Slightly Saucy
Cabaret Kiki gets naughty in well-rounded variety show

Quite the atmosphere is built up before the actual start of Cabaret Kiki’s show. On Saturday’s performance that ambience was created partially by accident, as it started quite later than its designated time due to another show at Buxton’s running over.
So Jonny Panick (Matt Bivins), Kiki’s androgynous emcee, mingled with the crowd before the show started to get everyone even more in the mood for what they were about to see.
The stage is set with lace and lights, the band is in place, and everyone is ready to party.
Cabaret Kiki is the hipster’s answer to The Good Time Variety Hour. Packed with comedy sketches, songs, dancing, and guest stars… but also liquor, cursing, lascivious behavior, and sexy costumes, it’s like the black sheep stepsister of the other variety show.
Cary Ann Hearst as Caramella Guillotine, the partner in Jonny’s love-hate relationship, beguiles the audience with her breathy vocals and do-me gaze. With her crinoline petticoat skirt, fingerless gloves, and Belinda Carlisle moves, she has a look that’s decidedly ’80s. The songs are terrific and catchy. Bivins and Hearst get into character well, and in their duets they showcase their characters’ love wars marvelously.
The other Dangerous Strangers are The Sleeper (Bill Carson on guitar); Kurt Nihilist (Evan Bivins on the drums); Baron Von Climacus (Ash Hopkins on bass); Klauss Narkleptik (Nathan Koci on keyboard); and Fifi (assuming that’s Renee Fincke, who’s credited in the program as Bambi, since no credit of Fifi is given), daughter of The Dog-Faced Boy, who does a little dancing, helping out with the show, and generally laying about.
Cabaret Kiki has its feet firmly planted in German cabaret, but takes on modern topics; so the melding and crossover of subjects and appearances all manages to work. Jonny makes jokes about Nickelback and Philip Glass (this show’s festival yuk-yuk reference, which so many of them are indulging in), and a spoof ad for Eunuchra prescription medicine is one of the funniest parts of the show. The “Dear Jonny” segment, where Jonny reads fan letters and answers their questions, is kind of a dud. But the rest of the performance is highly entertaining. (But isn’t there something considerably jarring and askew about having corporate sponsors, despite their necessity, announced onstage at this kind of show?)
Seeing smokin’ hot instrumental trio Morimoto perform their groove/funk/acid jazz as a special guest band was worth the cost of admission alone. They probably took up more of the show than most of the audience was expecting or wanting, but they’re a fantastic, kick-ass band.
Without having any previous Cabaret Kiki performances to compare this one to, it’s difficult to say whether The Rogue’s Gallery, an abbreviated version, stands up to their other productions. But as a stand-alone Piccolo production, it succeeds. It’s a unique production among all the festival choices, and that’s worth a lot.

The Dangerous Strangers of Cabaret Kiki present the Rogues Gallery • Piccolo Spoleto’s Piccolo Fringe • $15 • (1 hour) • June 6, 7 at 8 p.m.; June 8, 9 at 8:30 p.m. • Buxton’s Theatre, 184 E. Bay St. • 554-6060

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