BWW Reviews: HIT AT THE HOT SPOT - Naughty but Nice
"HIT at the HOT SPOT"... Naughty but Nice
Written, Produced and Directed
by Ilona Sakovich
Jan. 27, 2013 at 7:00 P.M.
Hit at the Hot Spot", is the title of the current offering, at St. Petersburg Nights, the "only Russian restaurant and lounge in Tampa Bay." This unique venue combines Eastern European hospitality, authentic Eastern European cuisine, and on occasion...(check listings), an interactive, musical, murder/mystery, dinner show. Now, "That's a mouthful!" I assure you, this is certainly a "one of a kind" venue and show.
When you arrive, Ilona Sakovich, (the owner/hostess) happily greets each guest, appropriately attired as a 1920's flapper, in keeping with the show's "Speakeasy" theme. Costumes are encouraged and there are some patrons dressed as flappers and gangsters as well. The dining room is small and cozy with with tables and chairs surrounding the dance floor. There is a small stage with a red curtain and that is it.
It reminds me of a vintage supper club, where you could have a drink and a meal and see a "floor show". (live entertainment, usually a singer accompanied by a musicain or two and maybe a comedian and/or a dancer).
And so the evening begins with a 3 course dinner (included in the ticket price), that is served throughout the show. There is a fresh, crisp, salad with a tangy house dressing made of olive oil, lemon, and herbs. A basket of fresh sliced bread. A choice of their "signature dish" of Chicken Kiev, Beef Stroganoff, or Salmon in a Tomato/Rose' sauce. Our server reminds us that the entree may take a while as everything is made to order. And may I say, that the wait was not long at all. The Salmon is served on a bed of yellow rice with grilled vegetables and it may very well be the best that I have ever had. Yes, it was THAT good! A luscious chocolate cake was served for dessert. I overheard other patrons complimenting the chef on their choice of entrees as well. I know that I will be back to dine, just to sample their traditional Russian cusine on their extensive "regular" menu. DELICIOUS! There is a full liquor bar with over 20 kinds of vodka and unique Eastern European wines available at an additional cost.
What about the show?....Please note, that I have produced, directed, and viewed many murder/mystery shows and...Well,... I was clearly not expecting this "type" of show... at all. This was a surprising "first" for me. This show is... NAUGHTY...but NICE! This production is for mature audiences only. It is filled with suggestive humor, well known standard tunes, old burlesque jokes and routines, and nearly bare bodies. Fair warning...this show is not for the timid or weak of heart.
The loosely written story line, takes place in the Roaring Twenties, at a Speakeasy during prohibition. It revolves around the "Star-Diva" entertainer, Ruskie Rosa Lee (Cherie Leal), as the chanteuse who is hated by all...And of course, there is a murder...You will have to put the "clues" together when the cast visits the audience during intermission.
It's up to you, to find out "Who Done It!"
This is a talented cast of 7. The saucy, flirtatious, and somewhat bitter Madame, (Careena Cornette) acts as hostess of the club. Ms Cornette leads the cast in this naughty romp with her many talents. And she displays them all. She tells risqué jokes, sings, tap dances, and...yes, she even strips. Ms. Cornette is a musical theatre pro and she goes for the gusto, making the most out of her role. Boris Bad Enough, (played by an actor who goes only by the name Boris), plays the suave and handsome host. He tells bad jokes and creates a great deal of interest with the ladies of the show. He he a top notch, Jazz saxophone player and he is at his professional best, when he is playing solo to the recorded tracks. Jolene Free plays a secondary solo singer in the club with a sultry rendition of "I Want to be Loved by You". There are 2 well trained dancers with lots of personality, Evelyn Tossi and Teresa Reed, who give tribute to Gypsy Rose Lee ( with her one glove striptease) and Sally Rand (complete with feathered fans). The authentc choreography is by Hip Expressions Dance Studio. Of course, there is an incognito detective in the audience, played by Alex Rudy, who puts all the facts into prospective.
The shining star of this production however, is Cherie Leal as Ruskie Rosa Lee. Ms Leal is a dynamo of a perfomer with an amazing, "set of pipes". Dressed in a fitted, plum colored velvet gown, with a pink and fuchsia feathered boa seductivly placed over her shoulders, Ms. Leal exudes a restrained sexuality, as she slinks across the stage. She is simply captivating with her every move and look while singing the haunting ballad, "At Last". Her voice is astounding. Ms. Leal's performance alone is worth the price of admission.
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