Queen of the Night, playing at the Paramount Hotel near Times Square, is the latest genre-busting immersive production to hit New York City, following on the toe-shoes of downtown hits like Sleep No More and Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812. It’s a bubbly blend of modern dance, new-age circus, bare-breasted burlesque, and velvet-rope night on the town.
Producer Randy Weiner has spent a reported $20 million renovating Diamond Horseshoe, a ’40s-era ”pleasure palace,” into a luxe space that’s equal parts dinner theater and nightclub. Cast members lead you to a subterranean bar where custom cocktails are set out for your consumption. You can then explore side rooms, including one lined with knives and another with artfully melted wax on the walls. You may even be led by hand to meet the Queen, a Gaga-like figure on the central stage, as she holds a series of Marina Abramovic-style encounters before the performance begins in earnest.
By that time, you’ve been led to a communal table for a dinner that encourages room-wide sharing. If you don’t like the cage of lobsters that have been delivered to your table, you can barter, beg, or steal from nearby tables that have received beef spareribs or mushroom paella or suckling pig on a spit. The food, by Jason Kallert and Jennifer Rubell, is pretty good. (The meal and most drinks are included in the ticket price.)
The show itself is a series of set pieces featuring members of the 7 Fingers circus troupe (best known for the Off Broadway show Traces and the Broadway revival of Pippin) as well as some spirited modern dancers led by Martha Graham veteran Katherine Crockett as the Queen. Like many a Cirque du Soleil show, there isn’t much of a story to follow — something about a broad-shouldered prince (Mason Ames) who falls for the Queen’s daughter, Pamina (Valerie Benoit-Charbonneau). Yes, this seems to be a reworking of Mozart’s The Magic Flute but it’s as loose as Thom Browne’s handsome costumes.
Despite the talent on display, it can be hard to regard Queen of the Night as theater. There’s no curtain call, or even much of a finale to signal that the performance is over. Instead, the cast invites the audience to dance and enjoy dessert. Fittingly for an evening whose theme is lowering inhibitions, cast members feed you dark-chocolate ganache cake one spoonful at a time. It’s far from Shakespeare, but it’s a memorable and singular good time. B+