In a city overrun with startup T-shirts and humdrum jeans, Barron Scott Levkoff wants to give folks a reason to dress up this Halloween.
“We give people permission to be another character for the night,” “Spookeasy” producer Levkoff says, creating “super-rich, visual, colorful worlds for people to lose themselves in. What better time than Halloween?”
The inaugural “Spookeasy Halloween Extravaganza” is a stage spectacle, séance and soiree incorporating Barbary Coast-era vaudeville, 1930s cartoons, burlesque, puppets (yes, puppets) and spooky special effects. The interactive show is taking over a historic Chinatown theater for four days, starting tonight.
“My passion is for creating immersive worlds that invite everyone – guests, casts, everyone – to really play a part in an amazing adventure together,” Levkoff says. Levkoff is even turning Chinatown’s long-dormant Great Star Theater into a character in his Spookeasy fantasy, generously embroidering the venue’s history with tales of bawdy performers and the Great Star Tragedy of 1932. The fabled fire, according to Spookeasy, killed 599 of 600 actors and audience members under very suspicious circumstances, with the lone survivor committed to a psychiatric hospital.
The San Francisco Examiner’s extensive archives have no record of any such incident, mysteriously, though there are plenty of references to Levkoff’s other projects, including serving as a content producer for the spicy Masquerotica party and Edwardian Ball, a long-running gala of sumptuous period attire, art and performances. The fire fuels “Spookeasy’s” narrative arc, which takes audience members back to the theater’s glittering heyday to witness the tragedy, summon the ghosts that haunt the Great Star and take a terrifying trip into a cartoon underworld.
“There’s a deeper message, the hero’s journey,” Levkoff says. Audience members “share their fears, and have a real moment with these spooks. … performers aren’t treating you like a guest, they are treating you like a person from the 1930s.”
Afterward, guests can recover in “Mr. Nobody’s Jumpin’ and Wailin’ Tent Show Revival Finale” with cocktails, dancing and music (including, Levkoff promises, DJs kicking it old-old-old school by spinning 78s on dueling Victrolas) before exploring the theater’s secret corners and shadowy alleys.
Levkoff credits director Jasper Patterson and assistant director-head writer Sean Owens for helping to bring “Spookeasy” to life. Levkoff is also counting on audience members to plunge into the atmosphere of sexy intrigue and vintage Chinatown glamour.
That means colorful costumes or snappy ensembles. At the very least, pleads Levkoff, a dapper gentleman who has sported a finely curled mustache for decades, leave the T-shirt and jeans at home.
“It’s Halloween, for Pete’s sake.”
IF YOU GO
Spookeasy Halloween Extravaganza
Where: Great Star Theater, 636 Jackson St., S.F.
When: 9 p.m. Thursday-Sunday
Tickets: $65-$75 (21 and over)
Contact: (415) 799-8590, www.spookeasysf.com