Subscribe to my full feed.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Lucha VaVoom: Burlesque meets Wrestling?

At a time when attention deficit disorder gets diagnosed more often than gas prices jump, an extravaganza like Lucha VaVoom is just what the doctor ordered.

This combo platter that promises "sexo y violencia" - and makes its Bay Area tonight at the Fillmore in San Francisco - features Mexican masked wrestling, old-school burlesque, acrobatics and smart comedic commentary in a gloriously garish extravaganza for the short-attention-span set.

Less Cirque du Soleil than Cirque du No Way, the Los Angeles-based Lucha VaVoom is the performance equivalent of rummaging through a smartly stocked thrift store - the kind with an Evel Knievel action figure suggestively positioned next to a vintage calendar of stripper Betty Page. In Lucha VaVoom, a trapeze artist can grab your attention before comedians such as former "Beat the Geeks" host Blaine Capatch or former "Simpsons" writer Dana Gould fire off one-liners.

"For the most part, I'm just sitting there with my jaw hanging open," says Capatch, who plays it somewhere between Al Michaels and Shecky Greene. "You see people get hurt, and there are midgets flying into people dressed like Mayor McCheese. It's fantastic!"

One of the two performance pillars of Lucha VaVoom is its cadre of burlesque artists. Co-founder, producer and burlesque performer Rita D'Albert, who came out of the neo-burlesque scene that a few years ago had a toehold in the Bay Area, slinks onstage as Ursulina. She's joined by the PG-rated likes of the Wau Wau Sisters, who strip on a trapeze, "tassel queen" Lucy Fur and the Hula Hooping temptress Karis.

Lucha VaVoom was born in 2002 when D'Albert teamed up fellow producer Liz Fairbairn, who organizes the other major component of the show: lucha libre. Part sport, part folkloric fisticuffs, lucha libre is a character-driven wrestling style that originated in Mexico.

This more daring, often aerial form has influenced the better-known World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), which has cherry-picked such lucha libre combatants as Rey Mysterio Jr. for its own league.

Like the strippers, the luchadores in Lucha VaVoom have Technicolor personas, from the cross-dressing Cassandro, who will compete as part of Team Gay Pride; to the Poubelles, a sister tandem that takes on a gaggle of Japanese monsters; to the little people who grapple in chicken costumes.

"Lucha libre is usually in a sweaty hall, which is part of its charm," says D'Albert, a former guitarist for the '80s garage rock band the Pandoras. "But we make it a night out."

For a show originally designed as fun endeavor in an alternative comedy venue, Lucha VaVoom's success has surprised its organizers. The production has played New York City, Chicago, Las Vegas and Amsterdam. Past performances have enlisted two of the biggest names in lucha libre, the sons of legendary luchadores El Santo and the Blue Demon.

And fans will continue to come for the spectacle, for the ever-changing, fast-moving action in the ring, because it so shamelessly aims to entertain, Capatch says.

"There is so much going on, you don't know where to look or where to point your camera," Capatch says. "People run out of room on their cell phones real fast."

By Mark de la ViƱa
Mercury News

No comments: