BWW Review: Superb Performers Sparkle in Company XIV's PARIS
If there is one thing director/choreographer Austin McCormick (Company XIV) can be accused of it's that he consistently puts on a titillating, atmospheric and imaginative show. If you've seen his sensual reimagining's of classic stories like The Nutcracker and Cinderella you'll feel right at home. His signature style is unmistakable in the seamless blending of ballet dance, opera, fashion, multifarious music, Baroque dance, and gender bending antics.
The moment we walk into the Irondale theatre we're immersed in a French cabaret-like aesthetic. The performers are already onstage dressing, or undressing for the show. Some are strutting throughout the theatre, barely clad, greeting patrons. Ironically the space they've converted into a tawdry French nightclub was formerly a Sunday school auditorium in the historic Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church.
In PARIS McCormick creates his own unique burlesque spin on the Greek myth, The Judgement of Paris. Just in case you don't know the story, here's how it goes. There's a contest between the three most beautiful goddesses of Olympus--Venus, Juno and Athena--for the prize of a golden apple. Paris of Troy is chosen by Zeus to decide who will be the fairest. He chooses Venus as he is swayed by her promise to bestow upon him Helen, the most beautiful woman, for his wife. His subsequent abduction of Helen sparks the Trojan War.
The show gets off to a slow start with an abbreviated take on the classic can-can dance. Next we're introduced to Zeus/Fifi (Charlotte Bydwell doing double duty as a half male, half female God) and Paris played by dancer extraordinaire Jakob Karr. Costumer Zane Pihlstrom's clever design has Bydwell switching genders as she turns profile either stage right or stage left. Acting as master of ceremonies, Bydwell (often inaudible), lays out the story of Paris's quest in a series of short vignettes that often lags. The show picks up steam later in the act when Paris and Mercury (played by the chiseled Todd Hanebrink) dance a beautiful pas de deux to Vivaldi. Karr, taking on the female role, has exquisite technique. He's literally balanced by the strength of Hanebrink's partnering skills. It's a match made in heaven by the dance Gods.
Momentum builds with the competition between the three goddesses. Athena (the multi- talented soprano Marcy Richardson) takes pole dancing to a new level, swinging and contorting high above the audience singing Adele's "Skyfall," never missing a beat. Juno (Randall Scotting) has a more earthbound approach while commanding center stage gloriously singing the music of Handel. When performing Leonard Cohen's I'm Your Man, the sexy chorus strips off Juno's female garb down to the bare necessities. Yes, he's indeed a man (dominatrix boots and all) and his countertenor prowess is breathtaking. Lastly we have Venus (Storm Marrero) appearing from the heavens in the balcony of the theatre. Eventually taking to the stage, and as any bonafide Broadway star would do, she sings the 11 o'clock number(s). Her rendition of "All Is Full of Love "(Bjork) is particularly thrilling.
As the story goes, it's Venus who gets the fruit in the end. The show wraps up with the appearance of Helen (a stunning Lea Helle) who dances while being filmed via live video feed. Her image is splashed onto the backdrop as Paris joins her and they dance off into the....well you guessed it.
"Paris" is conceived, directed & choreographed by Austin McCormick.
The cast includes Charlotte Bydwell, Todd Hanebrink, Lea Helle, Jakob Karr, Storm Marrero, Marcy Richardson, Randall Scotting, Nicole von Arx, Nicholas Katen, Mark Osmundsen, Cara Seymour and Taner Van Kuren.
Creative team: Jeff Takacs (Additional Text), Zane Pihlstrom (Set & Costume Design), Jeanette Yew (Lighting Design) and Mark Van Hare (Sound Design).
"Paris" runs through November 12th. Performances are Tuesdays through Saturdays at 8pm at The Irondale Center, 85 South Oxford Street, Brooklyn, NY. For tickets call 866-811-4111 or visit www.companyxiv.com. The show contains partial nudity-16 & over admitted.