Cecil B. DeUkulele was Big Time*. He played the Palace* and the Hippodrome and every ritzy Vaudeville* house on the Keith-Albee circuit*. From the time he was a kid hoofing* a song-and-dance, to the comedic headlining patter-man* he became, Cecil was born to trod the boards and always knocked 'em bowlegged*.
But then one bad business move puts him on the blacklist. His agent has no option but to sign him to a small small time* nine-act* of washed up deadbeats touring Odd Fellows halls and community auditoriums in midwest stix U.S.A.
The silver lining: our hero falls head over heels for a brunette midget sidekick in a strong man routine. The tragedy: the strong man is the husband.
Cecil finds himself singing to the rats in an abandoned warehouse in an unknown whistlestop in the middle of... without a circuit, without an agent, without a cent. He's just rearing up for the wow finish*!
VAUD RATS consists of original music and libretto by Neel, peppered with lively dance numbers, tickling comedic banter, and thrilling pantomime. Originally workshopped at Theater Babylon in 2004, selections have been performed for Intrepid Theater in Victoria, Canada, on national tour with the Seattle Mime Theatre, and in cabarets around Seattle such as Bald Faced Lie, Carlotta's Late Night Wing Ding, In It For The Money and Open Circle Theater. The consummate production premiered in Washington, DC at the inaugural Capital Fringe Festival in July 2006.
"NEEL ROCKED. I never imagined that a guy and a uke would hold my attention for 90 minutes. But -- I was riveted." - National Public Radio
"You gotta love the sweat on K. Brian Neel's face as he perform his one-man ukulele operetta, VAUD RATS. He sings in Jolson-like overdrive, and with a grin and gaze that recalls the creepy ventriloquist dummy in Magic, it's clear this character is desperate to entertain... With his gangster smile and that wee little instrument together throwing off a kind of gritty sentiment, Neel's onto something." - Washington Post
"A must see... dynamic, engrossing, funny, heartbreaking, poignant, unique -- all those things that make a night at the theater the thrillingly consuming experience that only a couple shows in a hundred can create. A+" - Charleston City Paper
"Cool, quirky, kinda dark. Neel is very engaging and the songs are each their own captivating little tale with a real air of the Vaudeville circuit. This is a MUST-SEE." - Washington (D.C.) City Paper Blog
"Funny, dark, and occasionally a little heartbreaking; a little whistling, a good bit of warbling, and naturally some hoofing. K. Brian Neel creates a winsome hero in Cecil B. DeUkulele, a plucky little Vaudevillian reduced to entertaining the vermin in an abandoned warehouse after a long stretch of bad luck. Cecil's tale includes sketches of his childhood (there's a sweetly lovely little tune that includes the graceful lyric "shy as a daylight moon"), scenes from the circuit (a gripping bit about a too-accurate psychic) and of course the story of that ill-fated love affair with the midget. (Sock puppetry is involved, and hilariously, too.) There's a terrific bit involving Cecil's musical wooing of his short-statured love with a duet from Don Giovanni--and when the inevitable trouble with the strongman arrives, it's convincingly brutal. Bonus: Neel's researched his Vaudeville history thoroughly, so VAUD RATS plays like quick and lively overview of the rough-and-tumble world that dominated American entertainment, then crumbled under the onslaught of Hollywood. See it if you want a solo show that's not all about the performer's life, or you don't know how expressive a ukulele can be." - Washington (D.C.) City Paper
"Funny, charming, poignant... charisma and exuberance... the show was awesome." - DanN. Blog
"A sure thing." - DCist
"Neel rules the stage... I've never been touched by the sight of a grown man singing to his feet, but indeed I got all vaklempt during VAUD RATS. It's a charming and emotional complex moment that makes clear why people are talking about the show. It's a probing bit of theater that uses the trappings of a bygone era to convey universal themes in a wholly contemporary way. As we come to care emotionally for this down-and-out Pollyanna, we start to see parallels between our time and his. The weight of his turmoil is a weight we can feel." - Charleston City Paper
"Neel channeled Charlie Chaplin... He had all the comedic moves."
- Charleston Post and Courier
Vaudeville Information and Links
Ukulele Enlightenment: Brudda Bu's Ukulele Heaven
Washington DCtheatrereviews Podcast
Photos by David Silver
SunBreak Interview: The Only One-man Ukulele Operetta Worth Seeing
Press Release PDF
K. Brian Neel Resume PDF