The Va Va Vixens put on great shows year round, but their Valentine’s Day performance is always the biggest and most well attended. According to Tabitha Johnson — Vixen, choreographer and co-writer of the current offering that starts Friday — the big show this year is all about love. And superheroes.
Love and superheroes.
“Va Va InVincible” presents a world of sheroes and villains, with fictional super powers and IRL mad skills. And while love may seem like an awkward fit for a genre better known for punching and lasers, it makes perfect sense if you think about it.
“During a time where we’re all kind of at odds with each other, our show revolves around the idea of love and letting go of our anger and resentment toward each other,” Johnson tells Insider.
Maybe what most villains need is a hug and the chance to dance that anger out, rather than a Batarang in the face?
We talked with one of those villains. Braden McCampbell has been working with the Vixens since Halloween of 2015. He speaks about his alter ego for the show.
“His name is Dr. Dee … and Mr. Hine. It’s a play on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde — he doesn’t have powers per se, he’s just a super genius,” says McCampbell.
While he name-dropped the famous doctor from Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic, his character’s backstory also closely echoes Bat-villian Mr. Freeze. “His thing is, he wants power so he can save his wife, and he ends up going insane instead,” he says.
McCampbell is excited about the dance number that showcases Mr. Hine’s descent into madness. But since this is a Va Va show, that descent has a rather particular manifestation. “I have a solo where the doctor transforms,” he says. “It’s him losing his mind over the course of the number, and it’s a solo striptease thing.”
McCampbell says his nemesis in the show is actually his character’s sister, an oracle played by longtime Vixen Beatrix B. Naughty.
Naughty explains her character. “For this role, I’m Beatrix the Oracle,” she says. “She has a rope that hangs from the ethereal, and it gives her messages. And that’s where she gets all her knowledge.”
Rope is also the circus apparatus Naughty prefers. She climbs, spins, twirls and drops. Circus performers develop intense relationships with their chosen apparatus, something Naughty is exploring dramatically. “I guess aerialists are always looking for new ways to use the apparatus,” she explains. “Being able to use it as part of my character and building a new relationship with the apparatus around a story, it’s super exciting.”
Johnson’s character actually goes back further than this show — much further.
“I get to be a character I created when I was in middle school,” says Johnson. “I really loved X-Men and things like that, and me and my best friend Jeriann, we’d create our own characters and make our own comic strips, which we’d draw.”
The character got a name change for the show — going from Rhythmic to Reverb — but her power set remains the same. “Reverb can harness soundwaves, and she needed a music source. Back then she had a Walkman,” says Johnson.
The Vixens have a collaborative creative structure, and ideas for shows often come from dancers, as well as Lisa Frye, the troupe’s head.
“Tabitha (Johnson) is the one who approached me wanting to do a superhero theme last year,” says Frye.
After the superhero theme was given the green light, Johnson began working with other Vixens on the story and choreography, including Victoria D’Light, a founding member of the troupe. D’Light worked tightly with Johnson on the original story.
“She was integral in giving a true depth to the story,” says Frye, adding that D’Light contributed to the dancing. “She also choreographed many of the numbers in the show — from the dreambox in her mind, as she puts it.”
To create the script, Johnson says she tried to give performers the room to speak in their own voices. “I’ve never written dialogue before, so we wanted to make sure everyone was able to speak, almost in their own voice, so we gave them the gist, and they added their own personal flair.”
That included a lot of dialogue for Naughty, who is stepping into the position of co-host for the first time in this show.
“I’m the type of person who wants to learn everyone else’s job,” says Naughty. “So to prove myself as an actor and as somebody who can hold the audience through the story is something I’m super excited about, but I’m also horribly terrified.”
Johnson says the departure from run-of-the-mill Valentine themes reflects the way the company creates and performs. “Va Va wanted to show we are about love and compassion and unity and being together for each other. More than just romance.”
Feel the love, see the action and experience the sexy when the Va Va Vixens bring “Va Va InVincible” to Headliners, 1386 Lexington Road. The show runs Feb. 10-25. Tickets start at $20, and showtime is 8 p.m.