Thursday night at the Ballet Theatre was all about the homecoming of the Dangerous Strangers of Cabaret Kiki. Yes, it’s Comedy Fest, and yes, the band was joined by one of Chicago’s best improv/sketch acts (Cook County Social Club), but there was no doubt that everyone in that room was there to see the Bivins brothers and their spooky crew. The mustache-, fishnet-, and suspender-clad band settled in before Jonny Panik (Matt Bivins) crept out of the darkness of the backstage area with a huge smile on his face — the crowd erupted.

Panik and his former lover Caramella Guillotine (aka Cary Ann Hearst) switched singing duties throughout the evening, while Bambi Bordaine’s (Renee Finke) ample bosoms nearly busted out of her corset while she chimed in on a few songs. Panik kept everyone laughing with his cheeky offerings (“You didn’t ruin my life, you ruined my day, every day.”) Guillotine, on the other hand, caught our breath on many occasions with her surprisingly huge voice, when she wasn’t pouting at her ex off to the sides.

Between songs, Cook County Social Club took the stage in various guises, performing short sets. They started out as a bumbling crew of hypnotists (as Peter Gross of the previous Get Hypnotized! show looked on, not entirely amused). They went on to involve some unsuspecting audience members in a strange French game show called Le Bounce and le Catch, which involved a chubby dude in tighty whities and a wrestling mask running around and making everyone uncomfortable. They ended their offerings with a “dramatic” performance of A Streetcar Named Desire, which benefited greatly from a creative piano-playing audience member.

As the Dangerous Strangers played their final song, a melancholy vibe spread over the room, as Charleston-based fans realized they might not see the band again for another year or more. Luckily, they’re playing two more shows at Comedy Fest for anyone who needs to get their Bivins brothers fix — just make sure you get your tickets before they sell out!

Get Hypnotized! with Peter Gross

The Dangerous Strangers of Cabaret Kiki
and Cook County Social Club