The bewitching Helen Pontani. (Andrea Thompson)
Bobby Vee may have had it right when he plaintively sang, “Please, Don’t Ask About Barbara.”
If you don’t believe Vee, then ask New York illusionist Albert Cadabra.
Last Friday night, Cadabra had his hands full with a feisty audience member named Barbara, as the clever comic/magician hosted Burlesque-A-Pades Spooktacular at the Creative Alliance.
Burlesque-A-Pades was making its second stop in Baltimore this year, following a successful turn last summer with a buoyant Beach Party themed show. The touring troop from the Big Apple is fronted by burlesque sensation Angie Pontani; and features the talents of Angie’s energetic sister Helen Pontani (the Tappin’ Tornado), their saucy “Sicilian” cousin, The Maine Attraction, and the aforementioned Albert Cadabra.
Special guest performers for Burlesque-A-Pades are culled from all across the nation. Friday’s show boasted the bodacious Mourna Handful, the sexy star of DC’s Black Tassel Boolesque.
And then, there was Barbara…
With any live show, all bets are off once an audience member takes the stage. Cadabra invited a raucous patron named Barbara to assist him with a card trick. Never mind the guy who helped Cadabra remove a 12 penny nail from his head with a tug of his teeth. Or the bear of a man who almost carried Cadabra off stage ala Frankenstein. Barbara spent much of the show peppering Cadabra with come-backs and rolls of hearty laughter, then decided to do her own impromptu strip tease once she joined Cadabra for a game of find the missing playing card. It’s a tribute to the magician’s showmanship that he managed to ride out this her-ricane and turn what could have been a distraction into one of the most high-spirited shows of the Halloween season.
Of course, Cadabra and his peanut gallery cohorts were not alone in lighting up the stage as the beautiful women in the cast kept the elated crowd’s temperatures steadily rising.
Angie Pontani was simply scintillating in three numbers which showcased her prowess to model, dance on point and push the boundaries of eighteenth century sensibilities. Sister Helen dazzled with her tap routines to Roaring Twenties numbers, and The Maine Attraction gave the audience a cats-eye view of her feline fancies. Stage kitten Mourna Handful pulled double duty with a razor-sharp set of her own.
After the curtain came down, Pontani said, “I think that was one of the most fun shows we have ever done in Baltimore!”
Spooktacular was just one of the exciting events slated for the Creative Alliance this Halloween week. The arty venue in Highlandtown also hosted internationally acclaimed mentalist duo – The Evasons on Wednesday night and will close the spooky season with a lush costume party celebrating the Victorian age, called Cirque Victoriana.
With Halloween over, Pontani told the Baltimore Post-Examiner she is planning to re-group for a16-city tour in December, which will feature a burlesque version of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. (Is it type-casting to think of Albert Cadabra as Tiny Tim?) Unfortunately, that particular holiday offering will not make its way to Baltimore; however, fans may still catch Pontani et al in Annapolis at the Rams Head Tavern on Dec. 19, and at The Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia on Dec. 30.
The always popular Valentine’s Day supper club review is set for the State Theater in Falls Church, Virginia. That show will include an all new cast along with live music from the Brian Newman band.
Pontani said the size of these upcoming productions presents the age-old challenge of bringing a New York-styled review to Hometown, America. Pontani is hoping to enlist local volunteers to help with advertising for the shows, and she has started an Indiegogo campaign to raise money to cover the cost of a larger van.
“We are really working hard to grow our show and to play bigger houses. We just need a bit of help up front to get the wheels rolling.”
Growing the show and playing bigger houses is very good news for burlesque fans. Pontani’s productions tend to sell out whenever she puts on the larger shows. Plus it’s great news for local performers who get a chance to showcase their talents on a much larger stage.
Devil or Angel, Halloween may be over, but the night has a thousand eyes. And many of them will be watching when Burlesque-A-Pades returns in December.