Metro Weekly

Queen of Hearts: Down the Sexy Rabbit Hole (Review)

Company XIV pulls out the stops with "Queen of Hearts," a bawdy and brilliant adult riff on "Alice in Wonderland."

Queen of Hearts: LEXXE, Madison Rose and PhillVonAwesome -- Photo: Phillip  Van Nostrand
Queen of Hearts: LEXXE, Madison Rose and PhillVonAwesome – Photo: Phillip Van Nostrand

From the moment they slink across the stage, you’re hooked and hypnotized, willing to follow them with reckless abandonment to the ends of the earth. That is precisely where the cast of Company XIV will take you in a reinvented version of their long-running hit Queen of Hearts.

Since 2006, creator Austin McCormick has been the engine behind this dance troupe that mixes Victorian-era propriety with the bawdiness and bodies of burlesque. Each show has been an irresistible treat. By now, loyal fans know that delicious visual snacks will be served.

This time, however, McCormick has outdone himself with a grand buffet that is so wonderfully satisfying. It feels like delightful gluttony, and indulgence has never been quite this rewarding.

Queen of Hearts takes loose inspiration from Lewis Carroll’s ubiquitous classic children’s novel, Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland. Make no mistake, though, this is not a version you’ll want to share with preschoolers. If drag queens reading to kids ruffle some feathers, Queen of Hearts would send the prim and proper into an apoplectic fury.

Queen of Hearts: LEXXE and Nicholas Katen -- Photo: Phillip Van Nostrand
LEXXE and Nicholas Katen – Photo: Phillip Van Nostrand

Countless versions of the tale have been told, from immersive live theater productions, television series, and movies. Few have matched the cultural creativity and excellence of Company XIV’s staging.

After plunging down a rabbit hole and consuming a potion marked “Drink me,” Alice shrinks in size, able to squeeze through a small door where she finds a cake labeled “Eat Me.” This significantly increases her size. Unhappy, she finds herself floating in a sea of tears.

Set designer Zane Pihlstrom and lighting designer Brian Tovar have created a gorgeous nautical setting, complete with manual mobile waves. To add to the aquatic appeal, a huge anchor descends from the ceiling while a chiseled dancer, clad in mermaid attire, twists and contorts his body to jaw-dropping effect.

Of course, the usual characters, featured so prominently in Carroll’s story appear including The Mad Hatter, The Cheshire Cat, a larger-than-life teapot, and the title character. In fanciful dresses, the entire ensemble becomes the deck of cards as they perform a number similar to the can-can.

McCormick, a trained Julliard dancer, is never afraid to explore multiple genres of dance, and they are all on display in Queen of Hearts, aided by stirring, original music from composer Lexxe, who also stars in the show.

Sometimes, more can be less in live theatre. Having too much to consume can be overwhelming to the senses and it’s hard to know where to focus the eyes and how to tune the ears to what’s happening. Yet McCormick and his diverse, gender-fluid ensemble never cross into the dangerous zone of overstimulation. Instead, they engage the audience enough to be mesmerized, lean in, and wonder what’s next.

And what’s next is never disappointing. Attending a Company XIV show feels like an otherworldly event. With couches, cocktail tables, and chairs assembled throughout the house, it seems more like an intimate night in a friend’s living room. Intermission brings the opportunity to refresh your beverage with a bespoke cocktail.

While Broadway ticket prices continue to rise, there is more bang for the buck to be had in the Bohemian chic neighborhood of Bushwick, Brooklyn. You’re unlikely to find better talent on the great way when it comes to dance and vocals. The good news is that Queen of Hearts is irrefutably marvelous. The bad news is that Company XIV will have much to live up to with their future productions.

Company XIV’s Queen of Hearts (★★★★☆) is now playing at 383 Troutman Street, in Brooklyn, New York. Ticket prices vary. Visit

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