Shelly Watson on mike and company
members in a scene from Rococo Rouge
(Photo credit: Phillip Van Nostrand)
“The patron saint of sinners was Louis XIV,” slyly growls the Rubenesque, red-dressed emcee of the playfully descendant revue, Rococo Rouge. In tone and presentation the spirit of The Sun King is in abundance. However, the show never really crosses the boundary past only the very mildly erotic.
An accomplished troupe of singers and dancers are in lavish and often somewhat revealing costumes, ranging from the 18th century to the fetishistic. There are feathers, fans, gowns, corsets, leather and a lot of red. The dazzling work of costume and set designer Zane Pihlstrom is integral to the visual splendor of the show. Jeanette Yew’s striking lighting design often achieves the icy cinematic effects and style of the films of Stanley Kubrick, Bob Fosse and Peter Greenaway.
The company performs a series of 14 eclectic numbers set to the recorded music of Handel, Rossini, Dvorak, Offenbach, as well as modern masters such as Britney Spears, Lorde, Beyoncé, and Peggy Lee. Guitarist Rob Mastrianni appears and adroitly performs in several numbers.
Highlights of their highly skilled presentations include a fan dance, a pole dance, a cancan, and a hoop used for a thrilling gyroscope effect. This ensemble was made up of Laura Careless, Katrina Cunningham, Courtney Giannone, Lea Helle, Cailan Orn, Davon Rainey, Steven Trumon Gray, Allison Ulrich, and Brett Umlauf.
With her charisma, expert comic timing and fine singing, hostess Shelly Watson is bawdily reminiscent of Sophie Tucker, Josephine Baker and Bette Midler, yet she is totally an original talent. She appears throughout the evening in an array of elegantly formfitting costumes, dispensing aphorisms, wittily introducing the scenes and interacting with audience members. In addition, she is sensational in a flamboyant senorita dress performing “The Habanera” from Carmen. Her superb soprano voice is also utilized to tremendous effect during a riveting and chilling sequence that used Leiber and Stoller’s haunting “Is That All There Is?”
Steven Trumon Gray and Cailan Orn
in scene from Rococo Rouge
(Photo credit: Phillip Van Nostrand)
The auteur of this grand extravaganza is conceiver, choreographer, sound designer and director Austin McCormick. Graduating from The Conservatory of Baroque Dance is among his numerous academic credentials. His unique and exuberant vision is gloriously rendered with the unison of many arresting stage images composed of dance and movement. This is complemented by his period, and off beat musical selections, all melding into a vibrant experience.
The new venue, XIV, is a 100-seat lounge made up of cabaret-style tables and chairs and two seat couches and tables. The black walls, atmospheric curtain with ribald 18th century figures and a Toulouse-Lautrec Moulin Rouge poster on the wall make it look like a Parisian nightclub. The black clad, female staff in top hats and males with goatees enhance that effect. One of the cast performs on a piano in the lobby bar area during the two intermissions which allows for plenty of opportunities for drinks.
This is a production of Company XIV which was founded by its artistic director, Mr. McCormick. Its theatrical concerns are the blending of pop culture and the classical, infused with The Baroque. Rococo Rouge is a marvelous exploration of their fascinating mission.
Rococo Rouge (through November 2, 2014)
XIV, 428 Lafayette Street, in Manhattan
For tickets call, 212-677-1447 or visit http://www.CompanyXIV.com
Running time: one hour and 45 minutes including two intermissions