Michael Hurst’s Pleasuredome, The Musical gets all up in your 80s grill, transforming a small part of West Auckland into New York’s West Village.
In what is probably the most photo op show of all time, this truly immersive experience includes a full NYC street complete with subway, newsstand, bar, sleazy cinema and hotdogs. New York’s finest patrol the street while breakdances compete on the sidewalk. The Cinema is playing Beverly Hills Cop and the dive bar serves all your favourite tipples. So, grab yourself a ‘street dog’ and head on into The Pleasuredome.
Inside the club, a huge central chandelier, created by strings of lights, hangs over the cross-shaped catwalk-like stage that juts out into the audience and awaits a collective of strutting performers. Overlooking the stage, the DJ kicks things off and away we go; Lucy Lawless enters on a gold chariot while purple sequined drag queens stride down the stage – welcome to New York’s clubland circa 1984.
The audience are seated, standing, or (if they’re really posh) sitting at a table, all in the round, so no one is far from the action. The overall stadium feel continues, with giant screen backdrops that help narrate the story through strong imagery like cascading gold skulls, distorted echoing projections of Lawless and even some intense character close-up action.
After the opening number, the big screen announces that we must go ‘12 hours earlier’ to learn about our leading lady ,Sappho, played by Lucy Lawless. Her story has 80s excess, drugs, sex, betrayal, colourful costumes and even more colourful language. But, just who will be coming out of the closet? As you’d expect from a musical set in 80s NYC, the soundtrack is pretty banging. The tracks, which include The Human League’s Don’t You Want Me, Grandmaster Flash – White Lines, Hall & Oates – I Can’t Go For That and inevitably Relax by Frankie Goes to Hollywood are all used to move the story along.
Every corner of the stage, and parts of the audience area are infected with the cheeky and sexy choreography. The energetic and bendy cast strut around the catwalk stage in skimpy leotards (or less) showing off some of the loveliest bums you’ll ever see. The costumes are as gaudy and kitsch as the decade would allow, and as this is Hurst it all goes a step further than expected.
Vocally Ashleigh Taylor excels as she blows the roof off with some of her high notes. Lawless delivers a sassy and emotionally charged performance that doesn’t disappoint and Vince Harder has all the swagger needed to own the stage. Moses Mackay sheds his Sole Mio persona for some NYC songs and sensibility. Stephen Lovatt is also brilliant and funny as the stereotypical uber masculine angry businessman.
There’s a lot to love here, and the energy is fantastic, but I think the show did suffer from the lack of intimacy provided by the grandiose space. Some of the smaller or more subtle character moments in the show can be somewhat lost due to the epic scale of other parts. In fact, I’d have been happy with them just belting out those big numbers as the story was not so important for me.
The street vibe outside the show was such a great attraction that I did find myself just itching to get back out there. It’s all about the whole experience and it’s a bonus that you get a decent amount of time to enjoy these fun surroundings. The street set was previously used for the filming of TV show ‘Ash vs The Evil Dead’ which is why it really feels like you’re visiting Universal Studios. I had an absolute ball at Pleasuredome, however, I feel the overall space does require a full house to get the atmosphere needed for the show’s ambition to be pulled off.
Pleasuredome, The Musical is a unique nostalgic experience that has big budget, big numbers and is a delicious slice of the big apple.
Reviewed by Ingrid Grenar.
The show is on until 23 December and is situated at 17-19 Patiki Rd Avondale. Find out more here.