When you step into the venue for Dandy Darkly’s All Aboard, you don’t expect much. You see a man in drag standing in front of a veil of Halloween cutouts with a microphone in front of him, desperately trying to get your attention. But when Dandy talks, you listen. Because in front of that veil, he spins a tale of horror, humor and of heartbreak, as the Gaybird Steamer thunders through the Old South.
When Dandy talks, you listen.
All Aboard is a story of the American South; about its myths and legends but also about its people and politics. It follows the stories of the inhabitants of Gaybird, Georgia as they run up against modernity, decency, crises of identity, and the wily ways of the trickster god Anansi. What’s most impressive about Dandy’s tale is how connected everything is – every character has at least one major interaction with another, and each small element is connected to the beginning – the derailment of the Gaybird Steamer. And while the order is mixed, little is confusing; character names and descriptions are vivid and clear enough that you would find it hard to forget any of them.
This is because of Dandy himself serves as the lynchpin to the whole thing. His ability to maintain suspense through delivery as well as the range of emotions he can express through small variations in tone and diction keep your eyes glued to the front of the stage. While his attempts at comedy are approximately 50/50 in terms of success, as a storyteller, he is a master. In the universe he crafts, each detail – no matter how outlandish – feels real and believable because Dandy Darkly truly believes it. This is most impressive with the horror elements; as I walked out feeling genuinely disturbed by many of his depictions of the genuine weird that comes of the myths of the South.
The music, though, is as important a storyteller as Dandy, perfectly timed in sync with story beats. These all combine to spin a spider's web of storytelling, which is impossible to avoid getting caught in. While his comedy is hit or miss, Dandy can tell one hell of a tale, and his stories are not to be missed.