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C'est si Bon! A tribute to Eartha Kitt
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C'est si Bon! A tribute to Eartha Kitt

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Staff Writer

C'est si Bon!
Julia's On Broadway
June 21-24


Seattle cabaret audiences have been entertained by "Drag Chanteuse" Arnaldo! for years. With an unbelievable voice, the songstress has played sold-out shows in small stages and large theaters. I saw Arnaldo! perform an Eartha Kitt tribute Wednesday night and two things happened - I am now a fan of both Kitt and Arnaldo!

C'est si Bon! A Pride Cabaret Tribute to The One And Only Miss Eartha Kitt is a musical history lesson taught by the professor of cabaret, Arnaldo! The show, inside Julia's On Broadway June 21-24, was entertaining from beginning to end. The impressive thing about Arnaldo! is his vocal range; let's be honest, Eartha Kitt is not an easy act to imitate. Kitt has a distinctive sound and one hell of a personality, how could anyone copy that and get it right. Arnaldo! sang Kitt's songs as a tribute, not imitation, which is what made the show such a delight - the music was live, the voice real.

Julia's On Broadway was the perfect venue for the show. When Arnaldo! appeared onstage in a floor-length black dress with a single, soft spotlight draping him in light, the whole production oozed class. The music, under the direction of Bob Bruneau, was cabaret at its best.

The tribute was done in three sets, each one representing a different period in Kitt's life and career. The first set, "Eartha Mae: The Early Years," featured two songs that Kitt's fans would know, "C'est si Bon" and "Monotonous." Both were done flawlessly. In between each song, Arnaldo! talked about the history of the song, where Kitt was when she first performed or recorded it, and so on. It was all very intimate. The first set's second number, "Old Fashioned," was not a well-known song, but showcased just how deep the cabaret performers knowledge of Kitt's repartee is.

In a message to the audience, Arnaldo! said he chose to honor Eartha Kitt for the Pride cabaret because she inspired him as a performer through her music and persona.

"She inspired me as an outspoken Gay man because she fought for her values and spoke out against injustice," he said. Set two, "Eartha Kitt: The International Years," was very impressive. Kitt recorded songs in 10 different languages throughout her career, Arnaldo! performed four of them. He sang the Turkish traditional "Uskadara" and "C'mon a My House" in Japanese. He then moved on to an audience-sings-the-chorus Filipino traditional, "Waray-Waray." It was his haunting yet sweet performance of the Spanish song "Angelitos Negros" that kept the audience transfixed from beginning to end.

In "Miss Kitt: The Iconic Years," Arnaldo! owned the audience. He sang a heartfelt rendition of "Champagne Taste," a ballad that seemed to lend itself to Arnaldo!'s voice with ease. The up-tempo "I Wanna Be Evil" added the dash of comedy that every good cabaret show contains. For Kitt's comeback anthem, "I'm Still Here," Arnaldo! played with the lyrics and turned the song into a tribute. A slideshow of images of Kitt, as a songstress and dressed as Catwoman, played on a screen while Arnaldo! sang "Here's to Life." The show's best number was "Santa Baby," the song that Kitt is perhaps best known for. It may seem odd to listen to a Christmas song in June, but when Arnaldo! reminded the audience that Kitt died on Christmas Day 2008 and sang such a moving rendition, you forgot what month it is and nearly expected tears to fall in-place-of snow.

"So here's to you, Miss Eartha Kitt," Arnaldo! said, "for leaving us with a world that is far better than you have found it."

After a brief intermission, Arnaldo! reappeared wearing a pink dress and closed the show with a special Pride set full of examples of why Arnaldo! is such a beloved entertainer among the throngs of cabaret fans across the country.

Arnaldo! is performing the fair by Julia's On Broadway as well as participating in the June 28 Pride Parade. For more information about Arnaldo! visit www.dragchanteuse.com.

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