Thrillpeddlers have been producing their twisted follies and perverse musical revues for nearly 20 years, and Jewels of Paris at The Hypnodrome is their latest madcap musical. When you go to the theater and you are handed a program that says “Original Music and Lyrics by Scrumbly Koldewyn”, you figure you are in for a somewhat irreverent performance. Jewels of Paris is that and more, a surreal and wacky burlesque history whose fantastic cast makes every number dazzle and pop. In fact, Jewels of Paris even delivers actual jewels, as several male cast members’ dicks are proudly on display during many of the show’s musical numbers.
Mr. Koldewyn was one of The Cockettes in their heyday, and the Cockette ethic and imprimatur are all over this show. Drag fans will be excited to see Steven Satyricon in several prominent roles, and burlesque devotees will enjoy finding that Roxanne RedMeat has a phenomenal singing voice. The Jewels of Paris cast is terrific across the board in every single number, delivering a sort of non-linear musical-comedy history of France that lasts more than two hours but never has a dull moment.
Jewels of Paris does not really have an overarching plot. It’s more like two dozen totally unconnected little musical numbers whose only common ground is that they occur in France. This is a ‘warts and all’ history that covers some heavy topics like race, oppression and bigotry. It doesn’t dwell on any of these topics in particular depth, it just brings them up in one number and then moves on to the the next number in a stream-of-consciousness, roulette-wheel fashion that is nonetheless a massively enjoyable ride.
Even when covering its most depressing subject matter, the musical vignettes of Jewels of Paris are all uplifting and delightfully delivered. A Josephine Baker number really effectively pulls your heart strings. A Marie Antoinette number contains a joke that I plan on stealing again and again for years to come. A number on income inequality features perhaps the finest Satan mask I have ever seen in an onstage production.
The make-up work in Jewels of Paris is transcendent and the costumes are first-rate. But what you’ll remember is when those costumes come off. There is substantial and full-frontal nudity in this show. At one point there are four naked dicks flopping around onstage at once. In this critic’s estimation, that’s just awesome.
I would highly recommend going to see Jewels of Paris, but I wouldn’t recommend trying to make much sense of it. Its pastiche of themes and historical events never really comes together in a unifying statement or allegory. Then again, this show doesn’t really need any thought-provoking allegories because it succeeds so thoroughly on a musical entertainment level. If you’re a fan of ‘M for Mature’ musical theater, you’ll find Jewels of Paris to be an unforgettable con-cock-tion.
Thrillpeddlers presents Jewels of Paris at The Hypnodrome (575 10th St.), Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. through May 2. Tickets are available at Hypnodrome ticket page.