Reviewed by Jasleen Jaswal Vines
The tents, grandstand seating, and concession stand peddling popcorn and hot dogs suggest a circus atmosphere, but variety revue La Soirée – making its U.S. premiere at The Riverfront Theatre – is so much more: equal parts cabaret, acrobatics and comedy, with a naughty adult twist. The show, which originated at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, translates well to The Riverfront’s stage. An intimate setting, low lighting, and a well-rounded soundtrack evoke a private parlor party. Get the secret word right, and you too can watch as Yulia Pykhtina spins her hula hoops into a whir reminiscent of a Tron vehicle.
Each act is fun and unique, which keeps the show humming along at a brisk pace. Le Gateau Chocolat wears skintight bodysuits like a boss; pair that with his operatic renditions of pop music, and you have one hell of a performer. Goth-y Bret Pfister floats on his trapeze over the audience to '80s nu-wave. Smart physical comedy acts from Mooky and Nate Cooper make excellent use of the small stage and in-the-round seating.
If you’re more interested in racy acts, make no mistake - you will see naked bits. The English Gents flaunt gymnastic skills while reading The Financial Times and blasting baroque, only to shed the paper (and their clothes) as patrons cheer. The audience literally titters (no pun intended) as Susannah Martinez brandishes handkerchiefs retrieved from her person while quickly disposing of her garments. I want to tell you how Amy G. plays her kazoo, but it's more fun to be surprised at how patriotic her rendition of "America The Beautiful" sounds. Show-stopper David O’Mer splashes his way through a steamy bathtub performance, the audience alternating between fanning themselves and hooting, "More! More!"
La Soirée is funny, tongue-in-cheek, and worldly. Each of the performers ask viewers to be sophisticated enough to handle bawdy jokes and exposed breasts in between acrobatic wonders. I expect Chicago to deliver audiences ready to share their naked enthusiasm for this engaging revue.
THREE WORDS: Steph calls it “disarming, debonair, delightful”.
Running time: 2 hours, including intermission.
At Riverfront Theater, located at 650 W. Chicago Avenue
Tuesdays through Sundays
Through August 5
For a complete list of showtimes and to purchase tickets, visit The Riverfront Theater’s website.
Photo courtesy Prudence Upton/La Soiree.