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Burton Brothers thrill with a taste of Vegas

Delight and incredulity may well describe the show as a whole. Vegas Residency is costumed as a show about two brothers at Vegas; at its heart shines all the fun and creativity of local theatre, delivering borderline absurdist moments and a whole lot of joy.

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From the moment the sounds of Elvis Presley’s ‘Viva Las Vegas’ began to play as waiting music, it was clear that the Burton Brothers’s Vegas Residency would be a romp. Vegas Residency is the third sketch show from the brothers and was presented as part of Melbourne Comedy Festival 2023, transporting its audience from the Chinese Museum to a Las Vegas strip. Here, brothers Josh and Tom Burton are faced with the prospect of putting on a spectacular show or shutting down completely.

The show itself opens with a truly dazzling original number to introduce the brothers and a fever pitch of entertainment extends across the next fifty minutes. As expected from a sketch comedy show set in Vegas, the brothers embrace over-the-top, camp costuming and characters. While playing the Vegas-version of themselves, Tom and Josh are earnest, if incompetent. They also take turns slipping in and out of roles, including the witches “Brock” and “Misty” (who just so happen to own a full deck of Pokémon cards); the scheming, Rumpelstiltskin-esque casino manager; a boy raised by monkeys and his suffering father; Just Two Guys; and two Elvis impersonators, which they pull off impeccably. When in Vegas!

Both physical props and a digital slideshow element are used sparsely with maximum effect. A fake tiger shining in every scene she’s in, whilst a voiceover providing fake bibliographical facts about the brothers between sketches heightens the sense of immersion. The musical moments are another bombastic highlight–as is the ‘I Want’ song being abruptly cut off. The show is tight and sleek, packing a veritable mosaic of sketches into under an hour as it does.

Through it all, the brothers present a solid case for being one the strongest duos in Australian entertainment today. Their excellent dynamic enhances every joke and moment of absurdity, whether they are chorusing in unison (complete with hand gestures) or riffing off one another with perfect comedic timing. There’s one “Houdini” joke that truly shines, the moment extended with an aside that the joke came from their father. Josh seems to take on the more of the embodied parts, putting his all into flopping about on stage where required, whereas Tom mellows him out as the weary but passionate performer.

The Burton Brothers fold various audience members into the epic dramas of the Vegas strip at various points, with their truly stellar improvisation skills keeping the interactions smooth and entertaining. The result is an audience investing wholly in the scenes unfolding in front of them. One running thread was a request for random numbers throughout, keeping us in rapt suspense that transformed into equal parts delight and incredulity.

Delight and incredulity may well describe the show as a whole. Vegas Residency is costumed as a show about two brothers at Vegas; at its heart shines all the fun and creativity of local theatre, delivering borderline absurdist moments and a whole lot of joy. 

 
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