Spiegelworld, New York
Strange things are happening on an abandoned lot near Times Square, said Joe Dziemianowicz in the New York Daily News. Last month, West 45th Street became home to a spiegeltent—in this case an eclectically designed 440-seat structure that was rescued from a barn in Belgium and has been restored to its early-20th-century glory. Inside, amid all the stained glass, mirrors, and velvet, the troupe known as Spiegelworld has launched a show far different from any of the Disneyfied Broadway offerings nearby. “A mashup of circus, cabaret, and adults-only burlesque,” Empire is 90 minutes of pure spectacle. Loosely held together by a story of a New York impresario trying to stage a comeback, “the production packs cool live music, hot taut bodies, and eye-popping feats of grace” that “defy logic and personal safety.”
The show actually used to be a lot more dangerous, said Claudia La Rocco in The New York Times. Since 2006, Spiegelworld has performed its risqué material in Miami and Las Vegas and at New York’s South Street Seaport, but for some reason the material has been toned down for the move to Midtown. Empire “isn’t half so naughty or provocative as it seems to think it is.” There’s a brief bit involving male nudity and a lot of bawdy jokes, all meant to elicit nostalgia for the days when New York was “a bit rougher and raunchier around the edges.” A number of the acts are undeniably mesmerizing, but the show as a whole is now a rather tame affair.
Just because “the timbre of the show has changed” doesn’t mean it’s second-rate, said Andy Propst in Backstage.com. In this incarnation, “the accent is on amazing physical feats” rather than comic burlesque. And amazing they are. Elena Lev displays her “exceptional” skills as a contortionist in a plastic bubble suspended above the stage. She’s followed by an acrobatic and sweetly romantic pas de deux featuring Martin Charrat and former Olympic gymnast Ludivine Furnon. After “human gyroscope” Yasuaki Yoshikawa blows your mind, out come the gravity-flouting roller skaters Roma Hervida and Sven Rauhe. If the goal is to “inspire gasps of awe from tourists,” consider Empire a hit.