It’s a snap to embrace a show that knows itself. Speakeasy, a bawdy and boozy burlesque, goes down easy in the lower level lounge of the newly reopened Bond 45 restaurant in the Theatre District. From the get-go the risque revue acknowledges what it’s got up its sleeve — and elsewhere.
Miss Lulu (a persuasive Jada Temple), the mistress of ceremonies, opens the evening by likening what’s about to unfold in the 75-minute entertainment to its storied Times Square location. “It’s a little rough,” she purred. “It’s a little decadent,” she teased. “It’s real nasty,” she growled. Yes! Yes! Yes!
That’s a triply apt description for the skin-forward show. After nearly 16 months of being cooped up and hunkering down, the opening-night crowd was ready to drink it all in — face-to-face. Speakeasies loomed large in the 1920s. A century later, this underground NYC outpost is made for roaring.
The show’s conceit is straight-up: A buffet of burlesque acts, uninhibited aerialists, and guest performers is served along with five specialty cocktails tailor-mixed for the occasion.
To get things started, a cast member decked out like ringmaster in a feathered top hot gets busy with another performer who’s dressed like giant jungle cat. It’s not something you’d ever see in The Lion King.
For a bit of sexy fun, a flighty Fleur des Lis struts to the tune of “Tiptoe Through the Tulips.” All the while she snaps a whip at performers and audience members alike. Consider yourself warned.
In a splashy moment, nightlife pro Peekaboo Pointe strips down to next-to-nothing and, with help from able-bodied assistants, gets plopped into an enormous cocktail coupe. She’s like an olive in a dirty martini. The conclusion of her act is shaken, not stirred.
For an intoxicating mash-up of high and low art, Opera Gaga spins, balances and defies gravity on a stripper pole while an aria blares. Contortionist-archer Aryn bends over backwards and dazzles while shooting a bow and arrow with her toes. Burlesque dancer Miss Miranda peeled elegantly.
For all the flesh flashed, the most arresting comes courtesy of hoofer Omar Edwards. Following a tap number, he slipped off his shiny white boots to reveal naked feet marked alternately with the words LOVE and FREEDOM. His brief barefoot dance was a tribute to his mother, who, he recalled, didn’t own shoes until she was a teenager.
Two musical highlights include guest performer J. Harrison Ghee, who raised the roof, well, basement lounge ceiling, with the La Cage aux Folles anthem, “I Am What I Am.” Temple showed off her pipes with a timely, crowd-rousing “Happy Days Are Here Again.”
Drinks share equal billing with the acts and come with cheeky names like the Morning After. One cocktail is called Just the Tip. It’s garnished with an itty-bitty chocolate-dipped banana. Don’t look for subtlety at this show.
Do watch for eye-catching costumes, which tend to eventually come off. Amid the parade of pasties, spangles, leather, feathers, corsets and stretchy straps, one clever get-up used five strategically placed hotel bells to turn a dancer into a living reception desk.
It bears noting that while servers wore masks, there were no Covid-related requirements for the audience. Virgin versions of the five specialty cocktails are available, but it took some doing to score a non-alcoholic alternative. Tickets start at $99, which includes performances, five specialty drinks and a savory appetizer.
Speakeasy runs through July 31 at Bond 45. Get Speakeasy tickets today.