Review: ‘Pomp Duck and Circumstance’

Acts: Sabine Hettlich, Les Baron Karamazoff, Kathryn Green, Daidalos Brothers , Vassili Dementchoukov, Helene Turcotte/Luc Martin, Timothy Tyler.

Acts: Sabine Hettlich, Les Baron Karamazoff, Kathryn Green, Daidalos Brothers , Vassili Dementchoukov, Helene Turcotte/Luc Martin, Timothy Tyler.

For starters, consider the fact that you will not get out for less than $ 400 , though you will probably want to escape in less than 10 minutes. Having paid your $ 300 for two tickets, you are surprised by the $ 10 valet parking, by the $ 10 programs being hawked upon your entrance, by the $ 9.50 martinis consumed during the 90 minutes you’ve been invited to endure before the evening officially gets under way, by the “Pomp Duck and Circumstance” paraphernalia booths that make the Disney concessions at “Beauty and the Beast” look like lemonade stands, by the $ 8 for a bottle of Poland Spring water.

At least, you think, you’ll get a good meal out of it; Gael Greene of New York magazine assured you as much. You will be very disappointed, not to say outraged. Trust me on this: I was married for a long time to a famous chef (OK, so it didn’t work out) and for back-up I brought along a Very Important Restaurant Critic with me to “Pomp Duck and Circumstance.” We can both assure you that “PD&C” is the “Central Park West” of the fall theater season. Not merely bad, the food makes TWA look like Air Le Cirque.

So let’s talk turkey. When a producer had a show he knew the critics would roast, he’d open in the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, assured of enough hick tourist trade to cut his losses. A canard, you ask? No, it’s “PD&C” that’s the canard. Let’s retire the term turkey, and replace it with duck, for surely “Pomp Duck and Circumstance” is the foulest scam to hit New York since improved parking meters.

“PD&C,” first produced by Wilhelmina modeling agency honcho Dieter Esch, apparently has been a hit in Germany, and its controversial Gotham stand (in a public park for six months in return for some rehabilitative funding) comes prior to an appearance at the Atlanta Olympics and then permanent installation in Las Vegas at the MGM Grand: New York is the tryout town. But if the show flops here, as it surely will, it’s destined to be an even bigger fiasco in Vegas, where it will be competing with far more sophisticated entertainments, such as Cirque du Soleil, Siegfried & Roy and even the MGM Grand’s “EFX.”

You are crowded at cabaret-style tables, in bridge chairs that have numbed your posterior and bent your spine within moments of arrival. Actor/waiters assault you continuously, urging you to get into the “Honeymooners” spirit of this Waldorf-priced affair, wherein the paying customers are required to spoon the first-course soup to the folks at neighboring tables. And getting into the spirit of things isn’t particularly enticing, because the spirit is Teutonic, relentlessly misogynist and never for a moment funny.

Several refugees from “Andre Heller’s Wonderhaus” perform acrobatics, play wine bottles and the like, to the accompaniment of a band that turns out pre-Weather Report fusion music-like product. Some of the acts are mildly entertaining; most are excruciating. I finally snapped when the blonde chantoosie did violence to the Kurt Weill/Ogden Nash “I’m a Stranger Here Myself.”

The food is not merely bad, it’s inedible: One oversalted, glutinous, ill-conceived dish follows another. The sole exception is the perfectly presented duck; you get three slices. The wine list is pretty much what you would expect to find at the best hotel dining room in Teaneck: boring, predictable and wildly overpriced.

Finally, assuming you have endured all 3 1/2 hours of “Pomp Duck and Circumstance,” there is the matter of hailing a cab after 11 p.m. on lovely West 53rd Street and 11th Avenue on a mid-winter evening. What fun!

High-cost environmental dinner theater extravaganzas have not done well in New York — witness the failure of the infinitely superior “Tamara” several years back — though lowbrow versions have fared better. But even in the hinterlands, “Pomp Duck and Circumstance” will doubtless strike its customers as third-rate. The stained-glass-and-velvet ’30s Viennese tent in which it all takes place is resplendent, in a whorehouse sort of way. But as both entertainment and dining experience, “PD&C” is pure quackery.

Pomp Duck and Circumstance


NEW YORK An MGM Grand presentation of the Dieter Esch production of a circus/dinner event, with food service and various vaudeville acts, created by Hans-Peter Wodarz. Directed by Michel Dalaire.


Lighting, Jason Kantrowitz; costumes, Dea Valmonte, Max Dietrich, Jurgen Blume, Nameck Gaud; choreography, Ross Coleman. Opened Oct. 11, 1995 at "Salon Zazou," DeWitt Clinton Park. Reviewed Oct. 9; 400 seats, $ 150. Running time: 3 HOURS, 30 MIN.

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