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On the scene: 'Queen of the Night' delights with the unexpected

Queen Of The Night is an incredible show.
Queen Of The Night is an incredible show.
Photo Courtesy of Queen Of The Night, used with permission

Imagine the Roman Bacchanal come to life — from a whole roasted pig to dozens of red wine decanters to people reveling in sin. That's what you get at "Queen of the Night," a new interactive dining experience organized by the geniuses behind "Sleep No More," another interactive theater performance that has been a staple of the city's art scene since early 2011. On Aug. 20, 2014, was invited to check out the show. QOTN takes the interactive aspect of "Sleep No More," but adds dinner and a Burlesque/variety show (yes, that means trapeze artists, magic, and more).

Think Carnivale come to life or a "Game of Thrones" wedding without the whole death thing. Amazingly, the organizers have created a utopia beneath the Paramount Hotel, situated right in the middle of Midtown. And yet, I felt completely removed from traditional society. The whole night was delightful, full of unexpected moments that I'm pretty sure you won't find elsewhere. In other words, it's definitely worth the expensive price tag, but be prepared for more than a few WTF moments. So what can you expect? That's tough to say because everyone's experience is different, which is part of the show's charm.

Attendees receive a refreshing cocktail as they enter the Paramount Hotel and are taken downstairs into a basement that opens up into a wonderland of sorts. There's a central room with two stages, a bar, and dozens of dinner tables. But the real intrigue lies in the corridors that surround the central room. Several doors open up into new rooms, but attendees are only allowed back there if a show performer takes him/her. Show performers roam the main room for the first hour or so looking for innocent (or maybe not so innocent?) guests and with a tap and a hand grab, they're required to follow. And what happens behind the scenes? I've heard mixed reports, but I will say it's generally kept at the PG-13 level.

In the central room, it's Burlesque meets the circus. A woman, the supposed "Queen of the Night," stands stoically in the center while her dancers alternate with different performances throughout the room. There's trapeze, acrobatics, and just about everything involves a guest or two, cementing the show's interactive aspect. Soon, it's time for the guests to sit for dinner and there's quite an elaborate performance to get everyone situated.

Dinner starts with a platter of bread and butter, and of course grapes, the central piece of any Bacchanal. Then one of three proteins (lobster, pork, or beef) are placed on the table along with a couple sides (we had the pork with a kale salad and roasted potatoes). If diners wish to try other proteins or sides, they must trade with other tables, which is, by far, the most fun aspect of the night. There are also several options for vegetarians and vegans so not to worry!

The show itself doesn't make all that much sense, but the truth is, it doesn't have to. QOTN stars two young acrobats in love, a comedian (who also falls in love), dozens of androgynous-looking dancers, acrobats, and trapeze artists, and yes, the Queen, whose performance towards the end of the night is truly spectacular. It's a variety show of sorts and there's a little something for everyone (even magic!). Hey, it's no Broadway show, but that doesn't mean there aren't a ton of quality dance routines and some clever party tricks. It's a heck of a lot of fun. If all that sounds confusing, that's ok because really, the less you know, the better.

There are a lot of surprises, including how the waiters pick up the dishes and how they serve dessert, but spoiling any of that would ruin the experience.

Alexandra Finkel contributed reporting.

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