Spiegelworld EMPIRE

Odlins Plaza, Taranaki Wharf, Wellington

25/11/2014 - 21/12/2014

Wynyard Quarter, Waterfront, Auckland

06/01/2015 - 15/02/2015

Horncastle Hub at Horncastle Arena, Addington, Christchurch

21/10/2014 - 02/11/2014

Production Details


‘Empire takes traditional Circus, sexes it up and amps if off the dial’ – The Daily Telegraph 

‘Left me speechless, cool live music, hot taut bodies, eye popping feats of grace and muscle’ – New York Daily News

After unanimous rave reviews, sold out performances and standing ovations in New York and across Australia, Spiegelworld will bring its all-new show EMPIRE to New Zealand this Summer. 

Produced by Spiegelworld and presented by Nine Live, tickets will go on sale to the general public 9.00am Tuesday, September 2 at   

EMPIRE smashes the boundaries of circus, cabaret, variety and burlesque, reinventing the genres for a 21st century audience.  The show had its world premiere season in New York City during the summer of 2012, where it was the first tented show ever seen in Times Square.

The 700-seat antique spiegeltent, complete with bevelled mirrors, plus velvet-upholstered seating booths, speak-easy style bar and the most intimate stage in town, will host the most jaw-dropping and outrageous night out you’ll experience this year. 

EMPIRE will open in Christchurch on October 21, then in Wellington from November 25, followed by Auckland from January 6, 2015.  Tour dates follow. 

The New Zealand tour of EMPIRE follows spectacular engagements including it’s recent 2014 spring run in Tokyo where each night the cast was met with standing ovations. The Australian tour in 2013 left audiences amazed and breathless. In Sydney, the show was awarded “10/10” by the Sun Herald, and described as “taking the audience by storm in The Sydney Morning Herald.  The Age (Melbourne) said “Empire packs a punch”,

EMPIRE is a 90-minute theatrobatic adventure performed by the greatest international talent ever assembled in one tent.  The MCs, Oscar and Fanny, steer the show while an eccentric cast of characters help Oscar rebuild his empire; the seductive Gorilla Girls from Ukraine form perfectly balanced pyramids on top of each other; the French duo, Lime Green Lady and Carrot Man beautifully and sensuously balance each other, the Half Naked Asian Dude Wearing Pigtails from Japan is the world champion wheelmaster, rolling dangerously past the audience; Miss A in a Bubble contorts gracefully inside an aerial sphere and the 3D Graffiti Guy from Canada creates amazing structures, anchored entirely on a feather.  Miss Purple is the resident vocalist and is backed by the Viking of 6th Avenue, Moondog.

To create EMPIRE, Spiegelword Impressario Ross Mollison assembled a stellar Australian creative team of director Terence O’Connell (numerous Australian comedy greats at The Last Laugh in Melbourne through to Circus Oz), choreographer John ‘Cha Cha’ O’Connell (Strictly Ballroom, Moulin Rouge, The Great Gatsby), designer Angus Strathie (Academy Award for Moulin Rouge) and lighting designer Martin Kinnane (Sydney New Year’s Eve, Love Loss & What I Wore). 

Spiegelword first presented its annual summer season in New York City on Pier 17, South Street, Seaport with acclaimed shows including Absinthe, La Vie, Gazillionaire’s Late Night Lounge and Desir.  For the world premiere season of EMPIRE in 2012 Spiegelworld relocated to a premium vacant lot right in the heart of Broadway. Spiegelworld is currently presenting Absinthe in the forecourt of Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. The production was announced the “Best show in Vegas” by Vegas Seven magazine.

Check out EMPIRE : 

EMPIRE Spiegelworld New Zealand Tour: 

Horncastle Hub at Horncastle Arena, Addington
From October 21 – November 2 

Odlins Plaza by Te Papa, Waterfront 
From November 25 – December 21

Wynyard Quarter, Waterfront 
From January 6 – January 25 

Performance Schedule: 
Tuesday – Wednesday 7:30pm 
Thursday – Sunday 7:30pm & 9.00pm


Tickets Prices: 
Tue/Wed/Thurs $59.00 – $129.00* 
Fri/Sat/Sun: $69.00 – $149.00* 

VIP packages: 
Corporate Booths and VIP Packages will be available on selected show dates to entertain guests, reward staff or for those wanting something more than just a seat.

Nationwide Group Booking Line – Mon – Fri 8.30am – 5pm
Auckland 09 307 5058
Wellington 04 384 3842
Christchurch 03 379 0597

Theatre , Cirque-aerial-theatre , Burlesque , Cabaret , Variety ,

Much to like

Review by Simon Wilson 10th Jan 2015

Let’s say right off that you’ll see things done with bananas in this show you have probably never seen on stage – or anywhere else – before. Done, moreover, by a pair of sex-obsessed clowns who are unfailingly lively, provocative and extremely funny every time they take the stage. They’re great.

