It’s not your average night at the theater. In fact, it’s not your average night anywhere. La Soirée is a naughty cabaret-cum-circus with an edge of danger.
When Mario, Queen of the Circus, urges audience members to pass him hand to hand above their heads, that’s one thing. When he persuades Chrissie from Maryland, not only to join him onstage but to climb on his shoulders as he climbs on a unicycle—all this on a stage the size of a thumbtack—those in the front rows were fascinated but uneasy.
The front rows are quickly sheathed in plastic as Stephen Williams lifts his exquisite body from a bath. Using bands attached to the ceiling, he spins and all but struts over the heads of the audience, spritzing us with kicks of water and droplets from his form-fitting jeans.
There’s no danger when “The English Gents,” Denis Lock and Hamish McCann, tricked out in pinstripes and bowlers, take the stage—just power. They Basil-Fawlty us into grins at first. But quickly, as the two balance into impossible postures, the audience quiets, recognizing the strength and skill it takes to make their extravagant moves seem effortless. It takes your breath away. Should you have any oxygen left, you give it up when these two strip down to Union Jack skivvies. Their bodies are stunningly beautiful.
Later Hamish McCann does something with a pole I shan’t forget. But I won’t be a spoiler.
Some of the fun is “crowd-sourced.” Mooky Cornish is an accomplished clown without the rubber nose or swept-up spotlights. She gets an innocent audience member to join her onstage in cascading madness. I can’t tell you how she does it, but you shouldn’t miss it.
Ursula Martinez’s striptease act is said to have a cult following, and it’s a cult worth joining. She offers us her ripe body with an unerring sense of campy fun.
This troupe of sword-swallowing, vamped-up, hulu-hooped Mad-Hatters has taken over the Union Square Theatre on East 17th St. Some of this gifted gang have been here before. In the summer of 2006, then called Absinthe: Les Artistes de La Clique, they played to sold-out houses—well,tents—near the Seaport. The current rendition is more upbeat, less sinister, more fun perhaps, but with the same sense of jaw-dropping skill behind all the playfulness.
This is event theater. Take someone who’s prepared to be amazed and ready to laugh and to be wowed. The press release on La Soirée says: “it is high glamour and low inhibition entertainment for those who enjoy the risky and the risqué.” And I think that puts it perfectly. La Soirée’s creative producer is Brett Haylock.
There are open bars throughout the performance and popcorn and candy in the lobby. (It’s for your inner child, not your child.) La Soirée is in previews and opens Nov. 7 for a limited run.
There are lots of seating options from “the gods” to “posh” table-service seats. Get there early, because each section is general admission. Tickets are available through www.ticketmaster.com
Tues.-Thurs. at 8:00 p.m.: $120 and $79. Fri.-Sat. at 7:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m.: $130 and $89. Sun. at 5:00 p.m.: $130 and $89.Mezzanine Price: $49 all performances. UNION SQUARE THEATRE 100 E 17th St #1, New York, NY