Jamie Searle thought his 2014 Halloween show was grand and ambitious.
“My Brothers & Sisters Presents: The Films, Music and Costumes of Tim Burton,” performed at the Riot Room, was a lavish set featuring the arrangements of Danny Elfman music and a mashup of scenes from Burton’s movies.
At the time, Searle told The Star, “I think this is the tip of the iceberg as far as how far I can push myself creatively.”
He wasn’t kidding.
Saturday night, Searle is presenting “Macabre KC” at the Garage at Knuckleheads. It will be a bigger, more lavish and more ambitious show than its predecessor.
“I’ve blown up (the Burton) idea into a much more theatrical event,” he said. “Last year, we pulled off some great things, and I learned a ton. But this year, the show will be more interwoven and I’ll be working with a wider variety of artists and performers.”
“Macabre” will showcase several entertainers, starting with My Brothers and Sisters, an 21-piece band. Members of City In Motion dance school, aerialists, storytelling and music performances by Calvin Arsenia, Jessica Paige, Christian Robinson and Stephonne Singleton also are on the bill.
Their performances will be presented amid the re-creation of movie scenes by the orchestra. One of those will feature opera soprano Sarah Tannehill Anderson performing a scene from the science-fiction film “The Fifth Element.”
“I didn’t want something stagnant, like: ‘Here is this section of the show; now we’re going on to this section,’ ” Searle said. “(‘Macabre’) will be a larger, interwoven thing that no one necessarily for a second will feel like, ‘Oh, it’s another one of those things.’ The fatigue that might happen at a show because the imagery and setup are constant will not occur at this show.”
Searle started working on “Macabre” in mid-July. “I know that on July 20, my wife was in surgery for a tonsillectomy and I was in the waiting room I ordered a ton of (movie) DVDs on eBay to start cutting up,” he said. “So that’s when I started conceptualizing what I wanted to do.”
That concept was informed by a fresh perspective on last year’s show, which, by all measures, was a success but which Searle did not want to repeat.
“What I learned from last year is it’s about casting more of an illusion than an exact replica,” he said. “The more dramatic the illusion, the more a sense of presence you can accomplish. It’s less of doing it right along with the exact film and more like creating magic and taking you through a roller-coaster ride (of) humor and darkness and everything else. It’s a better way of getting into the fantasy around ‘The Fifth Element’ scene.”
That scene is “one of the most iconic sci-fi scenes ever,” Searle said. “Sarah Tannehill Anderson will be dressed in the exact costume singing that. We’re doing it from start to finish, from the opera part to the dance, where it all goes electronic.”
Between scenes, “Macabre” will present My Brothers and Sisters doing original material and covers and other performers like Paige.
She said she didn’t know what she was getting herself into when she asked Searle a couple of months ago if My Brothers and Sisters wanted to do a show with her band on Halloween.
“He’d already started on his mad-genius ‘Macabre’ party plan and invited us onboard,” she said.
Paige said she has created something that better suits the show’s theme.
“I am working on a darker, more dramatic and cinematic pop set for our contribution,” she said. “Jamie has put together such amazing ‘scenes,’ is how I would describe them, that I felt without losing our own music identity, it would blend well with the show.”
“Jessica is an up-and-coming star,” Searle said, “and the other artists in the show are people I’ve worked with: Calvin will play a song of his that I produced. There will be a full, gigantic band behind him. And Stephonne and Christian — I’ve been working with them, too.”
His intent with “Macabre,” Searle said, is to get them into an ideal environment for singers.
“A lot of singers, especially in the pop realm, don’t really thrive when they, say, sit down with just a guitar player,” he said. “The realm they thrive in is full production. So getting together with them to put out this larger thing is beneficial to everyone.”
Searle has been assisted behind the scenes by a staff of about 20, including a costume designer who has worked with the thrash-metal band Gwar. The show will be heavy on visuals, choreographed to avoid repetition and redundancy.
“Even at (electronic dance music) concerts, where the light shows are legendary, after a while it can become dull because you’re being inundated with the same stimuli,” he said. “This show changes the focal point from a scene with lights or visuals to a singer, like Jessica Paige, where it’s not all about what’s going on around her and behind her. It makes it a whole new ballgame.”
Paige said: “The show is going to blow people’s minds. To call it a show feels like a disservice, actually. It’s going to be an experience for the audience.”
Searle said, “The quality and the amount of content and creative energy in this show compared to last year is twentyfold,” yet he is already thinking about next year’s show. The buzz about “Macabre” has drawn attention and inquiries from others in the Kansas City arts and entertainment community.
“My imagination has cracked open into a different realm,” he said. “I’ve talked to a bunch of people excited about this idea, people in events planning and the marketing world. I was introduced to Quixotic, who has shown some interest. I want to make this an annual event, and I can predict that next year is going to be even bigger. Gigantic.”
My Brothers and Sisters and guests will perform “Macabre KC” at 9 p.m. Saturday at the Garage at Knuckleheads. Tickets are $20. A $75 VIP package includes food, drink and premium seating. The show is a benefit for the Midwest Music Foundation and radio station KKFI (90.1 FM).