Jimmy Mak (left) and David Whitehouse in a skit from Nightmare on Front Street (Studio 66 photo)

It’s September, which means it’s time for Nightmare on Front Street, the latest version of Shadowbox Live’s annual Halloween show.

What’s that you say? You’re not ready for Halloween yet? Well, don’t feel bad, as it seems to have crept up on Shadowbox, too. The show has funny moments here and there, along with some smokin’ rock tunes, but this is not one of the troupe’s better efforts overall.

For starters—or rather, finishers—Shadowbox ends the show by interrupting a typical Dr. Mystery episode with an attempt at political commentary. As longtime patrons know, Dr. Mystery is a silly combination of narration, puppets and live action that is usually good for a laugh, a chuckle or at least an eye roll. It’s probably possible to add politics to the mix if it’s done on the sly, but the current skit does it in a heavy-handed way that only succeeds in bringing the whole thing to an awkward halt.

Actually, most of the show’s second half is much better.

The longest and funniest piece is Sneak a Peek—Horror for Kids, in which “co-hosts” John (David Whitehouse) and Shelly (Julie Klein) preview scary flicks based on children’s TV shows. More laughs come courteous of Slumber Party—Bloody Good Time, with Klein, Stacie Boord and Anita McFarren as a trio of flighty adolescents and Edelyn Parker as a spirit who unexpectedly crashes their get-together.

Poltergeist, a video in which head writer Jimmy Mak tries to prove the Shadowbox building is haunted, is another Act 2 highlight.

Music-wise, you can’t complain too much about a show that gives both Klein and Stephanie Shull—the Stradivarius and Guarnerius of Shadowbox belters—their own solos (Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir and Creedence Clearwater Revival’s I Put a Spell on You, respectively).

Other featured singers include the sweet-voiced Tom Cardinal (White Room), a fierce Stev Guyer (Terrible Lie) and an electronically distorted Nikki Fagin (Man in the Box). Guitar and bass solos by Matt Hahn and Harley Wolfe play important supporting roles.

As for the rest of the show’s skits, they’re not hopelessly bad and may get better, if the writers and cast work to hone the product based on audience response. But if you want a guaranteed evening of entertainment, you’re better off catching one of the few remaining performances of the steamy midweek show Burlesque Behind the Curtain.

Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, drop by next week for the annual Brew Ha Ha. The four-day festival starts on Tuesday with a Stand-Up Comedy Competition and continues Wednesday and next Thursday with the Live Sketch Comedy Competition, which brings in troupes from Ohio and beyond. Both contests wrap up on Sept. 27.

Filling out the entertainment are daily headlining acts and performances by local comedians and musicians. The festivities begin at 7 p.m. each day.

Admission to Brew Ha Ha is $10 per show Tuesday through Thursday or $20 on Sept. 27. A VIP All Access Pass is $75. For more information, visit shadowboxlive.org.


Nightmare on Front Street continues through Nov. 16 at Shadowbox Live, 503 S. Front St. Show times are 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays (except Sept. 27). Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes (including intermission). Tickets are $30, $20 for students and seniors. 614-416-7625 or shadowboxlive.org.