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Queen of the Night

Glitz, glamour and dance at the relaunch of NYC's historic Diamond Horseshoe Club

by David Graver in Culture on 07 March 2014

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75 years after its initial opening, the Paramount Hotel's former vaudeville theater, the Diamond Horseshoe Club, opened its doors once more on 31 December 2013. There—with magic, majesty, surprise and splendor—"Queen of The Night," an immersive theatrical experience, takes dinner-theater to staggering new heights. The production has been dreamed up by the team behind Sleep No More and, although they feel somewhat akin, "Queen of the Night" aligns more with story-driven dance and cirque—while adding dinner to the mix. Every detail, from Thom Browne's costumes to Jennifer Rubell's food experience and the meticulously ornate staging, lend to wonder and an escape from the ordinary. It's one-of-a-kind and with a scheduled limited run, it's worth exploring now.

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Ambiance reigns supreme at Diamond Horseshoe, where a steampunk past melds relics of old with fantastical invention. A winding stairwell descends into the venue, in which awe and a little bit of fear unite as attendees are "selected" to enter. Smart costuming and eccentric set design contribute to an eerie, other-world reality—clearly luxuriant but open to the unexpected. Actors hide, tubes bubble over with spirits, the lights are dim; stowing away secrets. At the center of it all stands a queen—the driving force behind the narrative of not just the stage production, but the entire evening. All the while, an open bar provides signature craft cocktails for dousing trepidation on the shifting energy.

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Before the show begins, performers walk through the crowds gathered at the bar. They'll poke and prod, some delivering words and secret notes. Some lucky audience members might just get lassoed and brought to a secret room where a machete-wielding woman makes them discuss love. Soon, the central performance begins and a story unfolds of a Queen and her young daughter, cast at odds by love and dedication. The scale of the cabaret-style show balances the epic and intimate. While two stages play action against each other, the floor is filled with dance and interaction. Circus performers give way to modern dancers and members of the crowd become players in the game, even when the exquisite dinner is served up.

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In awe of the breadth and kinetic energy of the dancers, we spoke with the choreographer of "Queen of the Night," Lorin Latarro—a veteran of stage and screen, with current accolades including Broadway’s "Waiting For Godot," with Sir Patrick Stuart and Sir Ian McKellen and "American Idiot." "Christine Jones was asked to direct 'Queen' last spring and she and I were working together on Broadway's 'Hands on a Hard Body,'" Latarro explains regarding her initial involvement. "We also collaborated on 'Rigoletto' at The Met and 'American Idiot.' She asked if I would be interested in choreographing this idea for a new immersive show." At this point, the performance didn't even have a name.

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"The story is about a ritual. An ancient ritual. One we all go through on some level," Latarro says. From this understanding, she began blending awareness with execution: "I studied movement from Ghurdieff meditation to Buddhist monks to Hebrew dance to Osho dance meditation to incorporate a rhythmic trance-like state at moments. Then added sensuality, eye contact and tender laying of hands." All of this united and enhanced "an underling sexuality to the entire story." Latarro invoked this throughout by having attendees part of the show: "The goal was for all guests to leave feeling now a part of an initiated club. A level deeper emotionally than they arrived. Awakened."

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The space itself also proved to be an inspiration for Latarro. "I loved choreographing in the space. Using the architecture was thrilling! There is no fourth wall and no front. It started to really take shape in the space and the butlers became more and more fearless leaping off railings, tables and stairs," she says. She also worked hand-in-hand with the show's Circus Director, Shana Carroll. "It was a very close collaboration between Shana and I. At times, she took the lead and at others, I did. It took some time for us to find our rhythm but once we did, we became close friends and great collaborators; pushing each other out of our respective comfort zones"—somewhere audience members might also be nudged.

Tickets for "Queen of the Night" are available online with prices starting at $145 per ticket.

Performance images courtesy of Matteo Prandoni / Billy Farrell Agency, and interior shots courtesy of the Paramount Hotel

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