Theater Review: 'Empire' -- 3 stars
What makes a Spiegelworld show most satisfying is how it offers remarkable physical feats in a chic atmosphere without overwhelming scenic design or pretentious and nonsensical concepts. In other words, it's the anti-Cirque du Soleil. The endless smut doesn't hurt either.
This adult-themed circus and cabaret attraction, set around an intimate, in-the-round European tent evoking the early 20th century, previously played the South Street Seaport in three short summertime engagements from 2006 to 2008.
For its first New York engagement since then, it has set up shop in the middle of Broadway theater district on an open lot between 44th and 45th Streets near Eighth Avenue.
Although it's now parked in a congested midtown environment, once you step into this tent of stained-glass windows and mirrors, you are transported to a fabulous setting where liquor is easily available and burlesque performers interact with you.
"Empire," Spiegelworld's new show, is a seamless 90-minute series of circus acts performed by an odd bunch of performers with names such as Polka Dot Woman, Carrot Man, Moondog, Lime Green Lady and - my favorite - Rubbish Bag Lady. While there's just a quick glance of male nudity, it all has a decidedly erotic feel.
An emcee frames the show as being a recession-friendly spectacle. At one point, the performers walk around with signs made out of pizza boxes that say things like "Occupy Broadway" and "Occupy Times Square." The show also uses a soundtrack made up primarily of 1930s hits like "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime" and "Down in the Depths on the 90th Floor."
Highlights include a female who is inside a plastic globe and performs physical contortions once it is raised above the stage and a male who balances what appear to be animal bones on his shoulder.
If you go: "Empire" plays at the Spiegelworld tent through Sept. 2. 265 W. 45th St., 212-239-6200, spiegelworld.com.