When entertainer and Altoona native Adam Cardone was growing up, he considered the Mishler Theatre "kind of like [the] coolest spot on earth," but he wanted more from what was going on inside.
Next week, he and some others are about to shake things up.
The show "Vaudeville Returns to the Mishler," featuring the New York Variety All-Stars - "Cardone," Adam "Realman" and "Kryssy Kocktail" - will appear at the theater June 1.
The New York Variety All-Stars (from left, “Cardone,” “Kryssy Kocktail” and Adam “Realman”) will bring their show to the Mishler Theatre in Altoona on June 1.
Among the show's attractions are magic, sideshow stunts, comedy and a 400,000 Van de Graaff machine, Cardone said.
The Moto-Wrays band, which plays "spy jazz," will perform. Guest artist The Amazing "Ekaterina," who was in Cirque du Soleil, will perform contortionist and aerial acts.
The show won the best act of the year award at the 11th annual Sideshow Gathering in 2012.
If you go
What: "Vaudeville Returns to the Mishler," featuring the New York Variety All Stars
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 1
Where: Mishler Theatre, Altoona
Tickets: $25, which includes the box office handling fee. A portion of the proceeds benefit WALY Warmth. Tickets are available at the box office, 1208 12th Ave., 944-9434 or www.mishlertheatre.org.
"I was born and raised in Altoona, and the show that we are bringing to Altoona is the show I wanted to see in the Mishler when I was a kid," Cardone said.
"It's kind of a dream of mine to do a show with variety art [there]," he said. "That theater was designed for variety arts. ... And it was a stop on the vaudeville circuit, so it should have different [shows]. And the thing is too, we live in New York City, so when we perform our show [there] people are wowed and amazed, but when we take the show out of [the city], people are really amazed because they don't see this kind of thing. I mean, when's the last time you had sword swallowers in Altoona?"
Cardone, "Realman," whose real last name is Rinn, and "Kocktail," who declined to give her real name, met while working at Coney Island's sideshows, Cardone said. They had known each other for years when they did their first show together last summer.
Rinn grew up a few blocks from Coney Island and attended the Coney Island USA's Sideshow School, where he is now the school's "Professa." He has taught for about six years, he said.
Rinn is one of two sword swallowers in the group. He eats lit cigarettes and performs strongman feats such as bending metal and ripping phone books.
"Oh, we're bringing a spectacle. This is true old-school vaudeville spectacle," Rinn said. "We're bringing these old school acts ... and giving them a modern twist and, yeah, that's pretty much what they're going to see. Illusions, ventriloquism. It's really a well-rounded show."
But it's not your grandparents' vaudeville.
"We're not a retro act," he said. "We're doing old-school acts ... with a modern twist, a very modern twist."
Today, vaudeville "makes people think of a variety show with an old-school flavor," Cardone said. "Our show is more of the 1960s vaudeville Ed Sullivan-style, with a bit of the 1970s Muppet Show thrown in."
"It's just a fun, wacky show," he said.
Cardone, who graduated from Altoona Area High School in 1991, has lived in New York City for about 18 years.
The self-taught magician, who started learning through books he checked out at the Altoona Area Public Library, began performing magic in Altoona for such gatherings as birthday parties and the Blair County Arts Festival.
Cardone is thrilled to come back to his hometown to perform.
"For me, the big kick is getting to do my show in Altoona," he said. "I grew up there. I'm glad I'm from Altoona. I had a great childhood there."
He witnessed "a certain spirit of Altoona" disappear in the mid- to late '70s when strip malls started taking over the landscape, he said.
"And there's a certain charm that the Mishler has that I think is really important," he said, noting the importance of preservation and future generations need to see them.
When told he's helping to preserve history, Cardone agreed.
"That's why I wanted to bring this show," he said. "I think it's part of it. Doing shows like this is a part of history. It's a part of American history."
Mirror Staff Writer Amanda Gabeletto is at 949-7030.