Romantasy Cabaret at The Sets

By Joseph Golfen

The Sets in Tempe is not the first place that pops into my mind when I think of sexy, dancing girls. Usually when I think about this strip mall venue, I remember the story one of my friends told my about shattering his nose, via head butt, in a punk show mosh pit. So I was surprised when my girlfriend and I took our seats for Romantasy Cabaret’s “Opulent Dreams” show and found the Sets’ modest interior redone with satin drapes around the stage and a floor filled with round tables for VIPs complete with candles and cocktail service.

See more from the cabaret in our slideshow.

We waited for the show to begin. And we waited some more. Nearly forty minutes later the show finally began. This drawn out pace would continue for the rest of the production.

But the audience seemed really excited for the show to begin despite all the waiting around, whistling and cheering as the entire cast of the show came out to take a bow with heavy metal crunching behind them. The crowd was mostly made up of small groups of women, who clutched their colorful drinks with both hands and started expectantly at the stage. There was a smattering of men in the audience, mostly accompanied by wives or girlfriends, but they too cheered as the crew made its way onto the stage.

One of them seated behind whispered to his buddy, “I better see some T&A or I’m gonna be pissed.”

That guy was gone by the start of the second act.

Those that came to the cabaret looking for a raunchy strip show were probably disappointed by the old-school chorus girls who opened the show. It was obvious from this first act that this show was meant to be more fun than full-frontal.

I’ve been to a couple cabarets before and although the shows sometimes feel dated, they’re usually a good time thanks to a balance of music, comedy and stupid human tricks. Opulent Dreams didn’t really live up to its name in any category, but their collection of freaky feats was the most underwhelming. There was a fire dancer, but she just swung flames around while “Super Massive Black Hole” by Muse played on behind her. She did not even swallow the fire! There was an act called “The Great Chain Escape,” a Houdini-style trick performed by a bald girl that was impressive, but lacking Houdinian flare.

The acts may have seemed more fun if the show had moved along a little quicker. But this was made impossible by the show’s loudmouth MC, Lucy Morals. She appeared onstage every time an acted ended and talked for way too long, spouting out lame innuendos and badly-written copy about the next act.

Four acts into the show and an intermission was called during which most of the performers vacated the stage leaving a mascara Robert Smith imitator named Sad John on stage. He crooned The Smiths, Bush and Death Cab on a Stratocaster, all the while telling people to stop listening and to go by some drinks.

I obliged.

“I think the second act will be more exciting,” my girlfriend said with confidence as I handed her another beer.

The second act opened with a woman in a tuxedo who did a great rendition of the tune “Cabaret,” from the Broadway musical of the same name. This was followed up by a slapstick comedy routine about a man trying to return a horribly tailored suit to a department store. It wasn’t comic gold, but it had me smiling.

All previous transgressions were forgiven when the next act started. A funny little man dressed as an Italian circus performer, complete with the copious chest hair, intended to do an acrobatic routine with his petite partner “Mini Maria.” It seems the pint-size performer had fallen ill, however, and the only replacement to be found was a rather rotund yet enthusiastic girl. You could say she really put her weight into making the routine work though she left her partner a little flat. While this was a pretty simple, low brow sketch it was hilarious, in a silent movie kind of way.

A scavenger hunt followed, that had girls running to the stage to hand over their red lipstick or reaching into their shirts to get their bras off first to win a prize. It was an appropriate time to disrobe as moments later MC Lucy Morals announced the third act.

“As some of you know, this is the act wear it all comes off,” she said.

Finally, things were getting a little more risqué. A performer called “The High Pimpstress” did a jaw-dropping pole dance that escalated the show to level of sexy fun it had been shooting for the whole time.

But even her skills failed to compare to an erotic fountain performance by Lolita Hayes. In an offstage fountain, this frolicking, toga-clad pixie transformed into a splashing, almost naked bather. Hayes stole the show…too bad few stayed around to see her do so.

By the time Hayes was removing her nylons most of the audience had already taken off. The show had been running for three solid hours.

As the rest of audience shuffled out the door, I turned to my girlfriend, who simply smiled and shrugged her shoulders. I had pretty much the same reaction. “Opulent Dreams” has the potential to be a lot of fun, but it’s going to take a faster pace and a bit more excitement to make it the show it so desperately wants to be.