Wednesday, Dec 12 2012 04:41 PM

Totsy melds music, humor with burlesque flair

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BY MATT MUNOZ Californian staff writer mmunoz@bakersfield.com

Being on Santa's naughty list isn't a bad thing for the members of Totsy.

Accustomed to raising eyebrows during live performances, the Los Angeles-based pop burlesque ensemble is currently enjoying a sleigh ride across the nation as the opening act on guitarist Brian Setzer's latest rockin' big band "Christmas Rocks Extravaganza" tour, which makes a stop at the Fox Theater on Dec. 20.

Related Info

Brian Setzer Orchestra's 'Christmas RocksExtravaganza' with Totsy

When: 8 p.m. Dec. 20

Where: Fox Theater, 2001 H St.

Admission: $35 to $75

Information: 324-1369 or vallitix.com

For Totsy founders Brett Boyett and Beth Curry, landing a gig of this magnitude was a score beyond their wildest dreams after a brief two years together and a few public performances.

"We're a baby band, so this is a huge opportunity for us," said Curry during a phone interview. "We were like, 'How are we going to make this work?' Touring is so expensive. We said yes, which is the important word to say and we made it work after that."

From appearances, the eight-piece band could be pulled from a Tim Burton film with their stylized, circus chic outfits and humorous onstage swagger. It's an image Curry said is meant for fun while giving audiences an added boost to their senses.

"I think people will automatically think, 'Oh, this is a sexy show,' but there's such a light kind of energy around the band. It's actually a perfect fit for this tour, and people have been responding very positively."

Boyett concurred, emphasizing Totsy is suitable for all ages.

"We've definitely put the focus on the integrity of the music," said Boyett. "It's taken on a life of its own, the way I think a band should."

Rounding out the band are established session players including Bakersfield multi-instrumentalist Paul Cartwright, who's been a colleague of Boyett's for years.

"Paul is phenomenal and I think people are blown away when they see him playing five instruments, and all of them extremely well. He's bit of a freak of nature. You don't always come across a person with that kind of talent too often."

Prior to forming Totsy, both Boyett and Curry worked steadily in the entertainment industry: Curry in musical theater, and Boyett as a composer for TV and film. They decided to combine forces to create something unique based on their individual strengths.

"I made all the costumes, and got really creative," Curry said. "I thought, 'What if we start the show wearing weird muumuus and hats and kind of make it a strip tease?' So, we've kind of kept that theme, but made it into more of a burlesque-style show."

Totsy's latest CD, "Red Balloon," is a fun representation of the group's colorful gypsy jazz and vaudeville shtick, with Curry's unique voice navigating through each of Boyett's Danny Elfman-inspired arrangements with dream-like ease. The group has also just released a new single, "Santa Likes Naughty Girls Too," available through their website totsyband.com.

"We were trying to use as much organic instruments as possible, which is what we've done with using trombones, violins, a lot of classic instruments," Boyett said. "We've assembled some really great musicians for this project."

This marks Setzer's eighth year touring with his popular Christmas-themed trek that features a live presentation of material off the Stray Cats guitarist's best-selling CDs, complete with all the glitzy production for which the festive road show is known.

Those looking to buy tickets should do so quickly, as the Fox expects a sell-out.

As for the members of Totsy, Curry said she and her bandmates are eager to bring some holiday cheer to Bakersfield.

"We didn't know what to expect on the road, but people of all ages come to the merch table -- kids, older couples, 20-year-olds. Everyone comes to the table and says, 'This is so refreshing, I've never heard anything like it before. What do you call this?' So, it feels good to be kind of on the forefront of a different sound. I think that's the most rewarding feeling."

 

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