Snuck next to a large casino frontage on West End thoroughfare Coventry Street, the slim entrance to Cafe De Paris belies the size of the actual space of the venue once you make it past the doormen. This supperclub Tardis has been pulling in the punters since 1924 and nowadays hosts two regular cabaret nights every weekend - La Rêve on Fridays, Wam Bam Club on Saturdays.
It's fair to say we weren't overly ecstatic last year when we saw the latter but we've been quietly impressed by the high-calibre bills appearing at the La Rêve . Of the acts tonight, at least two (hosts Frisky and Mannish plus juggler Mat Ricardo) have had a run of their own shows in London and three were hand-picked for London Burlesque Week 2011.
For those who haven't seen pop revisionists Frisky and Mannish before, a word of warning: they will happily take your favourite songs and casually crucify them on the altar of comedy. Kiss goodbye to fond memories of the Bangles's Eternal Flame or anything by Michaels George and Jackson. Its easy telling the duo apart: Frisky is the louche redheaded livewire with an impressive vocal range while Mannish is the, well, "mannish" thin monochrome duke under an inch of make-up and behind a keyboard. The highlight for us is their duel between Noël Coward and Lily Allen as they try on each other's songs, Coward poshly singing "LDN" followed by Allen's mockney mangling of "I Went to a Marvellous Party".
Russella was the only drag act on stage but not the only one in the venue. We enjoyed her inspired cooking routine, making pancakes live on stage while dancing around and making faces at Jodie Harsh in the front row. Half-circus act, half-boylesk, Count Adriano Fettucini is a brave man. On a stage barely large enough to swing a large moggy, he unicyles around while elegantly removing a pinstripe suit and his shirt and tie. Lela Debrincat's tribal bellydance fusion routine and her intricate and fast sword swinging was impressive.
Amongst his endless slapstick and verbal gags, it's easy to forget just how good a juggler Mat Ricardo is. We've seen him a few times before but we still love his grand finale. Craig The Incredible Hula Boy is the Ronseal of cabaret, dazzling us in his Elvis routine which includes white jumpsuit, Heartbreak Hotel and twirling hoops with his feet while walking on his hands. Millicent Binks is a slinky burlesque dancer with a boa you could choke a donkey with and old school charms that find new fans in the audience.
Headliner Bret Pfister is one to watch out for. In his short set, the New Yorker aerialist didn't put a foot, hand or any other body part wrong as he contorted in and out of a hoop, often hanging by an arm as he twirled around.
We left before Jodie Harsh began her DJ set but it's fair to say that La Rêve's cabaret cocktail impressed us mightily. While the Wam Bam Club focusses on burlesque and stand-up, it's Friday night sibling brings the circus to town to great effect.
All pictures (c) Tigz Rice
Entrance and food were provided by the management.
For the best London cabaret tips, keep it tuned to Londonist and see our hand-picked weekly Zingers.