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Cabaret festival overflowing with talent
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Cabaret festival overflowing with talent

by E. Joyce Glasgow - SGN A&E Writer

The First Annual
Seattle International
Cabaret Festival
November 11-15
Can Can, Triple Door,
Pensione Nichols, ACT,
Moore Theatre


The ambitious Seattle International Cabaret Festival, organized by Can Can owner Chris Snell, showcased avant-garde cabaret acts from local artists and invited performers from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland and New York City. I found myself going to many more of these enjoyable performances than I had planned to as I discovered new talents. The festival had an energetic atmosphere that combined elements of Victorian Gothic, vaudeville, burlesque, acrobatics, visual arts, poetry, film, music and dance parties with a community-oriented feel and enthusiasm.

Artist/dollmaker/filmmaker Miss Oblivious curated the acts at the cozy Pensione Nichols, a bed and breakfast on First Ave. She created an arts "salon" called Poe's Peculiar Parlor (after Edgar Allen Poe) in the public gathering room, which had a grand piano and a lovely, picturesque views of Elliott Bay. Low lamplights and candles created an intimate atmosphere where tarot card and palm readings took place, and tea was served with cucumber sandwiches and ginger snaps. Handmade dolls and paintings were on display and the acts here combined programs featuring filmmakers, writers and cabaret musical acts.

Of particular note was Veronique Chevalier, a wonderfully eccentric and comedic singer/songwriter from Los Angeles who looks like she just dove out of a painting by French Post-Impressionist artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. She also reminds one of a favorite, slightly crazy and extravagantly whimsical aunt, who lives in her own somewhat fantastical and a bit saucy universe. If Charles Dickens had written a Ghost of Mirth into his Christmas Carol, Veronique Chevalier would be she.

Chevalier loves to entertain and bring laughter and good cheer to her audiences, and isn't afraid of making fun of herself in the process. Accompanying her in her performances is her silent partner Napoleon, le corbeau (the raven), who, in true kooky Chevalier style, sits regularly upon her head.

Seth Bedford accompanied Chevalier on accordion. Bedford, from New York City and originally trained as a classical cellist, also played original material, as well as a few old standards from the Great American Songbook with his band, Huxley Vertical. The band was arranged for violin, viola, piano, bass and accordion in a chamber-like setting.

Vinsantos, a self-described "glam-cabaret" performer from San Francisco, entertained with an expressively painted white face and facial glitter and a hat cocked mysteriously over one eye. Under the soft light of a candelabra, Vinsantos sang original, darkly emotional songs at the piano and was joined intermittently by the otherworldly blues singer Agness Twin, who was also up from San Francisco.

A short film of particular note shown at the Parlor was California artist Christy Kane's moral tale of the importance of having patience and not letting your temper get the best of you. Called Callalily, it was an animated film, starring one of her many unique handmade dolls named Callalily.

Singer/songwriter and guitarist Zoe Boekbinder, who has an unusual, rich voice with a country twang, performed original material at the Parlor and Triple Door, deftly using multiple electronic loops to round out her sound with layered rhythms and harmonies.

Vagabond Opera, a wonderful group from Portland which combines opera, original songs and music from different countries in their native languages, performed a lively show at the Triple Door on November 11. The late, great Circus Contraption celebrated their new CD The Show to End All Shows with two entertaining shows of music and circus arts on November 12 at the Triple Door.

The Can Can Castaways, a modern dance/burlesque dance troupe who are all graduates of the Cornish College dance department, brought a lot of energy and their distinctive, funky choreography to the Can Can and in performances with raucous band The Bad Things at ACT and at the Moore Theatre for the big finale on Sunday, November 15.

Baby Gramps was as wonderfully funny and entertaining as always in his ACT performance, and was joined by the fabulous acrobatic duo of Dr. Calamari and Acrophelia, formerly of Circus Contraption, as part of the "Cabaret Macabre" on lucky Friday the 13th. On November 11, Arnaldo! the Drag Chanteuse performed his tribute to Eartha Kitt at ACT.

The finale at the Moore on November 15 also featured aerialist Michelle Francis; The Circus Contraption Band; a steamy performance by "boylesque" burlesque artist (and documentary star) Waxie Moon; wild, wacky, non-sequitorial, creative performance artist Queen Shmooquan; Betty Boop-like singer Stella Rose; and the grand finale with Orkestar Zirkonium, playing energizing Klezmer music and leading a parade from the Moore Theatre to the Can Can for a big, festive closing dance party with visuals and music by Global Ruckus with Steve Kamke.

It was a rich festival with lots of great and unusual talent, and was impressive for a first outing as it gave a lot of local and visiting artists a forum for their artistry.

For more information, visit www.thecancan.com/cabaretfestival.

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