Company XIV’s restaging of ‘Queen of Hearts’ worth it

Lexxe, Madison Rose, and PhilVonAwesome in "Queen of Hearts."
Lexxe, Madison Rose, and PhilVonAwesome in “Queen of Hearts.”
Phillip Van Nostrand

If you’ve got a taste for dazzling, over-the-top theatrics, then get yourself on the L train and head to Bushwick — and as quickly as possible. The always exciting Company XIV has brought back their hit show “Queen of Hearts,” first seen in 2019 with new songs and new acts to create a spellbinding mix of music, acrobatics, and burlesque performed by every gender. 

The show is inspired by “Alice in Wonderland,” but don’t expect a linear or literal retelling. Creator and director Austin McCormick has used the classic and familiar Lewis Carroll tale as a jumping off place, leading the audience down the rabbit hole with Alice into a world of glorious excess with sumptuous costumes and scenery by Zane Philström, songs by Lexxe, and performances that will leave you giddy and gasping. 

The look is Weimar excess meets baroque excess meets circus excess, and then some — with “excess” obviously being the operative world. From the moment the audience walks in the space, the experience begins as the cast circulates through the audience, on chairs, stools, or love seats, welcoming the crowd, doing tarot readings, and more. The bar is fully stocked, and the menu of specialty cocktails is impressive.

All the recognizable Wonderland characters have been reimagined — the March Hare, the Mad Hatter, the Cheshire Cat, the Blue Caterpillar, lesser characters like the Flamingos (which are not from Carroll but by way of Disney’s Alice), and, of course, the titular Queen known for her signature phrase “off with her head.” If you end up thinking you’ve had a healthy hit of the Cateripllar’s hooka as the show unfolds before you, no one would blame you; the show is that outrageous.

Company XIV is known for its gender-ambiguous sensuality, and that’s here in gleeful abundance. Understanding that the power of burlesque is in suggestion, through each of the acts, the audience is teased with sex in different ways — sometimes comic, others romantic, and others leaving you in awe of a performer’s sinuous athleticism, which is in its own way seductive. The performers also flirt shamelessly with the audience, and at the performance I saw, the audience flirted right back.

The company is uniformly exceptional — and gorgeous. Lexxe as Alice has an astonishing and sensational voice. The score is a mixture of recognizable pop songs and Lexxe’s original numbers, which are hauntingly beautiful or power ballads. Notably, the Queen’s 11 o’clock number, appropriately called “Off with Her Head” and performed by Madison Rose, is nothing short of stunning. The rest of the ensemble, which includes Joey Columbus, Erin Dillon, Morgan Doelp, Phillip Evans, Duane Gosa, Nicholas Katen, Alisa Mae, Nolan, Clairisa S. Patton, and Syrena, is sensational. 

The wonderful thing about this show — and all of Company XIV’s productions, including the still-running “Cocktail Magique” — is that as theatrical entertainment, it’s in a class by itself. For sheer originality and visual artistry, to say nothing of showmanship, no company can hold a candle (or feather or stiletto heel or whatever) to them. It is the kind of spectacle one would expect from the Moulin Rouge or the Follies Bergère, and you need go no further than Brooklyn to experience it firsthand. 

There are many pricing options available, from standing room to comfortable couches for two, with a range of champagne and wine upgrades. The full experience is worth every dime, and you’re guaranteed, like Alice, to be a bit sad to be returned to reality at the end.

“Queen of Hearts” | Company XIV | Théâtre XIV | 383 Troutman St., Brooklyn | Weds-Sun 8 p.m. | Tickets from $99 | Two hours, one intermission