BWW Review: Company XIV's QUEEN OF HEARTS Brings Extra Sizzle To New York's Summer
Brilliant director/choreographer Austin McCormick turns Lewis Carroll's classic into a sensually-charged wonderland.
It's doubtful one will find a more romantic, nor a sexier theatergoing experience within the five boroughs this summer than seated close to someone special in one of Theatre XIV's cozy champagne couches while nearly directly above you, aerialists Marcy Richardson and Nolan McKew are performing a sensuous display of glistening muscles and elegant eroticism while maneuvering their nearly nude bodies in a variety of tableaus while hanging from a crown-shaped chandelier.
Richardson, who is also an accomplished pole dancer and legit operatic soprano (frequently using both skills simultaneously) is grandly showcased as The Mad Hatter in the middle act of Company XIV's sumptuous cavalcade, Queen of Hearts, inspired by Lewis Carroll's story of Alice's adventures down the rabbit hole. Aside from her encounter with McKew's silent, but powerful Dormouse, she's singing a bit of Lady Gaga in French and clowning through a politically-charged minuet, highly critical of the current administration.
But that's just a sample of the fun that the brilliant director/choreographer Austin Mccormick has been creating for over a dozen years as XIV's founding artistic director, luring audiences to witness productions that evolve classic tales we've loved as children (The Nutcracker, Cinderella, Snow White) into visits to sensually-charged wonderlands.
The company's signature style combines the essence of the 17th Century court entertainments enjoyed by King Louis XIV of France with more contemporary sensibilities, utilizing the talents of ensemble of classical dancers, hoofers, legit vocalists, pop singers, circus performers and burlesque stars while incorporating a musical playlist ranging from Offenbach, Rossini and Tchaikovsky to Neil Sedaka, Nina Simone and Rihanna.
Alice herself is played by magnetically fierce vocalist LEXXE as a woman venturing out to experience new pleasures and fantasies. The three acts have her encountering Carroll's classic characters, played by XIV regulars performing their specialties.
a??The White Rabbit, for example, is played by powerhouse belter Michael Cunio, whose overtly sexual charisma and comical flair have made him a favorite among repeat visitors. Tweedledee and Tweedledum come in the form of vaudevillian identical twins Nicholas and Ross Katen performing a sexy mirror act. As "Eat Me," Ashley Dragon twirls with remarkable timing within her Cyr wheel and Laszlo Major's "Drink Me" is a merman who seems to swim through the air as he pole dances. Contortionist Lilin Lace is carried onto the stage wrapped up as a caterpillar who is then transformed into an entrancing butterfly.
When the Queen finally arrives, she's played by commanding blues vocalist Storm Marrero, who tears hearts out with her gripping rendition of "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood."
There is no other company in New York that does what Company XIV does on such a high artistic level. Like their past productions, Queen of Hearts is an adventure for the senses in a captivating world of erotic imagination.