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In this Burlesque opera, it’s not over till the nearly naked lady sings

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Is it classy burlesque, or saucy opera?

Don’t be surprised if the “fat lady” is a sultry 20-something and her “Viking armor” is more lacy than it is lance-proof, in Company XIV’s “Judge Me Paris,” an opera infused with a contemporary burlesque aesthetic, directed by Austin McCormick and hitting Bond Street starting May 17.

“The costumes are so much fun to dance in, there’s so much sparkle on that stage,” said Laura Careless, who plays Helen of Troy. “For the dancers, we’re mostly in stylized underwear, so we have a lot of freedom of movement and the audience has a lot of freedom of vision.”

This sexy opera is an interpretation of the classic Greek myth, “The Judgement of Paris,” which begins at a divine wedding bash hosted by Zeus, in honor of Peleus and Thetis’ engagement, to which all gods, goddesses, heroes, and demigods are invited — all except for Eris, the trouble-making Goddess of Strife. Eris, true to her nature, decides to avenge herself for Zeus’s social slight by sending the golden “Apple of Discord” to the banquet, which she inscribes with the words, “For the fairest.” A squabble ensues between Juno, Venis, and Pallas Athena, who all presume themselves the prime divas of divinity and, as a result, history’s first beauty pageant ensues, to which Zeus appoints the eminently honest Trojan, Paris, as arbiter.

All of this happens as Helen — the beauty that launched a thousand battleships — watches.

“The action on stage bleeds into the action in the changing area and vice versa, so for me I’m viewing the action as a 3000-year-old Helen who has seen Troy burn to the ground, partly because of her, and then I re-enter that story as a sort of apocalyptic character,” said Careless.

The ancient myth has been retold countless times throughout history, but never quite like this. McCormick, who specializes in the Baroque style of dance, has made a habit of injecting burlesque styles into his more recent productions, and “Judge Me Paris” is no exception. And the burlesque additions may be most obvious in the opera’s costume design, but the set design also evokes a burlesque aesthetic and, in a novel twist, the changing room is actually on stage.

“In reference to the iconic burlesque costuming and props, we’ve designed the show so that everything is exposed; you see the back stage changing areas, the costume changes, and the choreography is designed to be in line with the art of the strip tease,” said McCormick. “You will see some skin, that I can promise.”

“Judge Me Paris” at 303 Bond Street Theater [303 Bond St. between Union and Sackett streets in Carroll Gardens, (800) 838–3006, www.companyxiv.com] May 17 - May 27, 8 pm. $40.

Reach reporter Colin MIxson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4514.
Updated 5:33 pm, July 9, 2018
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