Via Venice: The living paper cartoon arrives in Pasadena

What do you get when you cross the creative son of a Venetian espresso salesman with a passion for all things Disney, an eye for carnival costume design, a love of origami and a musical ear?

The result is artist Ennio Marchetto and his ever-evolving live performance, “The Living Paper Cartoon” appearing Aug. 23 through 28 at the Pasadena Playhouse.

The 51-year-old Ennio, a self-described clown, unfolds a unique, musical-comedic parody of current pop stars and classic icons using quick-change costumes made of paper and cardboard.

“We’re bringing out many new characters — like Justin Bieber, Mary Poppins and Spiderman — that we’ve never performed before. We’re always trying out other new acts, but we are very critical. We have to be completely convinced, so I don’t know yet if all our new characters will be ready for the show in Pasadena,” Marchetto said.

In the ’80s, Marchetto started making elaborate costumes in Italy for the Venetian Carnival. In 1986, Ennio created his first critically acclaimed cabaret show in Paris, where he met his collaborative partner Sosthen Hennekam, a freelance fashion designer who was fascinated with the paper aspect of Marchetto’s alter-egos. Sosthen not only makes and mends all the costumes; he handles music and lighting as well.

“Without Sosthen there would be no show. We create the show together, but I’m busy performing. He is the main source of the new ideas and inspiration, but I make all the wigs myself, because they are very personal,” Marchetto said.

Ennio said he grew up daydreaming of Marilyn Monroe and was fascinated by the drawing style of Disney’s “Snow White” and “Fantasia.”

Marchetto credits a workshop taken with English choreographer, actor and mime artist Lindsay Kemp (who also coached David Bowie) as a huge inspirational influence that led him to live performance.

“My friends and family all encouraged me as I started developing my paper characters. Only when I started to make a profession out of it, then my father, who was a very creative artist and musician himself, expressed his worries — he was afraid I wouldn’t be able to make a living,” Marchetto said.

Marchetto has carved out a successful niche, performing all over the world with mega-stars that have been part of his act, including George Michael, Prince and an ongoing agreement with Elton John, appearing yearly for the AIDS benefit at John’s private residence in Oxfordshire, England.

“Despite all the glam and glitter that surrounds him, Elton John is such a humble and nice guy to be around. He’s a real star if you ask me,” Marchetto said.

Marchetto said he loves to imitate characters who are strong artists, with a precise manner, like Lady Gaga, but male characters are the most challenging because they don’t have the hair or shapes he can use to define the feminine subjects.

Marchetto said he and Hennekam are looking forward to being in Los Angeles again and performing at the Pasadena Playhouse.

“Sosthen lived in L.A., and I’ve been here many times, so we’re looking forward to seeing our friends, and we both love world cuisine, something we don’t have in Italy. We will have lots of Thai, Vietnamese, Indian and especially Japanese dinners, and I’m looking forward to visiting one of my favoriate places in the world, Huntington Gardens,” Marchetto said.


What: Ennio Marchetto’s “The Living Paper Cartoon”

Where: Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave.

When: Aug. 23 to 28; 7 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 8 p.m. Friday; 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday

Cost: $15 to $100


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