When it comes to entertainment in Sydney’s heavily-regulated CBD precinct, there are seemingly fewer and fewer options on the menu. Between the current disruptions of the light rail under construction on George St, and the now-infamous lockout laws, which have led to mass-closures of late-night venues, Sydney has earned itself a reputation as a bit of a killjoy.
But there’s fun to be had if you know where to look.
Every Saturday night, Crystal Bar (the basement bar at Martin Place’s GPO drinking-and-dining precinct), turns into Crystal Boudoir, a bizarre yet entertaining display of old-world French cabaret laced with modern music and burlesque, and it’s an off-kilter choice for a night out that’s a little bit different.
At 9pm, the doors open, and guests are guided to their designated tables (bookings, we’re kindly told, are essential). The crowd? A diverse mix of bridal parties, bridal parties, and bridal parties, which doesn’t make sense, as the display on offer tonight comprises attractive women sharing the stage with other attractive women (and one bloke who can do the splits like you’ve never seen, but we’ll come to that).
Man of Many was invited to give it a try last Saturday.
Ushered to our table, where we’re seated front and centre, there’s water and glasses waiting, but we’re told to head to the bar for drinks as there’s no table service.
This place would really benefit from table service, as the bar is behind the stage, so anybody ordering drinks instantly becomes part of the show (though this did include several maids-of-honour inadvertently twerking for the crowd whilst waiting for trays of wet pussy shots).
We should really mention at this point that we started the night off at Prime, one of GPO’s many dining establishments, and one of the best steaks you’ll likely eat in Sydney. An extensive menu of mains will tempt anybody, but the steak menu here is truly sensational. Pair this with the five star service, unpretentious dining room and stellar wine list and you’ll find you’re thoroughly sated for the evening ahead.
But back to the show.
A saxophonist sets the tone for the evening while a DJ spins tracks in the background, but the mood of the room needs little encouragement: everybody is here for a good time. As the venue fills (there are more patrons wearing glittery sashes than not), the tunes get louder, and the real show begins.
At around 10pm, cabaret dancers take to the stage. Feathers, lace and garter belts all adorn the performers, who provocatively dance around the tables and the crowd intermittently between commanding everybody’s attention with on-stage antics. A singer belts out live songs that you’ve heard before (but does a bloody good job of it, albeit to a backing track–with the occasional help from Mr. Saxophone), and about seven different acts grace the stage throughout the course of the evening.
Most impressive of these various acts isn’t the sexy dancing, however: it’s the contortionist who performs two shows who is really very impressive. Her fleeting time on stage captures the audience’s attention (and garners the most applause) each time, and is a highlight of the evening by a long way.
The “boylesque” element to the night is fun, but a final lunge into the air which deftly lands in the splits makes the other four men in the room wince in phantom pain (and the girls scream with applause).
This is probably the most interesting observation of the whole night: why aren’t there more blokes down here? It’s crawling with young, attractive women who are out for a good time, the bar selection is good, with plenty of whisky and bartenders who know how to make an old fashioned.
And it’s fun! Sure, it would benefit from an MC and a smoke machine (in our humble opinion), and sure, it’s far from the Moulin Rouge. But it’s also not trying to be anything other than what it is: a genuinely upbeat, convivial, entertaining night, performed by a small handful of pros who clearly love what they do.
Unlike the stereotypical “Ladies’ Night”, boys-nights-out generally suffer from a lack of planning, which often leads to either a strip club or the casino. But a decent steak followed by a risque display of salacious skills, in a room filled with beautiful women should be the very definition of a quintessential lads’ night.
After the show’s finale, the stage is stormed by the crowd, who party on until 2am, hidden away from the emptiness of the streets outside; dancing isn’t optional.
In a CBD largely bereft of fun right now, Crystal Boudoir is an amusing display, in more ways than one.