Olympia supports vaudeville revival

In Olympia, the vaudeville revival is going strong.

The eighth annual Lord Franzannian’s Royal Olympian Spectacular Vaudeville Show is in its opening weekend at The Midnight Sun. The show generally sells out, said Elizabeth Lord, who hosts the show as the ebullient, mustachioed Lord Franzannian.

“The first year, I thought it might just be one year,” Lord said. But the show was hit and has not only continued but also expanded. It ran for just three nights its first two years, and now runs for two weekends, with two shows on Saturday nights.

“I always think about running it even longer, but I can’t get a longer-term commitment from the performers.”

While vaudeville’s heyday was nearly a century ago, the Royal Olympian Spectacular is thoroughly modern, highlighted by absurd humor as well as such traditional arts as tap dancing.

This year, the show includes its first rapper, Abiliti (Simon Calcavecchia, who spearheaded creation of the huge Komodo dragon for Procession of the Species last spring), and its first boylesque performer, Mr. Meaner (Bobby Brown, who recently played Billy Joel in Theater Artists Olympia’s An Improbable Peck of Plays 3D).

It also includes acrobatics, dance, music, humor and surprises. “I love surprise, of course,” said Lord, who promises to do “something” besides play the ever-enthusiastic Franzannian, a character whose gender bending has fooled more than one newbie audience member.

Another comic mainstay of the show is actor Aaron Bredlau, who brought down the house last year with a surreal skit in which he played a wedge of cheese.

“I like to be as absurd as possible and to confuse the crowd,” said Bredlau, who recently turned in a memorable performance as a dead man in An Improbable Peck of Plays.

The vaudeville show is a great performance opportunity, he said, because it draws lots of audience participation and because it’s an chance to be creative. BigShowCity also pays each performer a stipend, a rarity in community theater.

“It forces me to come up with an act,” he said. “I like that creative aspect of it. I also enjoy the fast pace of it and the different acts and the variety of it and collaborating with people.”

This year, Bredlau will present a live trailer for a non-existent film about the history of the song “There’s a Hole in the Bucket,” plus he’ll make a few surprise appearances.

Another surprise will be the new house band — Jemmy Joe (Jemuel Gardner), Ethan Rogol and Dylan Clifthorne — replacing the old-time favorites Scuff and Al, who have a gig out of town this year.

The music will be a surprise even to Lord herself. “I have not heard them play yet,” she said.

The show, which is suitable for older teens and up due to adult content, will again close its run with an all-ages matinee which will eliminate or edit acts deemed inappropriate for children and add a song and dance by the show’s youngest performer, 7-year-old Eraelah Gentian.

Eraelah performed in last year’s show, too, and Lord said she is enjoying seeing how much the young performer has matured.

“She has more confidence,” Lord said. “Last year, if I’d asked to take her picture, she would have run away into her mom’s arms. This year, I didn’t ask to take her picture and she let me know that she would like to have her picture taken, please.”