Hail Zombo: A recap of Theatre Bizarre

From the moment you walk into The Masonic for Theatre Bizarre, you feel like you stepped into another world — a dreamlike, dark fantasy.

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There are sideshow performers everywhere — sword swallowers, suspension performers, fire breathers, dancers, contortionists and more — set in the vast, lavishly decorated Masonic complex in Detroit. The performers interact with you on an almost intimate level — touching your shoulder, whispering in your ear, beckoning you to come closer.

There are 8 floors and about 10 venues within The Masonic, and there’s no way you can see everything at Theatre Bizarre as shows run continuously in every venue. All of the performances are expertly staged and seamless, which is amazing considering the scale of the event.

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Photo Credit: Amy Hronek

Our merry band of revelers (pictured above, left to right: my partner in life and crime, me, and our BFFs Dave and Amy) started the night with a visit to The Dirty Devils Peepshow burlesque revue. Early in the night, the crowds were small, and we were front and center for the show.img_0810

The burlesque performers are a highlight for me — I love the old Hollywood glamour of burlesque.

We stayed for 3 shows — all the ladies were fierce, but Tana the Tattooed Lady stole the show. Tana was mesmerizing, beautiful, exotic, alluring (basically everything you want in a burlesque show).

The Ballroom on the lowest level is the main stage and features bands and dancers all night. The Theatre Bizarre brass band also comes through, and that’s something you don’t want to miss. This is also the best place to “people watch” — the costumes at Theatre Bizarre are incredible and never disappoint.

Although I really wanted to see Mat Fraser (star of American Horror Story Freak Show), The Odditorium where he was performing was jam-packed mid-way through the night, so we moved on.

img_0817Food and drinks are plentiful, which is fortunate, because this event is an all-nighter. There’s even an Ice Screams & Sweet Dreams ice cream parlor, where you can get a free, handmade cup of liquor-infused sorbet or ice cream, served by some creepy-cute soda jerks. I went with the blood orange sorbet, which was quite refreshing.

We had the privilege of watching a full set from Cult of the Psychic Fetus, a gothic rockabilly band from Cleveland. The sound in the smaller ballroom, The Asylum, where they played was great, and there were even seats around the perimeter, which was a huge bonus for my tired feet (I don’t often wear high heels, so I was one tired flapper by night’s end).

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Photo credit: Amy Hronek

We wandered down to a smaller stage called The Beezlepub and my ears immediately perked up when I heard a cover of “Henry Lee,” by Nick Cave and PJ Harvey (on the perfect album “Murder Ballads”). Up next in the set was a quirky version of “Who Was in My Room Last Night” by Butthole Surfers. If I was intrigued before, I was all in at this point. The band, Brunswick Brawlers, played a great set of country-rockabilly covers and originals.

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Weary from a a long night on our feet, our motley band of best buds settled into seats in The Sinema and watched a couple silent shorts, as well as some clips from “The Devil’s Rain.” I found myself nodding off a couple times, which meant it was time to wind down for the evening. My pumpkin turns into a carriage not too long after the stroke of midnight.

As I looked at my Instagram story the next day, I was struck by all the happenings from the previous evening. Theatre Bizarre is grand in scale — and the memories are like a dream — singular moments, strange sights and sensuous characters that leave a strong impression.

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