Surf-style quartet Los Straightjackets, the toe-tapping World Famous Pontani Sisters and Kaiser George team up for the 1960s Twist Party.
Surf-style quartet Los Straightjackets, the toe-tapping World Famous Pontani Sisters and Kaiser George team up for the 1960s Twist Party. (Yep Roc Records)

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Thursday, November 9, 2006

The phrase "family-friendly burlesque" is not one you hear everyday.

But then again, sighting a surf-style quartet that performs in lucha libre wrestler masks is pretty unusual, too. Add a bespectacled Scotsman who can do the twist like nobody's business and a trio of toe-tapping sisters from New Jersey and you've got a concert event that actually lives up to the word "unique."

Los Straitjackets provide the music, the World Famous Pontani Sisters offer the fancy footwork, and Kaiser George is host and dance instructor when the Twist Party pulls into two area venues this weekend -- with the feel of a throwback to 1960s TV comedy and music staples such as "Hullabaloo" and "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In."

Though The Barns matinee is being touted as the family-aimed event, spokesman and band manager Jake Guralnick said that neither event will warp young minds.

"The Pontani Sisters are pretty G-rated, so basically the kids show is actually not that different from the 'adult' show," he wrote to Live! "We aim for a fun-for-all-ages feeling -- not unlike the old Pee Wee Herman TV show." But there are, he explains, minor variations.

"The kids show is shorter, and we try to stress audience participation, and the guys try to play quieter. The show is definitely designed for rock-and-roll parents and their kids!"

The younger set might recognize some of Los Straitjackets' music, since it's been heard in numerous films and trailers for movies such as "Bad News Bears," "Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius" and "Harriet the Spy," as well as in television shows such as "Malcolm in the Middle." Adults may know these musicians for their long career as masters of retro guitar mayhem and collaborations with the likes of Reverend Horton Heat, Exene Cervenka and Raul Malo. And people of any age can enjoy a "Telstar"-inspired version of Celine Dion's "Titanic" anthem, "My Heart Will Go On."

Instead of being broken up into traditional sets by individual acts, the Twist Party is a mix-and-mingle event in which Los Straitjackets' musicians play instrumentals, Kaiser George sings and plays saxophone and, as Guralnick described it, "every few numbers the Pontanis join them for the big production numbers."

These three acts have been working together for years, and Guralnick asserts that "this is the best integrated show we have put together -- action packed from start to finish. We sort of aimed to create a 'parallel universe' where you can come for 60 to 90 minutes and enjoy this little world we've created."

To offer audiences an advance peek of that world, the tour has posted a video on YouTube ( ), where Internet users also can view the campy fun of songs such as "Twistin' Gorilla," "Mad Scientwist" and "Go-Go Robics." At this freewheeling rock-and-roll cabaret, audience participation -- in the form of dancing like silly fools -- is not only encouraged, it's practically required.


The State Theatre is at 220 N. Washington St., Falls Church. 703-237-0300 or The Barns of Wolf Trap is at 1635 Trap Road, Vienna. 703-938-2404 or Tickets are $15 for adults at both venues, $8 for children younger than 12 at The Barns and are available through Ticketmaster outlets or at the venue box offices.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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