As many a big sister has done, Courtney Coslet spent a good portion of her childhood chasing her younger brother around the house, forcing him to eat imaginative concoctions of uncomplementary foods -- peanut butter, mustard, ketchup -- urging, "Eat the mystery!"
In some ways, not that much has changed.
Today, she's co-leader of Eat The Mystery, the Milwaukee-based cabaret troupe that lives up to its name's back story by providing a performance just as eclectic, disturbing, intriguing and entertaining to digest as the mystery meals she created as a kid.
Gallivanting its way through its second year, Eat The Mystery is a six-member mixture of song and dance, and although everyone involved plays an instrument, it is not a band in the traditional sense. Inspired by classic and contemporary cabaret and tossing in a few of its own original pieces, the troupe delights in unexpected theatrics that are both strange and beautiful.
"We are always kind of a mystery," says Angie Livermore, Eat The Mystery's co-leader who made her way to Milwaukee from Brooklyn. "The show is never really the same twice -- it changes from animals to burlesque women to quasi poetry to tuba solos to shots of whiskey to making the audience cry."
But it wasn't always this way. Livermore says the whole thing started as simple impromptu barroom whiskey ballad sing-a-longs with her friend Paul Setser, who was playing accordion with the Riverwest Accordion Club at the time. Recognizing their mutual love for the spirit of cabaret, the project soon morphed into a full-blown vaudeville show that now, along with Coslet, also includes the three Daves: Dave Cusma (trombone, sousaphone), Dave Bolyard (trumpet) and Dave Wainwright (drums).
Now, with a little organization, Eat The Mystery has unpredictability down to an art form of oddities.
"Last year at our Linneman's show I dressed up in a chicken costume a la vaudeville legend Burt Williams and just squawked at the crowd for most of the second half of the show," says Livermore.
The troupe is getting ready to perform again at Linneman's Riverwest Inn on Thursday, April 19 in an evening of song and satire deemed "Desires: Tales From The Dark End Of The Street." As the group's name eludes, each gig remains a mystery until show time, although Livermore says we can expect "a disparate cast of low-life personalities: lovers, ex-lovers, vixens, drunks, prostitutes, sellers and buyers, creepy subterranean creatures," all of whom, Setser adds, have a song in their hearts.
Come with a $5 donation and come ready to ingest some Eat The Mystery saucy original material, including numbers such as "Straight From The Horse's Mouth" (a diatribe at the hypocrisy of modern authoritative-culture), "Last Call Polka" (a tribute to the service industry workers who have to contend with kicking out drunk patrons at the night's end) and "Zondo/Condo" (which speaks about how traditional neighborhoods are being overrun by the current "condomania" virus).
OnMilwaukee.com staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.
As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When OnMilwaukee.com offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”