On Saturday, a mile or so away from the explosions and strafing aircraft, a more relaxed and pleasing collection of strange sounds will be heard when musical duo Rannygazoo plays at The Limbo Tiki Bar, the group’s first public performance in Louisville since 2011.
Rannygazoo consists of wife-and-husband team Abigail and Gregory Maupin. Louisville theater patrons know the Maupins as two of the most talented actors currently in regular rotation at Kentucky Shakespeare.
Also, they are clowns. As the founders of beloved theater/clown company “Le Petomane,” they graced Louisville stages with antics aplenty.
The duo spoke with Insider about their upcoming show in which those antics, as well as a dollop of tomfoolery, a dose shenanigans and plenty of the titular rannygazoo will accompany their ukulele-driven renditions of not-so-classic songs from the 1920s.
Aside from the charming and off-kilter selections from yesteryear that they describe as “Prohibition-era ukulele nonsense,” these Shakespearians/clowns throw in a good bit of back-and-forth verbal blatherskite during their performances.
“We have a sort of a George and Gracie in between the songs that we both really enjoy. I’m the Gracie for the record,” said Gregory Maupin.
There are several moments one could point to as an origin for Rannygazoo.
Perhaps it started at a Lua in Boston, when both were visiting for a wedding, though they were attending different weddings. Abigail lived in New York, and Gregory lived in Chicago.
A mutual friend threw a luau the day after the various nuptials had been attended, and it was there the couple first met. Despite the vaguely Hawaiian setting, there were no ukulele present at that fateful luau.
“There were accordions,” said Abigail.
Gregory added, “But I didn’t play that accordion. I did make drinks.”
“Sidecars,” clarified Abigail.
The other possible origin story for Ranygazoo goes back much further.
“My grandma was a singer with a band back in the ’30s,” said Abigail. “She ran away with the piano player, and that was my mom’s parents.”
Her grandmother, Shirley Burgess, preferred to be called “Maggie.” This has presumably caused at least one round of “Don’t call me Shirley” jokes at the Maupin homestead.
The piano player in question, one W. Eugene Shimmin, was called Gene by his parents, explained Gregory. “But everyone else called him The Deacon. He was not, we should stress, a deacon.”
With a heritage like that, clearly Abigail was destined for malarkey. There aren’t any especially clear explanations for Gregory’s general flapdoodle, however.
Left over from her music days, Burgess had a collection of old sheet music from the ’20s, which ended up in the Maupin’s possession. These weren’t standards from the era or songs that still grace period films and an occasional “End of Prohibition” party.
“These were kind of aggressively dated songs,” said Gregory.
For example, one song, by Irving Berlin, breezily expounds the joys of visiting Cuba as once experienced by happy travelers before the island’s Communist era stifled the once-blooming American tourist traffic.
The sheet music did not go unused. Abigail had been singing from a young age, and Gregory had picked up string instruments in his youth, honing his ukulele skills in the Del Arte School, a very fancy institute for clowns.
Abigail described her husband’s musical tendencies. “He’s an instrument noodler.”
When they hang out at home, they play music, including these mostly forgotten songs. For some time, these performances were purely for domestic pleasure, but the two were convinced by friends to do some shows in public.
The duo found some interesting performance venues.
“We did it as part of the Mayor’s Office program back in ’06 for a summer, going to old folk’s homes,” said Abigail.
Gregory added, “The night before we’d be at Actors Theatre of Louisville’s ‘The Late Seating’ playing for the hipsters. And we’d do the same set. Even the banter was the same.”
Like many creatives, the Maupins became interested in other projects and slowed down their appearances as Rannygazoo, which trickled to a stop until a few years later when another performing gig inspired them to get going again.
‘You know what I think kind of put us in the mood was doing ‘Two Gents’ … we ended up doing a couple of numbers in that,” said Abigail.
The “Two Gents” in question is a Kentucky Shakespeare production of “The Two Gentlemen of Verona” in which the Maupins played opposite each other as servants who engaged in a lot of Shakespearean horsefeathers and fiddlesticks.
Inspired, the duo dusted off their duds and cleaned out the ukulele for some house shows last year, with proceeds going to charity. They already had been considering playing in public when The Limbo opened, and the tiki bar concept caught their attention.
It turns out the Maupin’s have a penchant for such bars.
“We had reached out to just say, ‘Hey, we love tiki bars.’ Like, when we travel to a new city, I’ll google ‘that city,’ and ‘tiki bar,’ said Gregory.
The Limbo is quickly becoming the center of a quirkier and sometimes retro side of Louisville’s nightlife. They’ve featured a French cabaret quartet, yacht rock, swimwear fashion shows and host regular burlesque events.
Now The Limbo is Rannygazoo’s excuse to get back to into some ballyhoo and rascality.
Don’t miss it, or you’ll feel like a complete ninny-hammer.
Rannygazoo performs at The Limbo, 411 W. Chestnut St., on Saturday, April 21, from 6-8 p.m. The event is free.