Review: INDUSTRY NIGHT, Fourth Season Premiere at the North Door, Austin, August 14, 2017
by David Glen Robinson
If you’ve ever wanted a confectionary sampler of Austin’s high theatrical talent, INdustry Night is the show for you. Every bi-monthly show in the series lights up a Monday night, when all the theatres are dark and the actors, dancers, and musicians in shows have the evening off. And there lies the industry in the title. The performers and technicians are available to meet, greet, and hurl cocktails within the well-appointed watering hole with the roomy corner stage, sound system, and lighting grid that is The North Door nightclub.
INdustry Night is the creative brainchild of some of Austin’s major talents—Cami Alys, Jeff Mills, Michelle Keffer, Liz Cass, Michael Trejo, Zach Munn, and until recently Chris Gibson, who has just left to pursue his career out of state. These folks and others perceived that while the performing arts community was serving the artistic needs of the larger community, they themselves were left underserved. Thus INdustry Night was born as a bi-monthly variety performance series. Is this an idea that works? The recent 8-14-17 show was the premiere of the fourth season of the series, with no end in sight.
The show format features regular performers and guest artists who perform dialogues, songs, dances, and comedy sketches they hold in repertoire; and they project videos of recently completed films. The producers write one original through-line sketch or running gag for each show. The new material for the recent show was entitled “The Perfect Sketch,” submitted for contest judging and awarding of prizes.
The variety acts included a Cirque du Soleil-style dance number with hoops, a solo with electronically multiplied voices, some good ol’ standup comedy with video assist, and other acts. Interspersed between each one was a competition for “The Perfect Sketch,” wherein various team members interacted with comedy dialogues, almost all of which wrung wry laughs from the audience because of their deliberate lameness. Celebrity judge Liz Beckham offered opinions of the sketches. They varied only from complete unknowingness to outright non-sequiturs. One suspected early on that Ms Beckham would win the prize for the perfection of her reactions to the wackiness, especially her “deer in the headlights” look reminiscent of Carol Burnett.
There were highlights. The one that seems to stand out was when co-host Cami Alys sat at the electric piano and accompanied herself in singing a torch/love song directly to everyone in the room. Conversations muted and glasses stopped clinking; seemingly the audience fell to contemplation of the wild artistic beauty that takes one by surprise from anywhere, including from a downtown drinking establishment on an ordinary Monday night.
It’s not over until Liz Cass sings, and she wouldn’t have it any other way. Ms Cass sang, or redacted, all the events and acts of the evening in her high operatic voice, giving the evening an even brighter comedic luster. Her benediction in song is the longest standing Industry Night tradition.
The Industry Night series gets a must-see recommendation for all adults of drinking age. The 2017-2018 season has just started at The North Door, 5th and Brushy, one block east of I-35 in downtown Austin. Check their Facebook page for performance dates.
August 14, 2017
502 Brushy St.
Austin, TX, 78702
North Door at 8 p.m., Monday, August 14, 2017