Los Angeles Theater Review: TALES FROM THE CRYPT THEATER OF MYSTERY (Captured Aural Phantasy Theater at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater)

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by Tony Frankel on November 11, 2017

in Theater-Los Angeles


Captured Aural Phantasy Theater (CAPT), the only group authorized to perform EC Comics’ material live, offered a blood-bucket of charm at their recent annual Halloween show, Tales from the Crypt Theater of Mystery. For those who don’t know, Entertaining Comics was an American publisher of comic books specializing in horror fiction, crime fiction, satire, military fiction and science fiction from the 1940s through the mid-1950s, notably the Tales from the Crypt series (the last surviving title of EC Comics is MAD Magazine).

This troupe reminded me of my childhood: As a boy growing up in the 60s, the lure of the haunted house was more exciting than candy, and every year I did my best to spook neighbors by acting out creepy stories or dramatizing scenes from Disneyland’s The Haunted Mansion in my garage.

CAPT’s reenactors stood at music stands, acting out the projections behind them with all the silly seriousness they could muster. Our first tale was from one of the three popular EC horror anthologies, The Haunt of Fear. The story, “Minor Error,” concerned three young neighborhood friends who decide to take it upon themselves to rid their neighborhood of a vampire who lives nearby. With a foley artist sitting at a table, the storytelling was vivid and transportive, especially when we discover that the kids may be targeting the wrong guy!

Luckily, the event was held at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater, which has thankfully remained open since Baker’s death in 2014. We were treated to the puppeteers’ gorgeous fluorescent skeletons dancing to “Hernando’s Hideaway” and Fan Dancers shimmying to “A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody.”

The second act was a marvel: Somehow, the gang got hold of (I believe) Harper Goff’s original concept drawings for The Haunted Mansion attraction, which was originally conceived in the mid-1950s by Walt Disney as a walk-through ghost house (it was Walt who put his foot down about the exterior not being ramshackle; he supposedly said, “We’ll take care of the outside and let the ghosts take care of the inside”).

Taking us through that piece of basically unknown history with multi-media and an original draft was a hoot, but the real Halloween treat was the The Story and Song from the Haunted Mansion. This Disneyland Records album was released in 1969 to coincide with (and promote) the opening of the attraction. Narrated by Thurl Ravenscroft (the voice of Tony the Tiger), the 24-minute story follows two teenagers, Mike (voiced by the post-Andy Griffith and pre-American Graffiti Ron Howard) and Karen (Robie Lester) stuck in a creepy manse.

The Ghost Host for the LP was not Paul Frees, as in the ride, but Peter Renaday, who—sounding just as good as ever—made a live appearance at Sunday’s show to read along with the CAPT actors. The album was never particularly funny or scary for me (“hokey” and “corny” come to mind, especially given the 1960s’ gender stereotypes (valiant lad and defenseless lass), but aided by live sound effects and music that somehow made it even more enjoyable to visit.

The sold out crowd ate it up; the only thing missing was a garage.

photos courtesy of CAPT

Tales from the Crypt Theatre of Mystery
Captured Aural Phantasy Theater
Bob Baker Marionette Theater, 1345 W 1st St
played October 28 and 29, 2017
for more info and future shows,
visit Captured Aural Phantasy
or Bob Baker Marionette Theater

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