Mark Siano has a thing for soft rock. “Phil Collins, Lionel Richie songs — they were rambling, glorious celebrations of really mellow music.” He says this in all seriousness. He loves soft rock so much he once produced and sang an homage to the genre. “I was working an office job at a hospital and all they would play was soft rock and my co-workers heard me singing and they said, ‘You should do a show.’” He did three: Mark Siano’s Soft Rock Explosion, The Soft Rock Spectacular and The Soft Rock Kid.
The shows further cemented Siano’s reputation as a nice guy who can do it all: sing, act, emcee and tell a joke. At the University of Washington in the mid-1990s, he and a group of friends formed a comedy troupe called The Habit. They later moved to LA to pitch their show to a cable network; it didn’t work out. During that time, Siano also played in a band.
Last year, the 38-year-old Siano collaborated with girlfriend and performer Opal Peachey on the musical, Seattle VICE, a seamy, smarmy look at real-life Seattle circa 1965. The show opened at ACT. He’s already working on another musical production, Bohemia, set in 1890s Prague and scheduled to open in September at the new Café Nordo. When we met recently, Siano was particularly excited about heading to a bar later to taste test and brainstorm ways of serving absinthe as part of the Nordo show.
“But how to light the drinks on fire and serve it to everyone quickly?” he pondered. Nothing annoys a creative like Siano more than something that drags a show. Even absinthe. It’s all about leading an audience on a journey, which is how we end up talking about Patrick Swayze and the “Time of My Life” dance scene from the 1987 classic Dirty Dancing. Or what Siano calls " a great way to kick-off a dance party."
On Friday night, Siano will channel Swayze along with John Travolta (doing his best Batusi in Pulp Fiction) as emcee and performer in The Studio 54 Experience, a dance party that follows the SIFF screening of 54: The Director’s Cut. The party promises disco dance lessons and recreations of five of the most iconic dance sequences on film from: Dirty Dancing, Pulp Fiction, Fame, Napoleon Dynamite and Flashdance. (Yes, there will be that one shower dance-from-the-strip-club routine).
“The thing about a good disco song is that you can slow dance and then you can freak out,” says Siano, who can do both.
If you go:The Studio 54 Experience, The Neptune, 9 p.m. May 29 ($15 for the party only; $25 for the film and party. Note: the film 54: The Director’s Cut screens at 7 p.m. at SIFF Cinema Egyptian). — F.D.
* Denotes items that are $15 or less
Natasha Kmeto *
She's the kind of R&B singer who covers Nine Inch Nails. Also a producer and composer, Kmeto’s powerful arrangements often lean towards the gothic and industrial tones NIN’s Trent Reznor pioneered. A lighter, synth pop influence (think Depeche Mode or Soft Cell) is also apparent in her sound, as are the post-millennial dub-step and EDM trappings one might expect from a contemporary artist looking to move hips on today’s dance floors. Kmeto is based in Portland. Seattle rapper Katie Kate, who also produces her own (very fierce) beats, is the opener. It’s a match made in heaven.
If you go:Natasha Kmeto, Kremwerk, May 29 ($10). All ages — J.S.H.
Don Nordo del Midwest at Cafe Nordo
Yes, full disclosure, the show features his girlfriend Opal Peachey. But that's not the only reason why Siano is plugging this. "It's more inventive and creative than most theater in this town and the surprising combinations of food and performing arts make it truly unique. Plus it's by far the most social of any theater experience you'll have in Seattle. I love how people linger and hang out and drink afterwards."