Review: TIERGARTEN Subverts Expectations at The Church Of St. Mary's Great Hall

The sold-out show took us on a journey wonderfully strange back in time featuring burlesque, dance, and plenty of music

By: Apr. 19, 2024
Review: TIERGARTEN Subverts Expectations at The Church Of St. Mary's Great Hall
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This Wednesday night, on April 17, 2024, Death of Classical took its sold-out audience on a journey backwards through time, starting in Weimar Germany and going all the way back to biblical times with a series of song, dance, and shadow puppets. The cabaret was removed from time and space, wonderfully abstract. The evening began by stepping into the Grand Hall under St. Mary’s Cathedral in lower Manhattan, where guests were transported into a 1920s-themed happy hour featuring delicious light bites and libations. Half the fun was people-watching and seeing the diverse and intricate costumes of fellow audience members (1920s attire was strongly encouraged so that everyone could more easily imagine themselves going back in time).

Review: TIERGARTEN Subverts Expectations at The Church Of St. Mary's Great Hall
Photo credit: Kevin Condon

The evening was part of Carnegie Hall’s festival, Fall of the Weimar Republic: Dancing on the Precipice. Around 8 pm, everyone settled into their seats as the Grand Street Stompers played Vivaldi’s “La Folia (Madness)”. Master of Ceremonies Kim David Smith entered the stage singing a Weimar-esque “Time Warp,” slowed down, sultry, and partially translated into German.

Smith began the show in a bold red lip, suit and top hat, though he changed up his look at several points throughout the night, including at one point stripping down to a thong and shimmying into a dress onstage. “There’s nothing more dangerous than a man in a dress,” he cooed to resounding cheers. Every time we moved to a new era, someone ran across the Stage Holding a card to let us know when we were. We started in Weimar Germany, with Smith singing lovely tunes like Marlene Dietrich’s “Ich bin die fesche Lola” and Brecht and Weill’s “Pirate Jenny,” accompanied by a shadow puppet act out from ‍Foreshadow Puppetry. The eras were lightly themed around periods of corruption and discord, like the Salem Witch Trials, with Smith singing a silky smooth “Witchcraft” (Coleman/Leigh). I’ll admit that some of the connections between the time periods went over my head, but the evening was so quick moving and visually engaging I didn’t spend much time wondering what 33 AD and Weimar Germany had in common.

Review: TIERGARTEN Subverts Expectations at The Church Of St. Mary's Great Hall
Photo credit: Kevin Condon

Smith stayed on stage for most of the night, singing and emceeing, guiding us through the panoply of acts which included interpretive dancing by ‍Liana Zhen-ai, Dylan Contreras, and Calvin Hitchcock. Singers ‍Aaron Reeder, Ariadne Greif, Amara Granderson, Luke Elmer and Melina Jaharis sang beautifully, including Monteverdi’s “Pur Ti Miro,” which, as Smith explained, is a love song between a woman who convinced her husband (Emperor Nero) to kill his ex-wife so he could marry her, though of course he ends up killing her too – but in this song, they love each other.

Review: TIERGARTEN Subverts Expectations at The Church Of St. Mary's Great Hall
Photo credit: Kevin Condon

Towards the end Pearls Daily did a frenzied burlesque dance as Jesus Christ, something I wouldn’t have expected to see in the basement of a Catholic church – but then again, Death of Classical always manages to surprise. This night marked DoC founder Andrew Ousley’s directorial debut with the company. Ousley curates a number of delightfully strange events, mostly in Manhattan at the Church of the Intercession and Brooklyn at Green-Wood Cemetery. This night was no exception.

‍The Grand Street Stompers, who provided accompaniment for the entire night, consisted of Gordon Au on trumpet, Matt Koza on soprano sax and clarinet, Jay Rattman on tenor sax and clarinet, Matt Musselman on trombone, Rob Hecht on violin, Jon Weber on piano, Nick Russo on guitar and banjo, Rob Adkins on upright bass, and Andrew Millar on drums. Arrangements were made by Gordon Au and Matt Musselman.

Smith closed out the show with an infectiously upbeat Kylie Minogue song, “All the Lovers,” and it wasn’t long before much of the audience had leaped out of their seats and begun dancing along.

Tiergarten has one final performance tonight. It is, unfortunately, already sold out, though you can join the waitlist and see if any become available. For future events, you can visit DoC online to sign up for their mailing list to be among the first to find out when they announce their next show.



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