The Kats Report Bureau this weekend touched down in New York on a trip that was brisk for its pace and humid for its climate.
The primary destination had been planned for a time, a visit to the latest edition of Spiegelworld’s “Vegas Nocturne” on Saturday night at the House of Yes in Brooklyn. Also, on the fly, I took in Friday’s performance of “Paramour,” the Broadway production conceived by Cirque Theatrical playing at Lyric Theatre.
It would have played out as an only-in-Vegas doubleheader if not for the location.
“Vegas Nocturne” continues to play off its affiliation to Las Vegas, maintaining its original title and the skeleton of the original cast that performed at Cosmopolitan’s Rose. Rabbit. Lie. It seems to be of secondary concern that the show closed 25 months ago at that theater. Spiegelworld founder Ross Mollison is bent on returning the show to a Strip venue in something close to its original scope.
That would be one of the company’s greatest achievements, given that more than 30 cast members populated the original show.
In New York, we witnessed a show that was remarkably scaled back — to eight onstage performers — and also remarkably funny. Spencer Novich, Ripley in the show at Cosmopolitan, returns weirdly to engage female audience members by asking for a kiss — and then spitting in his hand to offer a handshake. Jimmy Slonina performs his mock-balancing act, using a blowup doll as his partner (I first saw this sendup of "Absinthe's" Duo Vector act in Melody Sweets' "Big Top Circus and Burlesque" show in June 2015.)
That segment counts as the acrobatics in the show, which is 60 minutes of solid comedy acts that played for a full house of about 100 at House of Yes, which is host to all sorts of offbeat performances and events. It is a far cry from the type of venue “Vegas Nocturne” would play on the Strip, but Spiegelworld is keeping the pulse alive as the company plans to move “Absinthe” out of its Spiegeltent at Caesars Palace.
“Absinthe” still is scheduled to depart on Oct. 21, not so incidentally, though no public announcement has yet been rendered. Spiegelworld’s plan is to release itself from its lease with Base Entertainment at Roman Plaza and start anew at a venue to be announced.
The company’s long-term objective is to bring “Vegas Nocturne” as a complementary production to the highly successful and uniformly praised “Absinthe,” and, hopefully, find a cozy room for “Never Sleep Alone,” which played the Spiegeltent in February as a kind of test-drive on the Strip. “NSA” plays Saturday, Aug. 19 and Aug. 27 at Joe’s Pub in New York. The Spiegelworld dream is to one day stage all three of these shows on the Strip. But if form holds, on Oct. 22 there will be no ticketed shows in Las Vegas from the company as it enters what could be an uneasy state of flux.
A night before ducking into House of Yes, it was a far more glamorous and grandiose performance hall, Lyric Theatre, for “Paramour.”
The show has received blunt reviews from New York critics. Charles Isherwood of the N.Y. Times offered: “(Cirque du Soleil), having failed to wow the local masses sufficiently with its traditional nouveau-circus spectacles, has decided to splice the time-tested yowza diversions — acrobats and gymnasts and jugglers, oh my! — into a traditional musical, with a plot, characters, show tunes and even a little tap-dancing. The resulting show, I’m sorry to say, achieves the singular feat of being simultaneously frenetic and tedious.”
For someone who has seen everything Cirque has to offer on the Strip, the “Paramour” experience offers little groundbreaking entertainment. How many variations of the Korean Plank, or a set of trampolines, can you witness before you start nodding and thinking, “What’s next?”
It’s the great Cirque conundrum, attempting to top itself with its jaw-dropping acrobatics. But being in that near-capacity audience on Friday, it was clear those taking in the show were blown away by Cirque’s acrobatics. Aerial twins Andrew and Kevin Atherton drew a standing ovation after soaring above the audience in a segment you’ll see effectively replicated in “Zumanity” and “Love.” When performers fell from high-rise buildings onto trampolines in a familiar Cirque bounce-fest, the audience went nuts.
It was interesting to see how Cirque stitched a plot into all these gymnastics, and it’s not a seamless exercise. “Paramour” is something like the Cirque shows on the Strip in that whatever plot is offered is secondary to the company’s physical artistry. The storyline of a love triangle between a dominating director, his actress muse — and Ruby Lewis is characteristically inspiring as the singer Indigo — and demure songwriter is not so moving. But Cirque’s swinging and bounding brand of entertainment still appeals to the great masses, and it’s a slice of Vegas that dazzles audiences anywhere — including the Great White Way.