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Loose Lips

A Lip Sync RVA pro shares secrets about how to mouth off.



Tip No. 1: If you forget the words while lip-syncing, mouthing the word “watermelon” will make you look like you know them.

If it was funny enough for Jimmy Fallon, apparently it was funny enough for Richmond. Lip Sync RVA, which started last August, ups the ante of the Spike TV show that grew from Fallon’s bit — with two local, but decidedly different, variations.

Prime-time lip-sync battles happen monthly at 8 p.m. at Rare Olde Times Public House, offering an evening of volunteers going head-to-head with silent singing for a $50 prize.

Later-night lip-sync battles at TheatreLab’s Basement happen more sporadically and feature four- and five-person teams of Richmond theater professionals pitted against each other for nothing more than everlasting lip-sync glory. Jell-O shots add a ’90s vibe, somehow appropriate when watching a team tackle songs such as En Vogue’s “Never Gonna Get It.”

Phil Vollmer, a teaching artist at the School of the Performing Arts in the Richmond Community, coordinates the event, leading off battles with his own lip-sync renditions.

“It’s performative play, something you teach drama students,” he says of wildly gyrating bodies and moving lips that produce no sound. “Lip-syncing is like the joy of theater play.” Spoken like a true drama kid.

Style: What’s the secret of a good lip-sync performer?

Vollmer: Bravery. Just be brave. You don’t have to be talented, that’s the beautiful thing. It’s about not being afraid to be silly.

Which gender tends to be the better lip-sync performer?

It’s so good when they’re doing mixed — men doing women’s songs and women doing men’s.

Who would be on your dream lip-sync team?

Locals Chelsea Burke and Liz Earnest, plus Emma Stone and Jimmy Fallon. Now that’s a great team! We would do really, really well.

Do gestures and dancing make for a better lip-sync performance?

Oh, yes. A well-rounded performance is very important. You have to know the words but you have to have a few gestures just to prove you’ve done a little prep, that you know what lyrics are coming up and you’re not just singing “watermelon.” That’s essential. Also, making a connection with the audience, making sure that people watching are engaged. You’ve got to share your excitement at being onstage with the audience.

What’s the appeal of Lip Sync RVA?

I love it because it’s low-tech. There’s no real technology involved, it’s just a person onstage pretending to sing a song. It works for everyone. Mostly, it’s the rush of being live onstage in front of an audience. S

The next prime-time lip-sync battle is Thursday, Aug. 27, 8 p.m., at Rare Olde Times Public House, 10602 Patterson Ave. No cover. The next late-night lip-sync battle is Friday, Sept. 4, 11 p.m. at the Basement, 300 E. Broad St. $5. Information at

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