyclone’s, Action Revue: Feel the Fight is constructed around a series of skits.

Small performs in one, about a hip-hopper who “rap battles” herself (this routine was originally in Ride the Cyclone but later cut).

Another is about a pair of birdwatchers who get into an argument over whether one is making up her frequent rare-bird sightings.

“She’s calling him a Donald Trump supporter. We get into this thing where they’re almost like birds, having this fight,” Small said.

Yet another sketch is about a supposed superhero, Gaylord, who visits a youngster.

Says Small: “He’s supposed to be a superhero, but he’s actually just this older gay man who’s trying to tell this kid not to be a gaylord.” (“Gaylord” is disparaging slang for a gay man.)

Action Revue: Feel the Fight benefits from a $20,000 grant from the B.C. Arts Council. That not only allows Atomic Vaudeville to pay performers, it creates a modest fund for set and costumes.

The show takes place in a stylized boxing ring, complete with ringmaster/narrator.

The ring is represented partly by projected images. (This same technology will make it appear as if Small is squaring off with herself — actually a real-time negative image — during the rap battle.)

Action Revue: Feel the Fight has a gestation dating back several years.

It has roots in previous Atomic Vaudeville cabaret offerings such as My Dad Can Beat Up Your Dad, Fight Night and Violence is Gay.

These shows — with “big fight scenes” and “West Side Story-style dance battles” — investigated the subject of physical violence in a comedic way.

Action Revue: Feel the Fight was created collaboratively by Small, Jacob Richmond (who co-wrote Ride the Cyclone) and Alex Wlasenko.

Small says she was inspired by Norah Vincent’s 2006 non-fiction account Self-Made Man: My Year Disguised as a Man.

In the book, Vincent describes an 18-month experiment in which she successfully passed herself off as a man.

She visited strip clubs, joined a bowling league and dated women.

After the experiment, Vincent said she much preferred being female.

As with Ride the Cyclone, Action Revue: Feel the Fight will be fine-tuned in front of local audiences, with the eventual goal of a Canadian tour. Small forecasts several Victoria runs followed by performances in larger cities (perhaps Vancouver or Toronto) before Action Revue: Feel the Fight finally hits the road.

This latest creation, she adds, is something a little different for Atomic Vaudeville.

“I think it’s a show some people wouldn’t necessarily expect from us. But in some sense, they’d completely expect it from us.”

achamberlain@timescolonist.com