By Sam Hurwitt and Stefanie Kalem
If life is a cabaret, old chum, then Frank Olivier is here to see that life remains a little weird. Emceed by the Mephisophelean Mr. Paul Nathan (who’s done the same for the Exitic Erotic Ball and his own Dark Kabaret), Oliver’s Twisted Cabaret and Pandemonium Vaudeville Show features a dazzling array of acts, all with an increasingly familiar face: Oliver as hapless magician the Great Frankini, tormented Central European knife thrower Frankonovitchski, joined-at-the-hip trio the Frankettes, the fleshy puppeteering of Tongue Trick Theatre, a unicycle ballet act, extreme yoga practitioner Swami Frankananda with a nose for whatever’s available, balletic acrobats the Frank Bros., and Cafe du Flambe, dinner theater even more flaming than the Noël Coward play your Uncle Phil was in. Even the garrulous midget stagehand Maurice has that nagging familiarity about him. And as you might imagine, it all goes horribly, terribly awry (with the accent on “wry”) in all the right places. But of course it would hardly be a cabaret without Teutonic tunes, provided by the Twisted Cabaret Band: pianist and composer Nolan Gasser, drummer Tim Vaughan, and all-around winds man Roger Glenn.
A long beloved Berkeley juggler, comedian, and vaudeville Frank-of-all-trades, silver-tongued and sure-handed Olivier is recognizable from street performances in tourist spots like Pier 39, from touring in Sugar Babies with Mickey Rooney and Ann Miller, and from appearances on The Tonight Show. But he’s given ample room to show his stuff (no I don’t mean that stuff, though I wouldn’t bet the farm against it–they don’t call him twisted for nothing) in this madcap carny frankshow, a Frankapalooza if you will. You might say Olivier puts the villain back in vaudevillian — if, um, you don’t spell very well. But if you’ve ever wanted to see a guy juggle and play a guitar on fire while riding a unicycle, now’s your chance to head on down to the Julia Morgan Center for the Arts this weekend. Not to put a too fine point on it, that’s the kind of act it’s best not to put off seeing too long.