By P.K. Greenfield
Housed in the Diamond Horseshoe Club of the Paramount Hotel in Midtown Manhattan exists another world — one that transcends reality and royalty; the creative team behind “Sleep No More” present Queen of the Night, a surreal theatrical and dining experience.
The invitation instructs everyone to don your best apparel (no t-shirts and jeans) and meet a monarch in the most cerebral, creative and oft-spectacle extravaganza.
It’s a sexy and decadent bacchanalia.
The Indian summer sun heated up Restaurant Row as a line formed outside of the Paramount Hotel; all invited guests were formally attired in ball gowns, bugle beads, tuxedos and spats. Some wore top hats and others improvised with feather boas, bejeweled hair and haute couture.
The parade entered the hotel and descended the wrought iron and marble helical staircase.
The mysterious entrance is lined with members of the cast and “butlers” who were holding trays of specialty cocktails. A pulsating rhythm escaped from the walls and various doorways. Kimo, a handsome and provocatively dressed butler greeted us at the bottom of the stairs. He encourages our group to introduce ourselves to other guests and “explore everywhere”.
To describe the interior would take chapters so let me simply say, it’s sort of like Tim Burton taking over the set of an Alfred Hitchcock screen-test after the crime and add a little bit of burlesque and post-war damage.
Many guests looked baffled by the décor but everyone was intrigued.
The interior is dimly lit and alluring with taxidermy, peculiar and cryptic objects and photos lining the walls in a labyrinth of rooms; one room in particular has a bathtub completely covered in wax from floor to ceiling. A young lady was taking a bubble bath. Continuing thru a library, the grand ballroom is sprawling, festive and there she is, HRH standing center stage with a cloak that stretches at least 30 feet behind her.
Cocktails and conversations flow. Select guests are given permission to greet her highness while the rest of the group is cordoned off. It’s a democratic process or luck of the draw.
The festivities begin slowly from the minute you arrive and escalate to a euphoric level throughout the evening. This is not a stuffy high tea and finger sandwiches affair — it’s often raucous, energetic and the vibe is contagious.
While several attendees were granted permission to visit The Queen, others were nonchalantly ushered into hidden rooms for private sessions. That’s all I know. I cannot elaborate more on this. However, the more outgoing you behave and the more outlandish your attire could be a precursor for selection. Timid wallflowers are treated respectfully.
With a mixture of magic, dance, illusion and high jinks, the night begins with a few campy acts and proceeds into an amazing, jaw-dropping gala. The “butlers” mill about the space performing in acrobatic and comedic vignettes.
Once seated, the Fire Eater approached our table. “Good evening ladies and gentlemen,” he said as he wrapped his arm around my back and chair. “Any closer and you’ll be sitting on my lap,” I replied. He responded, “With that offer, how could I resist?” My chair was pulled out from the table and he sat on my lap. It was jolting but also hilarious. He politely explained what may or may not take place this evening. I knew from then on to expect the unexpected.
A parade of beauties entered the dining room. The sounds of mystical music heightened the expectations of a new act. A group of male guests were invited to assist and admire these talented ladies fly and perform as aerialists above our heads. The room exploded in applause after several astounding tricks and eye-opening contortions. The energy in the room became palpable.
Our table was set with fresh baguettes, butter and carafes of wine — there was fresh fruit: apples, grapes and olives. When dinner was served, Kimo and a cavalry of butlers parade platters of roasted lamb, chicken and salmon to all partnering tables in the ballroom. The banquet is bountiful and you are encouraged to approach other tables for whatever you would like to try — it’s a bartering family-style trade off. They also set up a section of vegetarian offerings. My favorite was the salmon baked in a puff pastry and the risotto. The side dishes include a kale salad and fresh string beans.
The dinner culminated with more performances and The Queen ends the show with an amazing dance number. I will not spoil the process in which the tables are cleared but it was worth the price of admission alone. When the banquet subsides with slow dancing, all couples and guests are welcomed to the ballroom floor.
Kimo appeared at our table yet again and encouraged us to join the dance. When we declined, he politely, but without revocation, took me by the hand and escorted me to the dance floor where we joined the other 299 guests. A spotlight illuminated us as we swayed to a celestial version of Chris Isaac’s “Wicked Games.”
I will not spoil dessert but while everyone is twirling on the dance floor, several butlers are preparing dessert that is served in the most outrageous and out-of-the-box fashion.
I dislike comparing one show with another and I loathe the word “circus”. ‘Queen of the Night’ deserves more than a one-word definition. New York City draws the best of the best and many of these artists are performing at the peak of their expertise: magic, dance, specialty acts and acrobatics.
Above all, the quality of cuisine is better than most weddings I’ve had to endure over the years.
When The Queen left the ballroom, we followed suit and encountered several guests in the lobby posing for photos. I overheard several of them expressing their appreciation and delight in the experience.
We exited the hotel and into the Indian summer air, floating with euphoria thru the throngs of tourists in Times Square.
It’s a must-see and taste experience.Queen of the Night The Paramount Hotel Diamond Horseshoe 235 West 46th Street New York, NY
For tickets and more information visit: http://queenofthenightnyc.com