The Seattle International Cabaret Festival spans language, gender, genres and venues
Seattle Times arts writer
Seattle International Cabaret Festival
Varying times today-Sunday at Seattle venues: ACT Theatre, 700 Union St.; Can Can, 94 Pike St.; Pensione Nichols, 1923 First Ave.; and the Moore Theatre, 1932 Second Ave.; event prices vary (206-652-0832 or cabaretfestival.com).
Performance review |
You might not have known it if you were wandering the streets of downtown Seattle on Wednesday night, but the inaugural edition of the Seattle International Cabaret Festival was going on all around you.
In the Dorothy Bullitt Cabaret space of ACT Theatre, drag chanteuse Arnaldo! — in a slinky red dress with spaghetti straps — paid tribute to Eartha Kitt, lovingly nailing Kitt's eccentric phrasing and intonation, albeit with a voice a bit more robust than hers.
Familiar Kitt classics — "C'est si Bon," "I Wanna Be Evil" — were on the set list. But the finest moments came with tunes less familiar. "Waray Waray" — in Tagalog, Arnaldo!'s first language — was a special treat, prompting a fond reminiscence of the sense of connection he felt with the language-hopping Kitt upon his first encounter with her work.
At Can Can, the hub of the festival, the Castaways did energetic lip-sync in "The Bolly Horror Picture Show": "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" given a Bollywood twist. (Think: "Time Warp" to a tabla-driven beat.) Continually switching roles — at one point there were three Dr. Frank-N-Furters onstage — they bent gender to the max while filling the cramped stage with silly dance routines. The show culminated in a frenzied tribute to elephant god Ganesh. The troupe plays different items from their repertoire tonight, Saturday and Sunday.
Over at Pensione Nichols, where I stopped in briefly, performers big on persona and smaller on genuine talent haunted the piano room. The most winningly eccentric: Veronique Chevalier, supposedly fresh in from Paris on the Concorde. In her feathered headdress sat a stuffed bird named Napoleon who all but accompanied her as she sang a twitchy, off-color song about birthdays. Activities continue at the Pensione Nichols through Sunday, including a Kurt Weill evening at 7 tonight.
At the Triple Door, Vagabond Opera ("from faraway exotic sunny Portland") was the indisputable crowning glory of the night. This sextet has fine voices, unbelievable musical chops and a huge and humorous stage presence. They know how to dress, how to make an entrance and how to craft an instantly hummable tune. Their ravishing closing number, "Goodnight Moon," was, they said, "born in Seattle" after gigs they'd played here at Northwest Folklife Festival and the Blue Moon Tavern.
The festival continues for three more days. At 8 p.m. Sunday, it shifts over to the Moore Theatre, where a Subterranean Cabaret Collective will perform. A Grand Finale March from the Moore to Can Can, featuring Orkestar Zirkonium, follows at 10 p.m.
For a full schedule, see www.cabaretfestival.com.
Michael Upchurch: firstname.lastname@example.org
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