‘La Soirée’ comedically merges circus acts, cabaret

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From the moment visitors step into the Union Square Theater and find themselves in what resembles a 1920s circus tent, they know they are about to experience something unique.

“La Soirée,” a show that merges spectacular circus acts, cabaret and risqué humor, has become an international phenomenon and established itself in various cities around the world. Currently showing simultaneously in Australia at Sydney’s Opera House and in New York City at Union Square Theater, “Soirée” takes on a global audience like none other.

Creative Producer Brett Haylock provided insights to how the show has become an international success and how it continues to establish itself in different cultural contexts.

“It was created back [in 2004] as a kind of alternative, midnight cabaret,” Haylock said. “We thought we had an interesting show, but no one could have ever imagined that here we are, 10 years later, with one show playing in the Opera House and a show here in New York City. It really did explode from the very beginning.”

The show has since performed in London and Paris, has had homes in Scandinavia and most of Europe, has built a base in Sydney and is now playing there for the sixth time. With so many locations to perform, the show inevitably changes.

Haylock explained its adaptation for an Australian audience.

“It’s sold in Australia as a kind of European cabaret concept,” he said.

The Australian attraction to an idea of European eroticism and class makes the show unique there. However, the same approach does not work for the Parisian crowd, and Haylock confessed that when they took on Paris in 2007 many people thought the show would not survive.

“The French certainly have a different way of appreciating the show,” he said. “They’re very guarded and don’t give anything away, and largely our format requires immediate feedback from the audience.”

“Soirée” went on to do nine months in Paris and Haylock said he believes the show’s unique form contributed to its success there.

“I have no interest in telling a story or any kind of narrative but it needs to have an energy and an emotional arc,” he said. “‘La Soirée’ took an old age format of a variety show but made it entirely relevant to a new generation. It made it faster and sexier, which appealed to a younger crowd. Most of this show is universal.”

When questioned about New York audiences, Haylock expressed the excitement of being in an entertainment mecca.

“New Yorkers have seen a lot and while it’s always hard to shock them, they’re incredibly generous and they have a huge investment in the moment,” he said.

Haylock does not plan to stop moving at any moment. He and many cast members fly between Sydney and New York every two weeks. He wants to keep taking “Soirée” to new places and shocking different cultures, doing their first Buenos Aires show in May.

“La Soirée” is playing at the Union Square Theatre Thursday through Monday. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster starting at $57, and there are $30 student rush tickets available two hours prior to performances at the Union Square Box Office.

 Louis Slade-Caffarel is a contributing writer. Email him at features@nyunews.com. 
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