FreakShow Deluxe, Hollywood, California (and on Tour throughout the U.S.)
By Phil Dotree — November 21, 2010
The classic circus sideshow is nearly extinct in the United States, but there are some talented professionals who are keeping it alive and adapting it to modern times. FreakShow Deluxe is one such show, a breathtaking and innovative group of performers that take a unique approach to keep their audiences thoroughly entertained.
The darkest and scariest, yet most enthralling entertainment you'll ever witness, freakshow deluxe is a sideshow on steroids (or perhaps something more psychotropic in nature). As this troupe of super-skilled, death-defying professionals will tell you, freakshow deluxe “treads that fine line between the dastardly and the divine with danger, laughter and finesse.”
The FreakShow Deluxe is a throwback to the traveling sideshows of the 1950’s and 60’s with a certain macabre element that’s all its own. As a traveling, ever-changing group of performers, the FreakShow Deluxe has been delighting and scaring audiences since 2001.
Most of the acts in FreakShow Deluxe focus on the limits of the human body and its performers’ tolerance of pain and stress. The idea is to bring the unique morbidity and enthralling nature of the carnival sideshow to the modern age. Visitors will see feats of extraordinary pain tolerance and flexibility. Magicians perform amazing and occasionally gruesome tricks. Self-styled “freaks” occasionally visit the stage and there are even a few acts that combine burlesque with the other elements that you’d expect from a carnival show.
Standard carnival tricks also make regular appearances. As the FreakShow Deluxe’s performers would point out, the classics are classics for a very good reason. For instance, fire breathing and sword swallowing make prominent appearances in every show—but always with a unique twist that makes the FreakShow Deluxe anything but predictable.
Audiences may be familiar with the beginning of the knife throwing act, in which the lovely Miss Malice Aforethought stands calmly as knives are thrown within a few inches of her body. What they won’t be prepared for is when the knives are set on fire before they’re thrown at her, ratcheting up the intensity level and bringing the audience to the edge of their seats.
The other acts in FreakShow Deluxe are similarly unique and thoroughly entertaining, even when they’re difficult to watch without getting too squeamish. A highlight is Amy Amnesia, who lies in broken glass and subjects herself to torture through animal traps, nails, and more. Of course, she always emerges unscathed, adding magic and surprise to the FreakShow Deluxe’s presentation.
Kitty Karloff supplements the FreakShow Deluxe’s pain-centric acts with lovely burlesque and Brother Daniel the Demented showcases his extraordinary flexibility—again, with a special twist or two, no pun intended.
The Green Monster is another definite highlight. He’s a very young child who began performing with the FreakShow Deluxe at the age of four, taking his first steps on stage. It’s difficult to think of a child laying on a bed of nails as a “cute” image, but The Green Monster is really as endearing as he is brave.
There are almost too many acts in the FreakShow Deluxe to pick a favorite, and more importantly, it’s impossible to find an act that doesn’t live up to the high standards of the show. Whether it’s the escape act of Johnny Panic or the edgy magic of William Draven, every act is thoroughly entertaining and completely unexpected.
Freakshow Deluxe is committed to living up to its name by being completely packed with talented, intense, and varied performances, but every act has a sideshow feel and a macabre moment or two. The company works very hard to keep an element of danger and surprise working for its audience members. Atmosphere is important. Well-designed set pieces and performer costumes keep the gritty flare that most visitors to a sideshow would be expecting in the first place.
Danger is implicit. There’s always the feeling that something could go terribly wrong, but the confidence of the performers always reassures the audience that they’re watching a group of professionals that understand their craft. FreakShow Deluxe is not about watching people harm their bodies and find new ways to make the audience uncomfortable; it’s about watching people do fantastic things that you wouldn’t think the human body would be capable of doing. The person pressing his face into a pile of broken glass or the act with concrete blocks swinging from his ears aren’t doing this for the first time. They know exactly what they’re doing, they know how to avoid getting hurt, and it’s incredibly fun to watch them while wondering how they acquired such an astounding set of skills.
The Reverend Tommy Gun serves as the FreakShow Deluxe’s ringleader, introducing the acts and performing some of the most outlandish stunts of the show. He is an engaging and active host. Gun’s speeches are well-tuned and completely capture the audiences attention as he hypes them up for the next freak, performer, or circus act. He’s funny and at times risqué, with side-jokes and running gags that keep the audience listening and provide continuity to the whole circus extravaganza.
I should certainly mention that while the FreakShow Deluxe is an incredibly fun affair for adults, it’s not intended for children. Some of the stunts that are performed could be disturbing or even traumatic. With that being said, the FreakShow Deluxe isn’t morbid and it never crosses the line. Adults will love the feeling of being sucked back into an old carnival sideshow where anything goes and nearly anything could (and will) happen.
Fans of the FreakShow Deluxe can follow the company and its performers on Twitter or Myspace. The company’s website provides up to date show information and offers a range of services to both curious fans and professionals looking for a unique act. Many individual members of the troupe are available for private performances, presentations, and more, in case you’ve been looking for a great sword swallower, knife thrower, or one of the great hype men.
If the FreakShow Deluxe is coming to your area or if you’re in Hollywood while they’re performing, they’re a fantastic and unquestionably unique act. For an entertaining, visceral, and at times unnerving night of entertainment, FreakShow Deluxe provides a great time and a set of talented performers that give the audience their money’s worth and much more.
Phil Dotree has written over 2,000 articles on various subjects for many websites and news sites (Fark, Digg.com, etc.). He has been featured on the Howard Stern show and CNN.com.