The Art Inventory

‘Twisted Cabaret & Pandemonium Vaudeville’ At The Palladium

by Kirby Lindsay, posted 1 May 2013


This column originally when Frank Olivier first brought his one-man-ish show to Fremont.  It is being reposted to prepare audiences for the return of Olivier, and ‘Twisted Cabaret’, at Hale’s Palladium February 4th26th.  Tickets for this year’s performances can be purchased through the Twisted Cabaret website.


Frank Olivier as Knife-Thrower Frankonovitchski, in the ‘Twisted Cabaret’ Photo provided by Frank Olivier

Audiences that attend shows at Hale’s Palladium must welcome the unconventional – even the absurd.  Certainly, these audiences have no reason to expect insipid or staid fare performed behind a brewery.  Particularly a brewery located in Fremont…

From May 2nd to 26th, Frank Olivier’s Twisted Cabaret & Pandemonium Vaudeville Show will satisfy appetites for outrageousness.  The show contains magic, juggling, knife-throwing, live music, mind-reading, plus an “oversized, cartoonish Mae West,” character named Francine, according to Olivier.  He should know, since he performs all 16 acts in the show, with only the help of a loyal hunchback, and a few inflatable ‘love dolls.’

For those unsure about what to expect, the title deliberately, “gives a little bit of warning,” Olivier observed.  After all, he did name it ‘Twisted…’

Begun With Moisture

Discerning Fremonsters will have just enjoyed four weeks of awesome and amazing varieté acts thanks to the Moisture Festival.  And it is also thanks to MF, and Hale’s Ales Brewery, that Seattle will finally host ‘Twisted Cabaret.’

“It all came out of a conversation with Mike Hale,” Olivier recently reported, “I’ve been looking to bring the show to Seattle for a long time,” but he needed a venue – and Hale proved willing to accommodate.  “I’m very, very happy to be able to come in and do this,” Olivier said, “It’s something I’ve talked about for years.”

Living in Oakland, California, Olivier has performed ‘Twisted Cabaret’ at venues in the U.S. and the U.K. – but never before in the Pacific Northwest.  Yet, he knows the area, and audiences know him, from the eight years he’s performed at Moisture Festival and several years of Oregon Country Fair.

The volunteer response he’s gotten still took him by surprise.  “It’s unlike anywhere else in the country,” he exclaimed, about our volunteers, “It’s heartening, in this day and age, to see how they have embraced Moisture Festival, and this show!”  Fremont Arts Council members, and others from the arts community, have enthusiastically stepped up to help.

“There is a true community of varieté performers,” he explained, and they do like to gather and share.  “People dedicated about what they are doing,” Olivier observed, “serious, and yet lighthearted about it.”  Moisture Festival gives people passionate about what they do – aerial, bubbles, contortion, juggling, or simple comedy – a place to share, and do so in a supportive community.

“There’s a lot of circus festivals,” Olivier observed about gatherings world-wide, and he attends as many as his busy performance and touring schedule allows.  For him, though,  MF stands separate.  “Moisture Festival is all about the shows,” he observed, and giving the audience everything the performers have.

Inspired Ideas

The Festival does give him a chance to grow.  “I like to change it up at Moisture Festival,” Olivier reported, and find new twists – or resurrect old ones.  Watching, and working alongside other performers gives him ideas.  “MF makes me look through old notebooks,” he admitted, “MF gives you the idea that you can do these things.”

Paul Nathan and Frank Olivier in a scene from ‘Twisted Cabaret’ Photo provided by Frank Olivier

“I get bored with doing the same thing each year,” he acknowledged, and so he will “play with new stuff at a few venues,” including Moisture Festival.  He estimated that about 40% of his act is always under-adjustment, yet when it comes to his inspirations, he said, “it is hard to say where ideas come from.”

The acts Olivier performs for Moisture are the same ones he takes on the road all year for corporate and/or varieté shows.  ‘Twisted Cabaret,’ however, “is 80% different from what I do day in, day out,” for instance, “Francine doesn’t come out at any other show,” he said, and neither does the knife-thrower…

Olivier originally conceived ‘Twisted Cabaret’ over ten years ago, “and it has changed and evolved,” he reported.  He also described it as a ‘collaborative effort, although the premise is about him performing all the parts.  According to Olivier, however, in order to go on, he needs the stage hands, the volunteers and the band.  “I can do recorded music,” he allowed, and he has, but it doesn’t give the audience the effect he wants.

“It has to be collaborative,” he said of the show, and he does work with directors who help him ‘see’ the show.  “Sometimes good things come out of those collaborations,” he said, growing rueful that when he doesn’t like a suggestion, “sometimes I find that I’m right.”

The most significant part of the collaboration is Olivier’s loyal assistant Flynch, played by Paul Nathan.  “I’ve had other people who have stepped in,” Olivier acknowledged, “but he’s been on for the full eleven years.”

The Twisted Cabaret Band and ‘Francine’ during a ‘Twisted Cabaret’ show. Photo provided by Frank Olivier

He’s also, according to Olivier, playing against type.  “He’s a magician,” Olivier reported, “but he doesn’t play a magician here.  He usually does the high-caste character,” but in ‘Twisted Cabaret,’ “he’s playing against his own tendency.”

‘Twisted Cabaret’ promises to challenge a lot of people’s tendencies, with a show of creative daring, and plenty of laughter.  Those familiar with Moisture Festival may find Olivier’s ‘Pandemonium Vaudeville Show’ a nice finale to this year’s season.

For those unfamiliar with varieté and the sight of “an overgrown kid playing with fire and very sharp objects,” as the San Francisco Chronicle described Olivier, this will be a refreshing evening of madcap comedy unlike anything you’ve seen before!

Purchase seats for ‘Twisted Cabaret’ through Stranger Tickets, or the official website.  Some performances have already sold out, so get your place lined up before this opportunity passes you by…

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©2013 Kirby Lindsay.  This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws.  Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.


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