- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 23, 2007

With troupes such as the World Famous Pontani Sisters slipping into town frequently (often on the bill with Los Straitjackets) and bars such as the Showbar Palace of Wonders providing new outlets for sideshow-style performers, the cabaret/burlesque revival that has been bubbling in New York City’s night life since the early ‘90s finally is trickling into Washington. It’s starting to find an audience.

This is something “Le Scandal,” New York City’s longest-running variety show, is hoping to tap into tomorrow night when its motley mix of artists makes its first out-of-town appearance at the Birchmere in Alexandria.

“Le Scandal” is the brainchild of Bonnie Dunn, a fortysomething cabaret singer and dancer who spent years performing around the globe. After jet-setting for a time, she landed a job at New York City’s Cutting Room, a live-music venue that featured a weekly Saturday cabaret night called “Blue Angel.”

—Seven years ago, Miss Dunn assumed responsibility for the coveted weekend slot and cooked up her own production, “Le Scandal.” Unlike the bevy of dance-heavy vaudeville-style shows in the big city, the director chose to offer a more balanced slate of entertainers.

“It was very important to me to have a variety of circus, music and burlesque,” Miss Dunn says. “The live music is very important to me because of my classic music background.”

“Le Scandal”-goers in the Big Apple and Washington will witness a few leggy ladies executing the playful (but not explicit) striptease known as burlesque. Between their “revelations,” other talented types — including a unicycle-riding knife juggler, a fearsome contortionist and a magician pirit of a Coney Island sideshow.

Beneath these high-temperature offerings, the house band (a rollicking group called the NYC Blues Devils) maintains a cool undercurrent of old-time jazz and blues tunes; it brings the contagious energy of modern-day swing-era throwbacks such as the Squirrel Nut Zippers, but buttresses it with a more authentic sound that draws on such influences as Louis Jordan, Louis Armstrong and Fats Waller.

“The music [in “Le Scandal”] is great,” says pianist Scott Treibitz—name cq Web Devils founder. “People are discovering the roots of rock ‘n’ roll and blues when they come see the show.”

Miss Dunn’s big top already has garnered enough public and media attention to produce waiting lines at the Cutting Room that often snake out the door. That’s not surprising to the organizer. She asks, “Would you rather go to a club and just hear music and watch people pick up one another, or see a whole bunch of live entertainers?”

“One of the great things about [this type of show] is that people really had to work to be an entertainer in vaudeville days,” Mr. Treibitz says.

Miss Dunn adds that vaudeville and burlesque are exhibitions of “folk arts,” which means they often have the added bonus of ticket prices that won’t break the bank ke Broadway or Cirque du Soleil.

“Le Scandal” hits the Birchmere (www.birchmere.com) tomorrow

(May 25) at 7:30 p.m. cq

Al and George give it up

One of the pluses of summer music festivals is the unique collaborations that arise in this environment some planned and some as improvised as a dragonfly’s flight path. Perhaps there’s something in the toasty air that just makes people come together.

This year’s apital Jazz Fest —(Wednesday through June 3) touts this spirit with an opening-night performance from one of last year’s most compelling musical matchupsW: singer-jazz guitGeorge Benson and vocalist Al Jarreau.

The two met back in the mid-‘70s but played together only briefly until a summer 2006 concert tour reunited them as co-headliners. Thoufferent instrumentation to stake their claims, the musicians share an analogous ability to slide from R&B to jazz to pop and back again and each has won Grammys in multiple genres to prove it. A partnership seemed logical.

With the backing of Monster Music and Concord Records (Ray Charles’ “Genius Loves Company” and Sergio Mendes’ “Timeless”) the two finally took to the studio and began work on a full-length collaboration. That record is last October’s “Givin’ It Up,” a smooth jazz-glossed release that includes both original and reinterpreted material.

In the live format, the duo will have to operate without the album’s many star-studded guest appearances (from Paul McCartney to Jill Scott); hopefully this will simply leave more room for impressive improv.

Mr. Benson and Mr. Jarreau kick off the Capital Jazz Fest (www.capitaljazz.com) on Wednesday May 30 at 7:30 p.m. at Merriweather Post Pavilion. added venue, from Web site.

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