Dracula’s Cabaret review: A queer-coded Menagerie of delights

Dracula’s Cabaret brings a naughty, dark twist to Broadbeach, on Australia’s Gold Coast, with plenty of hilarious over-the-top moments and jaw-dropping acrobatics in its latest show, Menagerie.

It all started in the 1960s for Dracula’s Cabaret in the cooler climate of Melbourne, before the launch of their Queensland location in 1985. Now, the previously taboo art form comes to the popular East Coast holiday spot, by the Pacific Fair shopping centre.

Menagerie boasts plenty of jaw-dropping acrobatics. (Dracula’s Cabaret/Handout)

Menagerie is described as “peering through the fractured lens of nature [to reveal] a peculiar assortment of curiosities”.

The main thrust of the show is Lady Nightshade (played by Amber-Dawn Finch) trying to get her collection of exotic creatures back in order.

It manifests in a stunning jukebox musical-style production that embodies animalistic raw passion and performances – that comes with some queer-coded moments, particularly when the show’s two henchmen hilariously slut-drop into Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s “Wap” before samba dancing into oblivion at the first sound of Barry Manilow’s “Copacabana”.

Lady Nightshade even hints at a polyamorous romance by declaring: “Three’s a crowd, but four’s a party,” and supports LGBTQ+-inclusive sex by quipping, “Let’s get to the pegging.”

Lady Nightshade (Amber-Dawn Finch) brings 30s and 40s glamour to the show. (Dracula’s Cabaret/Handout)

Despite the show’s interactive use of technology throughout (viewers enter the theatre via a ghost-train ride, the in-ride reactions of which are broadcast on a screen later), Finch’s role harks back to the glamorous early years of burlesque in the 30s and 40s. Her stellar rendition of George Thorogood & The Destroyers’ “Bad to the Bone” provided a sultry striptease, proving that the audience should always be left wanting more.

The only male dancer in the cast is Aviary (played by Andy Sumner), a UK-born but Australia-raised performer, with an impressive background of elite-level gymnastics training. Menagerie marks his Dracula’s debut, but it certainly isn’t his first rodeo.

From the moment he stepped into the spotlight for his aerialist solo to a grungy version of Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”, he was captivating. At one point, Sumner held on to the hoop with nothing more than his mouth for the advanced – and somewhat dangerous – iron jaw trick, certainly keeping me on the edge of my seat. 

Lady Nightshade is, however, the undeniable star of the show. Her powerful vocals and playful, sexy demeanour held the audience’s attention, even if her right-hand man The Handler (Tomi Gray) tried to steal the spotlight with his side-splitting comedic moments.

Aviary’s (Andy Sumner) tricks are captivating. (Dracula’s Cabaret/Handout)

Despite a few instances, such as the occasional slapstick comedy joke and rock-band-style Kiss puppets, which didn’t quite land, Menagerie served up powerhouse tracks, professional circus acts and a cohesive cast. 

Menagerie is on now at Dracula’s Cabaret on the Gold Coast, Australia, with tickets from Aus $115.

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