Hellzapoppin’: A Sideshow Revue – Molson Canadian Studio, Hamilton Place – April 14th 2012

By Kayla Colanardi
Photos by Andy Hartmark


Molson Canadian Studio at Hamilton Place was filled with awe and wonder as people piled in to witness the twisted acts of a modern day freak show called Hellzapoppin’. The stage was complete with a large banner that read ‘Hellzapoppin’ that illuminated as the house lights began to dim. The crowd cheered excitedly, heavy electric guitar erupted, and Bryce “The Govna” Graves appeared on stage and informed show goers they were about to witness freaks, wonders, and human curiosities.

The first act enlisted the use of fire batons, with Zamora the Torture King inserting a lit baton into his mouth and blowing the fire to light the other batons. The audience was amazed and delighted with Zamora’s creativity, and his performance was lifted with the use of music perfectly matched for each act – in this particular case, grungy, electric guitar riffs to accompany the fire-breathing.

Bryce re-appeared on stage afterward as the master of ceremonies, and welcomed Zamora back to the stage for something called 'internal flossing’, during which Zamora swallowed a thick, string-like object then made an incision in his stomach and extracted the string, miraculously without bleeding. Audible gasps could be heard throughout the venue, with several show goers having to look away from the intense scene.

Miss Maryanne Magdalene’s act was up next, using an impressive ladder made entirely out of machetes. Carefully balanced on bare feet, and with the assistance of Bryce, she safely climbed to the top of the bladed ladder and back down down, without incident or a single cut on the delicate soles of her feet.

Crazy, dark, carnival-like music then played as Vanessa Ann Neil took the stage and munched on a grotesque meal of crickets and worms while the crowd cringed and grimaced, yet were unable to look away. Then Zamora returned for a few more spellbinding stunts that gripped the audience in fear. He broke several glass bottles and stepped and jumped on the shards of glass without cutting his feet, then lay on the glass bareback while a young lady from the audience danced around on his chest. As a light violin played in the background, Zamora rested on a bed of nails with four men from the audience standing atop a board balanced on his chest, once again without injury to his back. Zamora then revealed his back to the crowd to confirm that he was not cut and bleeding. The only telltale sign was some redness caused by the pressure.

Between acts ‘The Govna’ would entertain and engage the audience. He even did a few stunts of his own, including power drilling a long drill bit into his nostril. He also introduced Mr. Buggles, a black, French Bulldog with the role of the show’s mascot.

But what kind of freak show would be complete without a human dartboard? Not this one, so Vanessa returned and, without concern that the stunt could potentially paralyze her, she offered up her back, while Bryce flawlessly threw six darts at her, skillfully missing her spine.

Zamora’s next act featured a bed of swords which he lay across as Bryce hammered a large cement block situated upon Zamora’s chest. Again, the swords failed to draw blood and Zamora seemingly felt no pain. During this particular segment, light violin played in the background and progressively became heavier and faster until it morphed into electric guitar; the intensity of the music matching the intensity of the performance.

Maryanne and Vanessa re-appeared for the sword swallowing stunt, while two audience members were brought on stage to assist. The heavy drumbeats and shifty guitar riffs filled the audience with anticipation as the girls raised the swords above their mouths and allowed them to plunge into their throats.

Zamora’s last act was a shocker, as he used three metal skewers to puncture his skin. The first skewer sliced through his forearm, piercing the muscle before exiting from the other side. The second skewer shredded through his bicep, and the third was driven under his tongue and poked out under his chin, close to his throat. The entire time, music simulating a melodic heartbeat played in the background. Zamora walked among the crowd to prove the skewers had indeed pierced his body parts, and the crowd went wild when he removed them again, without so much as a trickle of blood.

The final act of the show featured Maryanne and Bryce, along with a large box containing slits in the top and bottom and various sized blades. Maryanne was placed in the box, and as Bryce inserted the blades into the slits, Maryanne contorted herself to avoid being sliced. Bryce then invited show goers onto the stage to view how she had twisted and turned inside the box of blades.

In an hour and a half, the cast of Hellzapoppin’ had amazed and astonished the audience of all ages, and had left them in awe. The show was modern, current, and humorous thanks to Bryce and his performers, with the added bonus of music perfectly suited to enhance and intensify each act. Not only was the show creative and fun, it was also interactive, with audience members being made to feel part of the show.

Upon exiting the venue, I overheard some show goers commenting that seeing the spectacles of Hellzapoppin’ had been some the best they’d ever spent on a show, and I had to agree. While Hell was poppin’ on stage, eyes were poppin’ in the crowd, and I wouldn’t doubt some major organs as well….. the show certainly was an unforgettable heart stopper.