There’s magic happening in Bushwick. Make that “magique” in French. Company XIV’s “Cocktail Magique” is a dazzling show that combines close-up magic, mentalism, acrobatic feats — even more impressive in the diminutive space — fabulous costumes, burlesque, and, as the name implies, a fantastical line up of libations. Since 2006, Company XIV has been entertaining audiences with its unique vision, incredible talent and spectacles. (Say that with a French accent, and you’ll describe an entire genre that defines this company.)
Created by the always-astonishing Austin McCormick, as you enter the gorgeous theater, you’ll feel as though you’ve stepped back into the decadence of a pansexual, Weimar-era cabaret combined with the seductive sensuality of the Moulin Rouge, plus plenty of contemporary humor. It is easily the best night out in New York right now. It’s not quite theater and not quite circus, but it brims with intoxicating visuals and spectacular costumes by Zane Pihlström with wigs by Charlie August Kellogg and Kenneth Griffin and makeup by Sarah Cimino.
The theater is big enough for just over 60 audience members, and the show takes place on a long bar that runs the length of the room. When not on the stage, cast members — men and women — strut through the audience on heels that could induce vertigo. That’s an impressive act on its own. No matter where you sit, you will be surrounded by the show.
The acts aren’t necessarily related, but each is dazzling in its own right. The show opens with a trick where emcee Sam Urdang produces enough champagne for the entire audience from a tiny bottle. And that’s just the start. Depending on the level of ticket you purchase, the booze keeps flowing all night. My companion for the evening was the dedicated drinker, since I abstain, but he gave the drinks high marks for potency and creativity, with everything from vodka to tequila to bourbon following the opening act bubbly. Fortunately, I can report the show is just as wonderful if you’re stone cold sober — and there is a Phony Negroni on offer if you want to get into a booze-free, cocktail spirit.
Each act seems more over-the-top and gasp-inducing than the one before it. I’m partial to the chanteuses and particularly Nia Simoné who channels Josephine Baker in a banana-inspired outfit. The magic acts, like the acrobatics, are all the more impressive for happening in such a comparatively small space. Indeed, it’s the intimacy of the entire show that makes it so incredible.
It’s also virtually impossible not to get to know the people sitting near you, both as you share open-mouthed surprise at some of the stunts the company pulls off and during the two intermissions where you can, you guessed it, head to the bar for even more refreshment.
There’s a cultural significance to this show as well. Just as the German cabaret of the 1920s reveled in excess as the country had survived a devastating war, New York in 2023 has come through a harrowing pandemic. The urge to get out and celebrate, to explore a full range of seemingly taboo experiences, and push boundaries is, in its own way, liberating. McCormick and his company feed that hunger for indulgence, for excess, and to leave one’s everyday life at the door and, maybe if only for an evening, abandon oneself to the demimonde.
Individual tickets start at $145 for bar table seats and go all the way up to $795 for two on the Love Seats with a Fortune Teller upgrade, which is definitely worth it if you are interested in what the tarot cards will tell you. When you consider that top-shelf cocktails in a swanky bar can top $25 and you add in the treats and desserts, it’s about what you’d expect to pay for a fabulous night out in New York. And I promise you, the show is like nothing you’d expect, and a night you’ll never forget.
Come to the Cabaret | Cocktail Magique will draw you to Cocktail Magique | Company XIV | 17 Wyckoff Avenue, Brooklyn | L train to Jefferson (about 20 minutes from Union Square) | Fri, Sat 8 p.m.; Sun 7 p.m. | From $145 | 2 hours, 2 intermissions