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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Moisture Festival: Burlesque & Variety in Seattle

Moisture Festival: Burlesque & Variety in Seattle "You got up this morning," says sandwich-maker Rob Williams to his volunteer from the audience, "and you pretty much thought you knew where this day was headed."

The volunteer acknowledges as much, and then concedes how wrong she was.

Perhaps you're thinking: "Sandwich-making — that's hardly a vaudeville-worthy activity."

Yes, but what if you do it with your feet, as the jaunty, motor-mouthed Williams does? He's just one of the surprises in the sixth annual Moisture Festival.

The festival, which alternates family-friendly shows with racier burlesque programs, is longer than ever ("because we're out of our minds," co-host Ron W. Bailey says cheerfully) and has expanded from its usual Fremont venue, Hale's Palladium at Hale's Brewery. You can see it through Sunday at ACT Theatre, or go to SIFF Cinema next weekend, where a series of circus/burlesque-inspired films will be preceded by live entertainment. Shows at Hale's continue through April 5.

On opening night, extravagantly costumed performers greeted the audience at the door and feather boas and other "moisture" keepsakes were on sale in the lobby. In the theater, the G-rated offerings included music, comedy and juggling. Best of all was the aerial work: acrobat Sally Pepper of Circus Contraption, working solo, and the Velone Sisters, delivering captivating midair displays of balance, grace and strength.

Dr. Calamari and his assistant, Acrophelia, after nimbly parodying German expressionistic cinema, performed equally demanding feats — he remaining earthbound while she perched on top of him with the nonchalance of a bird on a twig.

A cappella rockers the Bobs dropped by to perform "a nondairy version" of their favorite Cream tune, "White Room." And Tom Noddy's "bubble magic" ranged from an erupting Mount St. Helens to a rotating carousel. ("What you see here," he said, "is the result of over 30 years of playing with bubbles almost every day. My father is so thrilled.")

The most striking acts were Pinky d'Ambrosia, fantastically decked out in an op-art hoop-skirt and head-dress as she invested an operatic aria with a passion bordering on psychosis, and Godfrey Daniels, a clown of remarkable proportions with a slow but oddly perilous balloon routine. Most acts will be appearing again at some point between now and April 5. The lineup changes slightly every night, so check the schedule for details.

Note: "Family-friendly" doesn't mean entirely vanilla. Risqué moments on Wednesday included jokes designed to fly over the kids' heads and a dance number by Du Caniveaux Dancing Bears, whose décolletage was not what it seemed.

But this wasn't raunchy fare. For that, the burlesque shows are the ones to go to — as the names of the performers (Indigo Blue, Ben DeLaCreme, the Von Foxies) suggest.

by Michael Upchurch

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