Tiergarten, a New York Carbaret

Carnegie Hall on the Lower East Side

By: - Apr 21, 2024

Tiergarten, a cabaret, opened for three nights in the Grand Hall of St Mary’s Church on the lower East Side of Manhattan. A participant in Carnegie Hall’s deep gaze at the music of the Weimar Republic, hot impresario Andrew Ousley gathered together a group of top-notch performers and a talented design crew to create an ageless event. When the doors close, a mad spirit is unleashed in Willkommen. Traveling back in history, we discover man’s (and woman’s) first naked appearance in the Garden of Eden and a tasteful nude crucifixion in 33 AD.

We are invited to let our hair down, dress or undress. Seduced, we consider the story unfolding in classic cabaret style, with shadow images, monologues, dance, and song.  We are to be transported out of our heads and into the moment. 

Kim David Smith is Master of Ceremonies.  He wears characteristic bright red lipstick and has sequin moles on his face. He is very pretty and prefers moving among the audience to a lofty stage position. A central passageway in the cabaret room is lined with red poles. Around these poles, the Master of Ceremonies dances. During the course of the evening, he will don a dress, which dips provocatively beneath his breasts. Others in the cast become pole dancers too.  The evening is full of surprises, nudity the least of them.

All of this is to will us to leave our troubles behind, so we can be seduced into a space where the story is the thing.  (The impresario wrote it).

In the privacy of a cabaret, so treasured by people who are willkommen, the dark moments of human history are explored. We are in a Time Warp a la the Rocky Horror Picture Show to which the Master of Ceremonies first introduces us.  We move back in time from the shadow puppetry of Kurt Weill’s Pirate Jenny to a tragic Waltzing Matilda, all the more poignant sung by Smith, an Australian.  American slavery is left to two black singers, Aaron Reeder, a current Berlin resident, whose voice soared in a liberty song and Amara Granderson, whose take on Strange Fruit was unique and wrenching. 

Back and back we go, the privacy of the space giving us ever closer and more shocking views. The emperor Nero and his third wife, who helped him kill the second one, sing Monteverdi’s Pur Ti Miro, beauty amidst violence. Then burlesque artist Pearl Daily parades in, swooping in chiffon, a vision of white until… she drops it all having passed through the stations of the cross and nude, surrenders,  a bearded, very female Christ in 33 AD. 

Finally back at the very beginning of time, Liana Zhen-ai and Dylan Contreras, dance nude (private parts camouflaged) showing us how Cain and Abel were created.

The audience is by now wild, cheering the actors and singers on. Vivaldi (jazzed up), Verdi and Monteverdi fit perfectly with Max Richter, Kurt Weill and Marlene Dietrich.

The company sings us out with Kylie Minogue’s All the Lovers.  No one leaves the room.  For it is here that we can consider our position in the universe safely and pleasurefully-–as we look at both the darkness and the light of human experience.  Is America now Wiemar 1932 we wonder?