Evan Bivins and Matt Bivins might have a few tricks up their sleeves for their homecoming performance at the Charleston Comedy Festival. Perhaps a vaudevillian rendition of a classic AC/DC track, a risqué song 'n' dance routine, some Rodney Dangerfield one-liners. But most likely, they'll be up to something more elaborate.
"There'll be a few surprise songs in there," says Matt. "It'll be a rock 'n' roll good time."
Their Thursday night concert at Charleston Ballet Theatre — billed as The Dangerous Strangers of Cabaret Kiki (with special guests Cook County Social Club) — marks a triumphant return to Charleston for the Bivins fellows, who relocated to Chicago a year or so ago. Both played in the band Jump, Little Children before forming and directing the glamorous "rock 'n' roll variety show" Cabaret Kiki in late 2005. Kiki evolved into an elaborate collective of naughty musicians, actors, comedians, professional dancers (from Charleston Ballet Theatre), and visual artists putting on a multi-media burlesque show. The Dangerous Strangers served as Kiki's "house band" during its popular run.
In Chicago, the Bivins brothers have quickly established themselves in the theater, music, and comedy scenes. Matt, who had studied improv at Theatre 99 with Greg Tavares, enrolled in classes at Chicago's famous iO theater, which led him to catch a series of performances by Cook County Social Club, who appeared at last year's Charleston Comedy Festival.
"I found that they were my favorite ones," Matt says. "They're kind of like rock stars in the improv scene here in Chicago. They're definitely a long-form style — a little tighter and funnier than others, but with a through-line in the shows. I got a message one day from Greg Hess saying he was a huge Jump fan and wanted to get a beer sometime. We started talking, we became buddies, and now we even share office space. Eventually, we started putting a show together."
The Bivins brothers will be bringing that collaboration to Charleston for the Comedy Festival in two different forms. One will be a performance by the Dangerous Strangers of Cabaret Kiki at which Cook County will appear and perform some comedy sketches.
Then, they'll play as Butterscotch, On the Rocks at Cook County Social Club's performances on Friday and Saturday night (see story above). In those shows, the music of Butterscotch sets the scene for Cook County's improv sets.
In Chicago, the Bivins have connected with some other Charleston ex-pats: Henry Riggs, a former College of Charleston theater major and Theatre 99 alumni who earned praise for penning Hobo: The Musical, and Chris Gingrich, formerly of Charleston rock band The Working Title. The two play with the brothers in both the Dangerous Strangers and Butterscotch, On the Rocks.
"For the Strangers' show on Thursday," says Evan, "[the Cook County guys] have written a few little skits that are going to be hilarious. We've worked those into some of the hits from the Cabaret Kiki show. It's going to be music-heavy. Music plus sketch plus wacky costumes!"