Theater: ‘Queen of the Night’ is the best nightlife you haven’t heard of yet
Naked women, free-flowing drinks and a circus accompany a luxurious feast, which includes a seemingly endless supply of dishes like lobster and spit-roast suckling pig. For the entire shebang, you don’t need to pay much more than you’d shell out for any old night of theater in Midtown. So why haven’t you been there yet? In fact, you might not have even heard of “Queen of the Night.”
This production has had a bit of a staggered start. Technically, it’s been playing since New Year’s Eve. But although it was originally scheduled to run six weeks, it just officially opened last Saturday — and the extension currently goes through “late spring.” In that time, you’d think there’d be a much bigger fuss from marketing and word-of-mouth; after all, this show is from the team behind theater cult classic “Sleep No More.”
Instead, it’s still kind of underground. In fact, it’s literally underground — at a club formerly known as Diamond Horseshoe, which sits below the Paramount Hotel. The renovated ballroom exudes secrecy, which is half of the fun, so we won’t spoil too much about the spectacle that’s so much more than dinner and a show.
Loosely based on Mozart’s “Magic Flute,” the story follows a sheltered princess who disobeys her mother and becomes separated from her forbidden lover. It’s also an immersive theater piece, in the sense that you actually interact with the cast. Anything can happen to you. You might get drawn into a secret chamber to give the princess, Pamina, a bath. You might have your fortune read, or be asked to approach the intimidating and mysterious Queen Marchesa. Be prepared to be physically touched and sensually challenged (although you’re free to reject offers at any points, of course).
For the first of three hours, you enjoy a welcome cocktail and small bites while (hopefully) engaging in your own private scenes. Then everyone sits at communal tables, where snacks and wine are waiting, and the show begins. Professional dancers and the now-famous French-Canadian troupe Les 7 Doigts de la Main play the parts of royals, their attendants and bodyguards. The acrobatic acts take on a narrative, which is a novelty, since it elevates many of the same tricks you may have seen in 7 Fingers’ “Traces” (2011) or even Broadway’s “Pippin” (on which they also collaborated). Some may find the storyline muddled (it’s not primarily a play), but it’s still visually stunning.
Finally the plot resolves — but it’s more negligible than ever when the room suddenly turns into a dance party where everyone is swaying with strangers and sharing cake. But it’s not the orgy you might start to infer with all of the sexual build-up (sadly), and you may begin to lose the magic and eye your comrades-in-arms in a new light. There’s a long way to go back up to street-level, and that coat check line is going to be a bitch. So in the end, “Queen of the Night” doesn’t quite transcend reality — not like “Sleep No More” — but it sure as hell is a great night out.
If you go
‘Queen of the Night’
On sale trough March 23
at the Paramount Hotel,
235 46th St.
Follow T. Michelle Murphy on Twitter: @TMichelleMurphy.