There’s also a winsome acrobatic contortionist who appears to have a hinge in the middle of her spine; roller skaters who defy death (theirs and ours) as he spins and she holds fast, flying around him; a guy who rolls around on the floor inside hoops, in a quite beautiful display of timing, gravity and momentum; more acrobats; and an excellent singer accompanied by an excellent guitarist. [More]


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Spiegeltent home to slick, professional pick‘n’mix

Review by Janet McAllister 10th Jan 2015

The latest sexy circus show to hit town mixes breathtaking acrobatics, outrageous MCs and a little nudity.

Every couple of years sexy-circus carnies roll up in a spiegeltent. After the Australian shows Smoke & Mirrors (2011) and Cantina (2013), it’s now New York’s turn to give us acrobats in their undies in an intimate space.

This show’s point of difference is its two wickedly clever MCs whose broad and very funny slapstick is oral-fixated and no-holds-barred. [More]


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Out of the Concrete Jungle

Review by James Wenley 09th Jan 2015

Conventional thought has it that January is a no-go zone for theatrical endeavours in Auckland. Aucklanders prefer the sun, surf, and music festivals. Rolling up bravely into this cultural desert are the unconventional New York performers of Empire. They’ve put together their Spiegeltent at Wynyard Quarter in the hopes of enticing us into the “world’s most outrageous Spiegeltent show” they say.

I’d say these folks are doubly brave because Aucklanders have been rather spoilt by the adult-circus-in-the-spiegeltent genre over successive Arts Festivals (and yet another, Limbo, is on its way in March). Empire is described as a “theatrobatic show” which combines cabaret, acrobatics, burlesque, vaudeville and comedy. The expectation is not only for dazzling feats viewed up-close, but also cheeky humour, outstanding music, and some sort of narrative, thematic, or atmospheric coherence. [More]


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Superbly performed theacrobatic spectacle

Review by Raewyn Whyte 09th Jan 2015

Spiegelworld’s EMPIRE delivers exactly what it promises: a series of fifteen superbly performed, circus /cabaret /vaudeville /burlesque acts which together comprise a 90-minute theatrobatic spectacle. It’s something of a pastiche, a mix of old-fashioned comedy, inordinately specialized feats, provocative patter, a little raunch, and rapid scene changes effected by a hard-working crew who are always in the right place to work their magic.

After some audience warm-ups while seating is underway, the pace is cracking, driven along by live music delivered with panache by Miss Purple and Moondog (American singer Ashley Loren and guitarist Andy Bianco), with the mood changing radically with each new act.

This slick, rapidly paced show was created in 2012 by an Australian team for a New York debut season, and has been touring continuously ever since. The theme as such is set by the lyrics of both live and recorded songs which are 99% about the wonders of New York City. Several of the characters are named in honour of historic Times Square performers, and there’s some signage during the show which refers to iconic subway stations and recent events such as the Occupy movement. Beyond that, the only common themes are some very imaginative costuming and the stellar quality of the various acts.

The resplendent setting – a 700 seat, climate-controlled travelling Spiegeltent with wooden framing and flooring, walls lavishly covered with bevelled mirrors and stained glass – adds its own weight to the sense of something special going on here. Dead centre in the tent is a raised circular stage which seems a lot closer to the audience than it really is, and subtle attention is given throughout the show to keeping the audience out of harm’s way. Even so, at times the performers feel far too close to us for the attendant risks of acts such as the centripetal flying manoeuvres of Russian roller-skaters Blue Tarpolean (Denis Petaev) and Polka Dot Woman (Mariia Beisembbetova) , and the toing and froing of a giant German Wheel set in motion by Half Naked Asian Dude Wearing Pigtails (Yasuaki Yoshikawa, from Japan).

“Adult content” is provided largely by the somewhat ribald (and occasionally crass) exchanges between husband and wife  characters Oscar and Fanny (Americans Jonathan Taylor and Anne Goldmann) who specialize in rapid costume changes, slick but silly stunts, audience participation and sly but oh so obvious innuendo.  [I feel bound to note how patronizing their performance feels when compared to the intellectually stimulating kind of adult entertainment we get from our local equivalents The Dust Palace.]

Three acts which share that “did I really see that?” quality are definitely the standouts.

The opening act is presented in a perspex sphere which hangs well above the stage, performed by the impossibly flexible Miss A in a Bubble (New Zealand raised, Australia-based aerialist-contortionist Lucia Carbines). Clad in a stars-and-stripes themed leotard, she flows through a mind-blowing series of extreme bodily configurations, and when she finally takes a bow on stage it seems strange that she stands upright on her feet like the rest of us..

The human pyramid building /three tier balancing Gorilla Girls are a Ukrainian trio otherwise known as Trio Bingo! (Kateryna Rudenko, Alina Reutska and Alona Stekolnikova). Starting out in gorilla suits, they quickly strip down to sequined underwear and fishnet stockings before beginning their consummate leveraging and climbing and balancing and somersaulting.

The most absorbing, and awesome act is the extraordinarily intense, Zen-focussed construction finale by Turkish Canadian Memet Bilgin Rigolo, performing the Sanddorn Branch Balance. This involves 12 very long palm leaf ribs of varying lengths, plus a large feather, in the rib-by-rib construction of a complex, finely counterbalanced and extraordinarily fragile structure which can be blown apart with a single breath. The most sustained act of the evening, it has just a quiet instrumental guitar accompaniment, and there’s a feeling that everyone is holding their breath while construction continues, fearful of causing any calamity. In the culminating moments you can feel the tension being shared around the tent, and the final sense of exultation as the construction is complete.

