When the fizzy, crowd-pleasing Portland-based musical contingent Pink Martini played the first show of a two-night stand at Woodland Park Zoo Wednesday, they brought along some special guests and a few surprises.
This musically sumptuous and semi-ironic throwback to the faded glossy world of international lounge orchestras added a second singer to the mix.
In addition to vibrant-voiced, glam brunette chanteuse China Forbes, a longtime Pink Martini singer-songwriter, the sizzling blonde vocalist Storm Large was on hand. Visually, it was like pairing up the ’60s version of Lainie Kazan with the ’50s version of Jayne Mansfield.
Large — also Portland-based, and an alum of TV’s “Rock Star: Supernova” — has been touring off and on with the beloved mini-orchestra since Forbes took a leave in 2011. She also appears on Pink Martini’s latest disc, “Get Happy.”
Belting tunes vivaciously in English, Arabic and Spanish and garbed in a skintight black lamé gown, Large was like a good mixer in conductor-pianist Thomas Lauderdale’s sparkling musical cocktail.
Lauderdale also welcomed to the stage The von Trapps, an apple-cheeked, wholesome-looking singing quartet of siblings who are step-great-grandchildren of the late family-singing matriarch, Maria von Trapp (yes, the Maria depicted in “The Sound of Music”).
Transplanted to Portland, the von Trapps just released their new album with Pink Martini (“Dream a Little Dream”) and are sharing some of the orchestra’s tour dates.
Pink Martini has collaborated swimmingly with other artists — from Carol Channing to Rufus Wainwright. But I don’t get their congruence with the young von Trapps, whose sweetly bland, well-harmonized renditions of Austrian folk tunes, original songs and ABBA’s megahit “Fernando” were not well served by the sporadically harsh miking Wednesday night.
Moreover, some of their material crossed that thin line Pink Martini treads between witty, snappy-cool reinventions of affectionately campy retro-pop genres and nostalgic schlock.
The evening’s highlights were not surprisingly the zesty, signature Pink Martini numbers, many equipped with an infectious Latin beat that made you want to get up and rumba. They were the happiest showcases for Lauderdale’s witty and sophisticated jazz-pop arrangements, Forbes’ multilingual vocals and the talents of the 12-member group’s intrepid string, brass, wind and percussion players.
Pink Martini performs again Thursday at the Zoo but the show is sold out.