In the three years since Elizabeth Lord began organizing Lord Franzannian’s Royal Olympian Spectacular Vaudeville Show, the vaudeville revival has kept building momentum.
“There is a revival of live performance going on everywhere in the country,” said Lord, a storyteller and actress and the driving force behind Big Show City Performing Arts Organization. “I’d like to think that I was on the forefront of it, but I know the revival was happening in New York City long before I put together my first show.”
In Olympia, the annual vaudeville show has been followed by other related performances, including Tush burlesque troupe, the seasonal musical stylings of “longtime vaudevillian” Saul Tannenbaum (aka Josh Anderson), and an explosion of aerial dance.
This year’s show, opening tonight, offers a mix of comedy, spoken word, burlesque, dance, juggling, hula hooping and some gasp-inducing stunts.
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“I can’t wait to see it,” said Tyler Lockwood, a recent graduate of The Evergreen State College who’ll perform a comedy monologue in the show.
The performances, which benefit Big Show City and the performers, are hosted by Lord and set to music by Scuff Acuff, best known for his work with the Tune Stranglers, and Alison Metheny.
“He plays the harmonica and the ukelele and the washboard, and she plays a bucket bass, a 5-gallon bucket that’s been turned into a bass with a string attached to a wooden dowel,” Lord said.
Many of the performers and all of the acts will be new, and so is the production’s schedule: The show is running for two weekends for the first time, and is offering six performances. Lord also intends to share part of the proceeds with the performers.
And this year, not every show will feature the same lineup of performers. A few acts will be seen only this weekend, with a few others coming in for the second weekend.
The show’s three burlesque acts, all part of the Olympia troupe Tush, will alternate their acts. “You get excited when you have a new piece, and then once you run that piece for a while, it gets old for you,” Lord said. “It’s exciting to do something different and switch it up.”
In keeping with the spirit of vaudeville, the burlesque performers will focus more on being funny than on being sexy, she said. In fact, humor is a thread that runs throughout the show.
An act that inspires more awe than laughs is Sam Miller’s feats of chin-balancing, back for the third straight year.
“My thought as the producer was: ‘He’s been in the show multiple times. I need to give it a rest,’ ” Lord said. “But every time I talk to someone about the vaudeville show, they ask, ‘Is the balancing guy coming back?’
“He’s the one big favorite.”