REVIEW: THE SERVICE (Cafe de Paris) ★★★★

The Service’ at Café de Paris celebrates the storied history of this famous Leicester Square night spot. Opened in 1924, the night club and burlesque venue has played host to almost every luminary imaginable, from Noel Coward to Kylie Minogue.

A burlesque and cabaret show in two acts, ‘The Service’ introduces us to several theatrical ghosts of the past, via some lesser known yet nonetheless remarkable stars – the ‘staff’ of Café de Paris.

The show includes slick, nicely choreographed ensemble pieces, such as the ‘Rhythm of the Night’ opening number sung by the chanteuse (Carla Lippis) and featuring the whole cast, as well as numerous solo spots, like an impressive aerial routine by the ‘Bell Hop’ (Beau Sargent), spinning and twirling in a hoop above the audiences heads.

Demi Noire performs a homage to one of the clubs many luminaries, Josephine Baker, the “Black Pearl”, who was the first person of colour to become a world wide entertainer. Baker’s original Burlesque routine is reconstructed move by move, with Noire wearing that famous banana girdle costume. This added an interesting social commentary on that time, as well as prompting me to think about how far we have, or haven’t come in our sexualisation of the ‘other’.

The show continues to amaze with a fire breathing maid (Kitty Bang Bang) who nearly takes our eyebrows off in the front row, a near transcendental neon hula hoop routine from Anna The Hulagan to ‘Born Slippy’ that transports one to the dying embers of an all-night rave and Marlene Dietrich (Ulrike Stoch) lying down spinning umbrellas on her feet!

But there are tender moments too: a performance that honours the victims of of the café’s bombing during World War II is very moving, with the incredibly well controlled hand-balancing of Craig Gadd, who spends an inordinate amount of time balanced on his hands as war archive footage is projected on to his chest.

The whole evening is compered by the inimitable Reuben Kaye, our Maitre ‘D; an MC whose wit is as razor sharp as his tongue and whose handling of hecklers is nothing short of masterful. Kaye works the room like a true virtuoso, owning every moment in which he appears. It’s worth getting the more expensive tickets (which includes a delicious three course meal with some packages) just to put yourself in the way of a possible phone licking from this statuesque bon viveur.

‘The Service’ is a truly great night out: whether you’ve been to a hundred cabaret shows or are a first-timer you will not fail to be wowed, entertained and sometimes just a little bit shocked by this evening of unique and immersive theatricality. Oh, and try the cocktails – they’re lush!

Reviewed by Jody Tranter

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