Review: Empire show
Speigelworld’s Empire spectacle brings big-top thrills to Montreal
By Nadine Hennelly
Prepare to be amazed!
Looking for something unusual and full of energy? Then I highly recommend checking out the Canadian premiere of Speigelworld’s Empire show—an eye-popping blend of circus and theatre now playing to amazed audiences in downtown Montreal.
The troupe has set up its tent in Place des Spectacles, at René Lévesque Blvd and Bleury, creating a cozy little world of its own. There’s a wonderful outdoor bar and a covered lounging area that blends perfectly with the backdrop of downtown skyscrapers. It’s a great outdoor funky space, and if you’re going to the show with friends, give yourself enough time for a pre-show drink. You’ll be glad you did!
The adult-only show is staged in a magnificent 100-year-old traveling spiegeltent, which makes for a very intimate experience. There’s not much separating you from the performers, unless you opt for one of the six-person booths around the perimeter of the tent. We were glad to be seated on the floor, close to the action, even if the chairs were not that comfortable. The nice thing about the circular design means every seat is good for seeing the show.
We weren’t sure what to expect once we sat down, as various performers selected front-row audience members for group selfies with their phones. There was a great gritty atmosphere within the tent, combined with a youthful energy. The show began with Oscar and Fanny, two very animated masters of ceremonies played by Jonathan Taylor and Anne Goldmann, a couple straight out of classic vaudeville. Their sharing of a banana was unlike anything I’d ever seen onstage—but I can’t say more than that without giving it away.
The show combined sort of an off-off-Broadway musical influence in the form of a cabaret singer, followed by spectacular acrobatics performed by some of the best-looking acrobats I’ve ever seen. There’s a burlesque element to the costumes; the women in this show are gorgeous— and very sensual in their performances. I really enjoyed the electric atmosphere in this intimate space, and how the group brought such raw energy to the show.
The performers also did a great job of sprinkling French into the mix—a nice nod to our local culture; the majority of spectators on the night I attended were French-speaking.
The show combines sort of an off-off-Broadway musical influence in the form of a cabaret singer, followed by spectacular acrobatics performed by some of the best-looking acrobats I’ve ever seen. There’s a burlesque element to the costumes.
Speigelworld’s Empire spectacle doesn’t have that over-polished gloss we’ve come to expect with Cirque du Soleil, and that works very much in its favour. There was a dynamic freshness in the air, and during some acts we were literally sitting on the edges of our seats, almost terrified that someone might miss their cue. The space and rhythm of the show worked very well together, and not once did I see anyone look to their phone for a quick time check. People were only using their phones when they remembered to snap a photo or shoot some video, but most were too engrossed in the show to bother—a great sign if ever there was one in this era of short attention spans.
All in all, if you are looking for some great entertainment, something that makes you feel engaged and makes for a fun night out, this show should top your must-see list. And even if you are very conservative, you might be a little shocked at some of the antics—but I’m sure it will all just put a smile on your face.
The show runs nightly through June 7. Check local listings or evenko.ca for show times.
Nadine Hennelly worked and lived all over the world. A former committee member of the Musée des Beaux Arts de Montreal, she was also on the Committees for the NYC Ballet, The Whitney Museum, The Bachelor’s Ball, Knock out and The Kitchen in New York City. She also contributed her creative talents to The Alzheimer’s Group, la Fondation Les Petits Rois, and Le Garde Manger pour Tous. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org