Channing Tatum phenomenon Magic Mike has broken free from the big screen and is now live and stripping at The Hippodrome Casino after a successful run in Las Vegas. The historic Matcham Room has been transformed for the production, at what must be considerable expense, suggesting it’s here to stay indefinitely — most nights are already sold out until March 2019.
The majority of the thirsty throng of overwhelmingly female show goers are clearly thrilled by the youthful, chiselled flesh on display. The ‘Men of Magic’ are all extremely talented dancers and gymnasts, some of whom display musical prowess in addition to their athletic abilities. The experience is truly immersive, with the whole space utilised on and off stage, and segments dedicated to intimate — consensual, if generally awkward — audience interaction (by intimate, we mean anything from stroking to simulated sexual acts and dry humping).
Anyone looking for merit beyond that may come away with mixed feelings. It feels like an age before proceedings really get underway, with a prolonged attempt to establish a vague narrative that is hard to follow over the general chatter in the room. Emcee Sophie Linder-Lee’s innumerable vagina references and nods to vapid empowerment tropes quickly wear thin, and the choreography, while slick and impeccably executed, is unvarying, as is the overall aesthetic.
Two of the more developed numbers, erotic duets involving ‘Magic Men’ Sebastian Melo Taveira and Pip Hersee, and female cast members Hannah Cleeve and Josie Scamell, divide the room. When it becomes clear they aren’t cringing, unsuspecting audience members pulled from the crowd, as we are led to believe, a woman loudly exclaims, ‘I didn’t come here for this!’. These higher, poetic fantasies of being up on stage with the ‘Magic Men’ are still beyond the reach of the actual audience, who must content themselves with being pelted in the face with roses or plied with ‘empowering’ compliments.
Ultimately, there is a sense that these undoubtedly gifted and charismatic artistes are being underutilised. Watching a lithe young man — bald from the eyebrows down — perform a beautiful lyrical phrase, only to stand and have his buttocks fondled by a woman old enough to be his grandmother, feels like such a waste. Imagine the outcry if genders were reversed…
Magic Mike Live, Hippodrome Casino, Cranbourn Street, Leicester Square, WC2H 7JH. Tickets £29-£125, until October 2019.
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