Scandalesque's Christy Zandlo and Julianna Curtis probably won't have much in the way of free time over the next several weeks. During that time, the co-founders of the local burlesque troupe have routines to rehearse, dance workshops to oversee, and a few upcoming performances to plan (including The M Show, their two-girl tribute to Marilyn Monroe at FilmBar on Friday). And then there's the biggest task on their plate: Opening Scandalesque's new performance venue within the next month or two.
On the evening of Friday, August 30, Zandlo announced on Facebook that the troupe is planning to open The Empress, a "drop dead gorgeous burlesque and live music theater" in downtown Phoenix sometime in October. Here's the kicker: Its location is the current home of infamous gothic-themed nightspot Palazzo, which will transform into its new identity in the coming weeks.
Zandlo, who also performs as Pyrrha Sutra, told Jackalope Ranch that Scandalesque recently signed a deal with property owner and nightlife impresario Steven Rogers to begin leasing his Central Avenue spot.
She says it will continue to operate as Palazzo and host DJ/dance events -- including the latest edition of monthly goth/industrial party ResurrectioN on Friday night -- but only through the end of the month. Come October 1, it will be known as The Empress and will go from being a dance club to more of a supper club-like theater.
(Palazzo isn't only one of Rogers downtown nightspots that's getting new proprietors and a new concept, as neighboring gay club Amsterdam closed last month and will be transformed into a new establishment by the owners of Bliss/ReBar.)
In the weeks leading up to the transition, Zandlo says they'll be refurbishing things a little bit with some "small cosmetic changes." After its changeover takes place, however, the property will close to undergo a "full-on transformation" into a theater, which she says will serve as a much-needed home for Scandalesque.
The troupe has been based out of various Valley dance studios and other venues since it was formed in 2004 by Zandlo and Curtis, who performs as Lady Fontaine.
"We've been needing a new home for a long time," Zandlo says. "It's been like eight years, and we've been going from place to place."
While the exact date of The Empress' grand opening is still up in the air, Zandlo says they're hoping to have things up and running at the theater sometime in October.
It will host most of Scandalesque's showcases (a few will still take place at other Valley venues) as well as other "alternative entertainment" like sideshow and circus-style acts, drag artist revues, high-profile touring burlesque performers, and the occasional live band.
Said performances will take place on a large stage (complete with a traveling curtain) that Zandlo says will be constructed on one end of the club. Cabaret-style seating will also be installed to give the place more of "a supper club ambiance."
Its certainly going to a change of pace from the sort of goth/industrial dance nights and fetish-friendly events that Palazzo hosted off and on for years since its opening in 2005.
But while the sights and sounds inside the property might be change, its famous gothic-inspired decor -- which was designed by Rogers -- will stay largely the same.
Zandlo says that significant portion of the establishment's unique digs -- from its travertine floors, and dark wooden bar to the gargoyles perched along the walls and crystal chandelier on the ceiling -- will remain unchanged. Ditto for its second-floor balcony and catwalks.
"Steve [Rogers] was telling me that when he built the place he was influenced by an old opera house," she says. "So it already looks a lot like a theater, so we're keeping a lot of it as is."
Another big change that Scandalesque is planning is the transformation of approximately half of the adjacent Club Miami, a now-defunct smaller club which is located between Palazzo and the old Amsterdam, into a stylish lounge that will serve cocktails and locally grown teas and boast "more of a masculine look" and feature gigs by musicians and display art. (The new nightlife joint going into what was Amsterdam will use the other half of Club Miami.)
"Palazzo is very feminine looking, so we'd want the lounge to be more masculine looking with some industrial-looking and old world [decor] in there too," Zandlo says.
She adds there is a possibility that the either the lounge or the venue's large back patio and garden area might host DJ events at some point in the future, thus continuing the joint's dance music legacy.
"Its something that would be decided at some point down the road," Zandlo says. "As far as the theater goes, the emphasis will be more on burlesque and the different kinds of performers we'll have on our stage. The first month or so will be about trying all these different kinds of things. But in the lounge, it will be totally different vibe and ambiance and could include some DJs."
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One thing that's more certain, she says, is that there's a lot to be done from now until the opening of the Empress.
"We're going to be working around the clock on it to get thing up and going so we can have it done in October," Zandlo says. "We're definitely learning how to multi-task."