“What are your three favorite sexual positions?” The waiter asks one of the couples sitting at our table in the dimly lit but luxurious dining room. Maybe it’s the alcohol the scantily dressed waiters have been pushing for the past 30 minutes, or the instructions when we sat down to say yes to everything, or maybe they’re just that open but the woman answers, and with that I’ve learned more about my Queen of the Night dining companions than I do about some of my closest friends.
The immersive dinner-theatre experience that’s taken the city by storm, Lady Gaga and Madonna are fans, is not for the shy or the unadventurous. Queen of the Night breaks all the rules of social norms, most especially those of traditional dinner theatre.
“The two worst words in the profession are dinner theatre,” Producer Randy Weiner said. “I wanted to create the best dinner and the best theatre because I like to eat when I watch TV.”
To do that Weiner, of Sleep No More fame, put together what he describes as his dream team of artists: Chef Jason Kallert, Culinary Performance Artist Jennifer Rubel, Tony Award-winning scenic designer Christine Jones, cirque artist Shana Carroll, creative director Giovanna Battaglia, fashion designer Thom Brown and producer Simon Hammerstein.
Together they’ve created an over the top evening unlike anything else you’ve ever experienced. The night begins by standing on the sidewalk in front of the Paramount Hotel with other swanky dressed people while Times Square tourists in their shorts and tees look at you a bit confused. A doorman shows you into the basement club of the hotel which, while empty for 60 years, was at one time the Studio 54 of its day. It feels a bit like you’re on a construction site, walking by the boarded walls until you make your way down the steps where waiters hand out rosemary infused cocktails and you enter the old Diamond Horseshoe Supper Club. Spacious with rich jewel tones, the dining room/theatre speaks of 1920s glamour.
This is the cocktail part of the evening where, after a waiter shows you to your seats and advises say yes to everything, you can wander. You might suddenly find yourself getting a massage from a stranger or a striptease, it’s all PG-13, but you should explore if only to get a better look at the rooms.
Once dinner begins, strange questions of your newly met dining companions aside, the night gets tamer. There’s less shall I say random touching, but you may have to trade your food or prevent others from taking yours. The food is served family-style with hints of a medieval royal feast: lobsters in cages, whole suckling pigs. The salmon and vegetarian meals are particularly good.
Throughout dinner, the theatre part is happening all around you. It’s based on Mozart’s The Magic Flute but feels like a 1990s MTV music video mixed with circus acts. There are characters and a loose storyline, which I suspect changes slightly based upon the level of the audience participation, but much like dinner it’s more about the overall experience happening with your senses.
“There’s so much to enjoy, so many ways to enjoy the experience of being there awash in beautiful imagery,” Weiner said.
You need to experience not read about Queen of the Night to really understand the must-see show of the summer.
If you go:
Queen of the Night
235 W 46th St
New York, NY
Tickets on sale through August