This week, the hottest theater ticket in N.Y.C. isn’t a big-budget Broadway extravaganza, but rather, a wildly imaginative retelling of Beauty and the Beast making waves on the Lower East Side and earning rave reviews, most notably from The New York Times. Starring feminist burlesque “It” girl Julie Atlas Muz and her disabled British actor/writer hubby Mat Fraser, the tale is really two stories in one. The first is a visually stunning rendition of the classic fairy tale about a beauty who must repay her careless father’s debt by shacking up with a freaky beast. The second is the real-life love story of the two stars: Fraser, a performer whose short, flipper-like arms (the result of in-utero exposure to the drug Thalidomide) earned him a place at the legendary Coney Island Sideshow; and Muz, a rebellious showgirl whose on-stage antics garnered her both the title of Miss Coney Island and Fraser’s heart.
Despite the classic storybook theme and crowd-pleasing circus-set love story, however, this show is decidedly NOT for kids. In true neo-burlesque style, the sumptuous costumes that outfit the production are merely preludes to copious amounts of artfully executed nudity. Both Muz and Fraser take every available opportunity to strip down in contexts that alternate between light-hearted, engaging, and erotic. And in this X-rated fairy tale world, the happy ending is quite literally a happy ending. A gorgeous celebration of unconventional attraction, Beauty and the Beast is a sexy, subversive, and surreal tale that leaves its adults-only audiences awash in child-like wonder. –Emily Rems
Performances March 26 – 30 at 8 pm
Abrons Arts Center (466 Grand St. N.Y.C)
Tickets: $35, online at abronsartscenter.org or by calling 212-352-3101
Emily Rems is a feminist writer, editor, rock star, playwright, and occasional plus-size model living in New York’s East Village. Best known as managing editor of BUST magazine, Emily is also a music and film commentator for New York’s NPR affiliate WNYC, and is the drummer for the horror-punk band the Grasshoppers. Her nonfiction writing has appeared in the anthologies Cassette from my Ex and Zinester’s Guide to NYC, and her short stories have been published in Rum Punch Press, Lumen, Prose ‘N Cons Mystery Magazine, Writing Raw, and PoemMemoirStory. She was nominated for a Pushcart Prize for fiction in 2015 and is working on a novel. Follow her on Twitter @emilyrems.