Emilie Autumn’s stop in Mesa on her 2013 Fight Like a Girl tour was awesome. The vocal and physical performances of Emilie and her two Bloody Crumpets (Captain Maggots, aka Maggie Lally, and The Naughty Veronica, aka Veronica Varlow) were immaculate, the lighting was amazing (when there was any … there are a lot of either completely dark or dimly lit sequences), and the set, though shaved down to its barest elements, was gorgeous. The entire performance was stripped down: there were no pyrotechnics, the lighting was lacking, and a lot of the grand theatre was removed from this stop of the show. However, it was not to the detriment of the show; in fact, it was reminiscent of minimalist stagings of Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd, and highlighted the story, rather than the flash-bang-whiz of the production.
The show began in a way that could be mistaken for a false start, with “Best Safety Lies in Fear” playing over the speakers and flickering lights that lead into “In a World of My Own” from Disney’s Alice in Wonderland. This was not a false start but foreshadowing the nature of the true beginning—which came moments later when Captain Maggots and The Naughty Veronica danced on stage to the introduction of “Fight Like a Girl,” the first and titular track of the album. Emilie Autumn herself appeared after them, wearing a sparkling silver corset and a magnificent mohawk-style feather headdress. The first two songs played—”Fight Light a Girl” and “Time for Tea”—should have been more than enough to psych up the criminally small audience, but they were, unfortunately, dead for the whole show.
With “Four O’Clock Reprise,” the sequel to a song on Autumn’s 2006 album Opheliac, the performance took a turn for the dark and hyper-realistic. Emilie sat inside the structure built on stage to represent the Asylum while the Crumpets took away her headdress. She sang “What Will I Remember?”, a lament that showed that the triumphant and joyous introduction of the show was Emilie’s Wonderland. At the beginning of “Take The Pill,” Veronica took on the role of an orderly in the Asylum, putting the zombie-like Emilie into an antique wheelchair. At the end of the song, Veronica and Maggots were both orderlies, forcing Emilie to “get back in line” and “take the pill.” We watched Emilie Autumn fall apart on stage, coming to her character’s choice in “The Art of Suicide”—while Maggots and Veronica solemnly danced with silvery boughs, Emilie climbed to the top level of the Asylum and “fell” off of it.
Minutes later, the seemingly drunk Captain Maggots came back on stage to introduce the band in the first of three intermissions. She began with a long-winded speech about the leader of the Bloody Crumpets, the “one you all came out to see”—herself, of course. As a joke, you see, because she was really talking about Emilie.
What is the Rat Game?
It’s when Veronica calls up an (of-age) female audience member, one who has never before kissed a girl, to be “corrupted”. Veronica scoured the audience for a victim; she chose a young woman, Bailey, to participate in her fan fiction and, at the end (after all of the perverts in the audience chanted “VERONICA, DEFILE ME. VERONICA, CORRUPT ME. VERONICA, K-K-K-KISS ME!”) kissed her.
Emilie returned, dressed in a more masculine pinstriped vest and pants (and thus introducing the audience to the second character she portrays, Dr. Stockhill) selling tickets to people who want to see the crazy “Girls! Girls! Girls!” of the Asylum.
Veronica and Captain Maggots acted as the girls of the Asylum, showing off for an invisible audience of Victorian voyeurs. After a speech from Dr. Stockhill of the Asylum warning his audience of Victorian voyeurs of the dangers and spread of insanity, a dual message of entrapment (from the doctors) and escape (from the inmates) came in the song “We Want Them Young.” While Emilie sang the doctors’ parts, telling everyone to send their female friends and family to the Asylum, the Crumpets climbed the set in the background, begging for release. The set then went dark as Emilie read her poem, “How To Break A Heart,” from off-stage. She returned in the role of that heartbreaker — the “Scavenger” — stalked by a monstrous apparition (portrayed by Captain Maggots, showing of her stilt-walking skills). “Gaslight” saw Emilie’s return to the character of an inmate, watching the world around her and the women she knew slowly burn. But hope returned in the form of “The Key,” as Emilie acted out their struggles to escape with a first key that was taken and a second key that was kept, which is what set the inmates free. Emilie’s battle cry, “It’s time for the attack,” echoed over the sounds of inmates killing, and rats devouring, the sadistic
doctors of the Asylum in “Hell Is Empty.” She rose triumphant—if she fell apart onstage in “The Art of Suicide,” then this was her coming back together. A moment of lightheartedness came from Maggots’ cleaning the sign on the gate of what was once the Asylum—“BEWARE OF ESCAPED INMATES.”
Now freed, Emilie wore a battle helmet and marched with her fellow inmates, the Bloody Crumpets, to “One Foot In Front Of The Other.” While the escaped inmates wondered how they would survive in a world they had forgotten, the scene was immensely uplifting.
After the finale, Emilie tearfully thanked the audience and invited them into the home she had made of the Asylum, alleviating some of the tragedy that reigns in the book, The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls, upon which the album is based, and reinforcing her message that an asylum should be a safe-haven — a sanctuary — rather than a place of misery and torture. Emilie and the Crumpets bowed off, musical theater style, and the house lights rose.
I don’t think that I saw a “concert” on January 29th. I believe that I saw the prototype to a well-crafted musical, well worth Emilie’s hopes for a debut in London’s West End. This show was literally like no other I’ve seen—it was even different than seeing the musical American Idiot. Even when other concerts have told a story, they didn’t create the musical theater-like atmosphere of Emilie Autumn’s performance. If this was merely the warm-up for a bigger, Broadway-style production, then I can’t wait to see it.
Read DOOM!’s interview with Emilie Autumn: Emilie Autumn Fights Like a Girl: A DOOM! Interview
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