When the audience enters The Irondale Center, the corridors are dimly lit in red lights. The performance space has been turned into a French dance hall with glittering chandeliers and sofas and love seats in the front section. Before the show starts and during the two short intermissions, waitresses offer the patrons drinks at small tables. To set the scene of a Parisian night spot, the opening number is Offenbach’s Can Can from La Belle Helene. It is immediately obvious that the chorus line is made up of both men and women in various states of undress. Throughout most of the evening, the cast appears in masks, g-strings, jeweled cod-pieces and harnesses, and occasionally entertains us with a couple of spicy strip-teases. Everything is gender fluid with men dancing with men, women with women as well as men with women.
Narrated by Charlotte Bydwell as both Zeus and Fifi (as she is depicted as half man, half woman), the show tells the story of how the shepherd Paris (the androgynous and limber Jakob Karr) was given the Golden Apple to award to the most beautiful of three goddesses. (The text is by Jeff Takacs with additional material by Bydwell and McCormick.) A second erotic ballet includes Paris and his Sheep (five members of the ensemble) to music by Bach and then appropriately enough to the songs “Paris, Paris” and Cole Porter’s “I Love Paris.” Next is the arrival of Mercury, the messenger of the gods (played by muscular Todd Hanebrink), who dances and teases Paris before giving him the Golden Apple, all to the music of Vivaldi’s “La Folia.”
The following two acts are a series of seductions of the pliant Paris by the goddesses. Dressed in what appears to be golden armor and backed by warrior women, soprano Marcy Richardson attempts to win over Paris with “La Fille au Roi Louis” and “Seven Nation Army,” before slipping out of her costume to dance with him and for him in her undergarments. This includes a pole dance number on top of what appears to be an adult carousel. World renowned countertenor Randall Scotting next appears as Juno dressed entirely in black and sings luxurious selections from Handel before stripping down to reveal that he is very much a man. Ironically, in his dances with Paris, his heroic physique suggests Hercules rather than Juno, more evidence that here at least gender is fluid.
The final and most successful seduction is by chanteuse Storm Marrero’s voluptuous Venus dressed in a gown of brown and gold. Singing pop songs, she wins Paris’ vote and receives the apple, at which point he is rewarded with Lea Helle’s Helen, who reveals her assets in the skimpiest of attire. After their risqué and romantic pas de deux, the entire cast joins for one final can-can which includes ensemble members Nicholas Katen, Mark Osmundsen, Cara Seymour, Taner Van Kuren and Nicole von Arx.
Richardson, Scotting and Marrero gloriously entertain with their varying musical styles, while also leading the different ballets in their individual scenes. During the intermissions, there are both dance and musical divertissements while one could stroll to the bar or lounge in one’s seats. The production team of Paris is fully in tune with McCormick’s fevered vision: Zane Pihlstrom’s 19th century French-style décor as well as his provocative costumes which are a combination of the revealing and the sinister, Jeanette Yew’s atmospheric theatrical lighting, and Mark Van Hare’s sound design for the mainly prerecorded music which fills the hall. Paris is not for the prudish or the unsophisticated, but it offers glamorous and bewitching adult entertainment for the mature and cultivated. A revival of Company XIV’s acclaimed holiday hit, Nutcracker Rouge, will follow Paris from Novmeber 21, 2016 through January 7, 2017.
Paris (through November 12, 2016)
The Irondale Center, 85 South Oxford Street, in Fort Greene, Brooklyn
For tickets, call 866-811-4111 or visit http://www.CompanyXIV.com
Running time: two hours and 15 minutes including two intermissions