Movieoke night means standing room only in Logan Square

July 6, 2010

“Drrrrrrrrrrrrrrraaaaaaaaaaaaaaaain it, Eli, I’m so sorry …”

Oh yes, the fierce face, the snarl on the screen is Daniel Day-Lewis – there’s no question of that.

“If you have a milkshake, and I have a milkshake …”

But the voice … er, no, not the voice.

“There it is: that’s the straw, see?”

The guy who’s speaking the words is actually Fard Muhammed, a fellow much darker, much more robust than Day Lewis, and his pointing out of the straw is, frankly, compromised.

See, he’s holding a mic in one hand, and though he knows the scene pretty well, he still can’t take his eyes off a second screen – the one the audience doesn’t see in front of him – where he’s following the film captions.

“My straw reaches acrooooooooooooooooooss the room and starts to drink your milkshake.”

Muhammed holds his finger in the air, moving opposite of Day-Lewis behind him on the screen, so that they criss-cross. He’s missing the rasp, the menace. In fact, he’s grinning.

“I drink your milkshake! I drink it up!” he exclaims, mildly at best, while Day-Lewis behind him practically swallows Eli alive.

But it doesn’t matter. The standing room only crowd at The Whistler, 2421 N. Milwaukee, eats it up. Muhammed’s a fave, and the clapping’s crazy, punctuated with a few hoots and shrieks.

Movieoke!, created by Katy Collins and usually hosted by her, is presented at The Whistler by the Vintage Theater Collective the first Monday of every month.

It’s what it sounds like: a twist on karaoke. But instead of music, players perform classic movie scenes for an audience. Sometimes performers don costumes or use props. Tonight, one fellow takes on a wooden sword to sub for a laser in his reenactment of a scene from one of the “Star Wars” movies. His partner uses a tennis racket.

“If someone does a scene horribly, nobody cares,” says James Bespalec-Davis, tonight’s host. “In fact, the best scenes (for movieoke) are broadly comedic or overly dramatic ones, because you can do them over the top. So pretty much every scene from ‘The Big Lebowski’ works, the president’s speech from ‘Independence Day,’ and, of course, the milkshake scene from ‘There Will be Blood’.”

Bespalec-Davis’s group has about 250 scenes gathered up and the set up’s straight forward: big screen, a couple of mics, and a second monitor for the performers to work from. Everything runs off a laptop.

Muhammed, though, says it takes more than just reading the captions to pull it off. “Sometimes, because of the need to fit in a certain number of words on the screen, words get dropped, and the captions don’t fit what’s actually being said on screen. But I’ve been quoting movie scenes since I was 8 or 9 years old. I tend to watch scenes repeatedly so I can get the director’s intentions. I know a lot of scenes, which means that when there’s an error in the captions, I can fill in the actual words.”


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