By Jay Darcy
After three long, trying years, Party Like Gatsby returned to the UK – with brand-new show Soirée Royale. I was lucky enough to attend the last tour, Cabaret Noir, which visited Manchester just before the world closed down, and it was quite the send-off!
I’ve been eagerly anticipating Soirée Royale, which was originally supposed to begin its tour in December 2022, but the uncertainty of the pandemic led to it being postponed by a year. At long last, Gatsby is back, and the roaring 20s have begun again!
The event began as soon as we walked through the doors: before we even picked up our tickets, we were greeted by Chastity Belt, the evening’s hostess with the mostest, complete with a crown upon her head. We then entered the main hall to an opening ceremony of sorts, a performance taking place on the floor, rather than the stage. The Flying Willy sang Irving Berlin’s ‘Putting on the Ritz’, with the Satin Dollz dancing around him. It was a real spectacle.
We then checked our coats into the cloakroom, said hello to the meticulous and marvellous event organiser, Julie, and ordered some candy floss (there was also popcorn, but I hate it, sorry not sorry).
Chastity Belt then appeared onstage to begin the main show. She aptly sang P!nk’s ‘Get the Party Started’ – which was especially fitting because it was a Saturday night. The Satin Dollz offered a fabulous Charleston tutorial – which they thought was for beginners but, as a beginner, I was lost! It was still lots of fun, however.
Paul Curran and Louise Dutton’s high tempo and sensual roller skating act had hundreds of jaws on the floor. At one point, Paul strapped Louise to his neck and span her around, even letting go of her. Stood right at the front, I was half worried she’d come flying at me! Paul has previously competed on both Britain’s Got Talent and Slovakia’s Got Talent, with Katy Thompson, receiving the golden buzzer on the latter! They’re also both easy on the eyes – Paul’s a bit of a papi, and his Liverpudlian accent is eargasmic!
As a huge fan of burlesque (I’ve even seen the Queen of Burlesque, Dita Von Teese), I was especially looking forward to seeing Eliza DeLite – especially because she was voted one of UK’s top 20 burlesque performers by 21st Century Burlesque Magazine for five consecutive years. She truly lived up to her acclaim. Whilst both acts were equally glamorous, the second was extra risqué, with Eliza stripping down to a C-string (i.e. a G-string sans the waistband)! I could feel horns emerging from my head…
Bart Hoving delivered the best juggling I’ve ever seen, with his second act essentially being boylesque: he stripped down to his suit-printed underpants and juggled his balls! At one point, the cameraman, stood right below Bart, put up his camera just as Bart bent over; he quickly pulled the camera away but Bart and the audience noticed. It was very funny.
There was an impressive acrobatic duo that got into positions I did not think humanly possibly (they were basically human plasticine). Guinness World Record holder Sheyen Caroli (aka “Mistress of Contortion”) similarly bent her body beyond belief and even fired a crossbow at a balloon using only her feet – perhaps the most impressive circus act I’ve ever seen.
The Flying Willy, dressed as a waiter and holding a tray of drinks, swerved around the audience on rollerblades, whilst Kay Page towered above us on stilts, creating an incredible, immersive atmosphere.
The event was, once again, headlined by The Toons, a four-piece band that turn modern songs into electro-swing bangers. I was so glad that they once again covered Beyoncé’s ‘Crazy in Love’ – Robyn Taylor’s sax skills in that song are spectacular (I’m still cringing that I referred to the saxophone as a trumpet in my last review).
Speaking of my last review – I had compared Robyn’s vocals to Christina Aguilera’s. Their new set included three Xtina songs: ‘Genie in a Bottle’, ‘Dirrty’, and ‘Lady Marmalade’ (her collaborative cover of the Labelle song for the Moulin Rouge! movie). Now, I saw Xtina live last year, and she sang all three of those songs… I cannot lie, Robyn gives her a run (and riff) for her money!
The last tour featured a duet between Robyn and the compère, Alexander Luttley, AKA Mercury. To my delight, Chastity performed Frankie Valli’s ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’ with The Toons (with Robyn on the sax). Her vivacious vocals blew me away. Sadly, this was just a guest appearance – Chastity Belt joining The Toons is just too good to be true…
At another point, Chastity sang a “diamonds” medley, made up of Lorde’s ‘Royals’ (“I’ve never seen a diamond in the flesh”), Dame Shirley Bassey’s ‘Diamonds Are Forever’, Rihanna’s ‘Diamonds’, and Marilyn Monroe’s ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’.
The event ended with all of the acts returning to the stage and The Toons covering ‘A Little Party Never Killed Nobody (All We Got)’, which was originally recorded by Fergie, Q-Tip and GoonRock for The Great Gatsby soundtrack (upon which this event is based).
After this, the Swing Bot played electro-swing bangers, and we danced the night away!
There was a lovely photo opportunity: a crescent moon in front of a starry night sky, with a seat placed inside the crescent. It was not quite as impressive as the last photo op (essentially, a front desk, complete with a retro telephone), but it was nice to have something completely different. My friend Leah was wearing blue, and I wore a blue bow-tie to match her, so we were thrilled that the photo op was blue!
Party Like Gatsby really is one of a kind. A 1920s dress code is required, and everybody makes the effort: most women went full flapper, complete with satin gloves and sparkly headpieces, with many guys donning top hats or flat caps (there was even one guy who dressed as a flapper and, honestly, he slayed).
After a few trying years, the 20s are finally in full-swing!
Party Like Gatsby: Soirée Royale will play at The Usher Hall (Edinburgh) on February 25. It is currently touring the world until early July.
A 1920s dress code is required for entry. Please note that no jeans, sportswear, or t-shirts are allowed. You can find inspiration on Party Like Gatsby‘s Facebook and Instagram pages.
The show starts from the moment doors open, with performers interacting with you and your entourage. The stage show is approximately three-and-a-half hours long, and will typically start one hour after doors open. After the stage show, the event’s resident DJ will ensure that the party continues until sunrise!
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0161 275 2930 University of Manchester’s Students’ Union, Oxford Rd, Manchester M13 9PR