Music

Rhode Island’s Sweet Little Variety Show

“All the world is a Sweet Little Variety Show and all of our LBGTQ friendly humans merely feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, body positive players in a cabaret,” to paraphrase William Shakespeare.

Aurora in DownCity PVD demonstrates their commitment to diversity and acceptance as host venue for the Sweet Little Variety Show, one of the biggest hits in Aurora’s programming, held the 2nd Thursday of every month since 2009. General Manager Chrissy Wolpert was quoted in Motif last month saying, “It’s incredibly important to everyone at Aurora that people feel safe to be, hear, and feel at Aurora.”

Vatic Kuumba performs as a poet at the Sweet Little Variety Show at Aurora PVD.
Vatic Kuumba performs as a poet at the Sweet Little Variety Show at Aurora PVD. (Photo: Ian Silvia)

The Sweet Little Variety show offers enthralling music, poetry, stand-up comedy, swing dance, ventriloquists, band music, the Lil’ Rhody Lindy Hoppers, hula hoopers, magic tricks, the Moist Towelettes, burlesque, a mentalist, and even the Extraordinary Rendition Band have popped in to play. Sometimes the SLVS coincides with Aurora’s full schedule of Bourbon nights, karaoke, and DJ hosting.

Erin Olson, a comedian known at SLVS for Garden City Biddies with Steve Dionne and now pursuing her craft with iO and Second City in Chicago said, “SLVS has always been unique for me because it offers the opportunity to engage with a vibrant and diverse audience that has proven time and time again to be smart, enthusiastic, and incredibly receptive.”

The minds behind the Sweet Little Variety Show understand that the best performances are enhanced by the positive energy between stage and audience. Jen Stevens, one of the three producers since SLVS’s inception, agrees. “Nicole [Maynard], Meg [Sullivan], and I work together to curate a diverse show across multiple genres. We like to encourage artists to experiment, and we bring a mix of new and returning talent. We’ve developed a really friendly audience that’s open to just about anything. Every show is full of pleasant surprises.”

The fabulously functional blend of Aurora’s and SLVS’s philosophies relaxes audiences right away. The performers, often returning over the years, look forward to it. Singer-songwriter John Fuzek is a SLVS staple after eight years. “Sweet Little Variety Show is a lot of fun,” he said. “It is a loose show with a lot of heart … Meg and Nicole keep you entertained with all sorts of straight-up talented folks…”

One of the “loose” shows, the Lil’ Rhody Lindy Hoppers “Jive at Five,” was as loose as it gets. Providence Swings offers weekly beginner-friendly social dances called the Bread and Butter Jam. “We find that Sweet Little Variety Show is a wonderful example of a venue [Aurora] that values inclusivity, artists from all walks of life, and a place that fosters community and warmth, which is what we try to do with Providence Swings,” said Vivian Madrid.

It’s not just SLVS’s dedication to pay each performer that elicits loyalty, and the performers of SLVS benefit from watching and supporting each other at the shows. Often the performers bring their own audiences, further developing the collective vision of Aurora, Sweet Little Variety Show and the welcomed guests.

Wild Cat, the RHD-RI band, performs at the Sweet Little Variety Show at Aurora PVD. L-R: Brian Mustari on guitar, Amy Rostkowski on drums, and Nissah Armstrong on vocals. (Photo: Ian Silvia)
Wild Cat, the RHD-RI band, performs at the Sweet Little Variety Show at Aurora PVD. L-R: Brian Mustari on guitar, Amy Rostkowski on drums, and Nissah Armstrong on vocals. (Photo: Ian Silvia)

At the March 16 show, MC “Nicool” (Nicole Maynard) introduced the Resources for Human Development of RI (RHD-RI) band Wild Cat, which consists of Nissah Armstrong on vocals, Amy Rostkowski on drums, and Brian Mustari on guitar. Armstrong immediately took full control of the stage. “We are friends with some staff members at RHD who approached us about having Wild Cat, the RHD Band, perform,” Maynard said.

Armstrong and her band, according to Jen Stevens, “… totally stole the show at their first SLVS performance! We look forward to having them back one day.” Meg Sullivan, as one of the team of SLVS producers, added, “That was probably one of my favorite moments in SLVS history so far.” In addition, Wild Cat will perform at 8pm on April 8 at the Parlour in PVD for the A is for Awesome benefit for autism.

The Sweet Little Variety Show rocks Aurora, 276 Westminster St, PVD, every 2nd Thursday of the month. Guests planned for the April 13 show include musicians Jacob Haller (“He sings about kitties and robots. He’s amazing,” said Maynard) and Mark Milloff, Stuart Window doing stand-up, excerpts from Horror, burlesque with Bettysioux Taylor, Jasmine Packard performing poetry, and hula hooper Jessie Jewels. Cover $7 to pay the artists; 18-plus unless accompanied by an adult.

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