The show is all too soon at an end.


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An entertaining evening unlike any other

Review by Lyne Pringle 28th Nov 2014

The circus comes to town with Spiegelworld Empire. A bohemian, steam punk assortment of artistes invite us into the seductive century-old Belgian spiegeltent.  The old girl, crafted from teak, is resplendent with stained glass, mirrors and velvet as she creaks and billows in the Wellington wind.  In this canvas cocoon on the Wellington waterfront, various acts take to a tiny stage surrounded by an enthralled, sometimes shocked, always entertained audience.

Two themes pervade the evening: ribald lewdness and concentrated balance.  The spirit of New York City is evoked with a cache of tried-and-true images such as the stars and stripes, the Statue of Liberty and the Occupy Movement to create a loose framework for the action. 

The whole thing takes a while to get rolling, with lackadaisical audience interaction designed to loosen up, draw in and set the tone, before we are totally immersed in the mind boggling things that humans can achieve if they practice long and hard enough at a particular set of movements – even tossing bite sized hunks of banana mouth-to-mouth over fairly long distances. 

These circus folk from all over the globe are highly skilled athletes, musicians and comics. It is a pleasure to watch them in a venue where they are close enough to touch.  This intimate setting creates a thrilling edge when things become – and they do often – risky. 

The Gorilla Girls – aka Trio Bingo from Ukrania: Alona Stekolnikova, Alina Reustka and Kateryna Rudenko – are a standout act with their take on sauts de banquine. Their work is sexy, strong and statuesque as they create formidable pyramid structures, toss the smallest member into daring arcs and flips, then nonchalantly strut in scanty lingerie. This is mesmerising burlesque; theacrobatics at its very best. 

Comedy Duo Jonathan Taylor and Anne Goldmann – aka Oscar and Fanny from the USA – are hilarious as they goad the audience out of their comfort zone into their bawdy vaudevillian universe. Beware sitting in the front row, there is every chance you will become part of the action with these two.

Yonas Alemu and Tariku Degefa (Addis Brothers) – aka Big Mac Boy and Black Flintstone from Ethiopia – take the concept of brotherly love to a whole new level with their unique brand of Risley, where the smaller ‘brother’ is juggled on the feet of the other. The climax of, by my count 50 flips, is spectacular. 

The rest of the evening is supported by equally compelling and skilful acts: gorgeous hand to hand adagio by Vlad Ivashkin and Aiusha Khadzh(Duo Flame); a rotational whirl from Yasu Yoshikawa in Cyr and German wheel;  a roller skating act from Denis Petaov and Mariia Beseimbetova that  brings up the hairs on the back of the neck, and a gorgeous contortionist in a bubble: Lucia Carbines.  

Vocalist Miss Purple and Andy Bianco on crazed guitar create a live sound for the evening with excellent versions of ‘New Amsterdam’, Leonard Cohen’s ‘First We Take Manhattan’, ‘Sunshine’ & ‘Clarity’. 

This weird wacky evening is wrapped up in a curious manner with a meditative Sanddom balancing act by Memet Bilgin (Rigolo): a feather and several palm branches create an astounding sculpture.

It would have been good to see more than one choreographed group number to knit the troupe together, and a less complacent beginning to the evening.  It is a slick and well-oiled show which you would expect after being on tour for nearly two years. The choreography of the support crew is as impressive as the feats on stage. 

The advertising by-line bills Speigelworld Empire as “smashing through the borders of comedy, circus, vaudeville and burlesque” –  and yep, it covers all those bases; not really smashing the borders, more like teasing them together for an entertaining evening unlike any other.


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Sexy circus wows audiences

Review by Ann Hunt 28th Nov 2014

This outrageous and hugely entertaining production combines circus, burlesque, comedy and vaudeville, all wrapped up in the beautiful wooden spiegeltent. The front seats are very close to the action which adds to the excitement and sightlines are excellent.

Directed by Terence O’Connell, the 90 minute show rockets along, and some well-placed quieter sequences help keep audience hysteria in check. 

While most music is recorded, vocalist Casey Jamerson and guitarist Andy Bianco perform live throughout. The show features jaw-dropping feats of strength, balance and acrobatic finesse. These are interspersed by raunchy comedy and multiple costume changes from Jonathan Taylor and Anne Goldmann. Subtle they are not. [More]

[Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media]


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Sexy, sumptuous, spectacular

Review by Matt Powell 24th Oct 2014

I recently heard an interview with a magician friend of mine, in which he described how his very first card trick had gone horribly awry. It was supposed to end with him getting the trick ‘wrong’, then revealing the real chosen card in a spectacular fashion. Instead, he accidentally turned over the right card immediately, and his “Is this your card?” was met with a disappointed “To be honest, mate, I’ve seen better tricks.” 

I imagine something similar must be true of circus. It must be possible, surely, to polish a piece to the point of perfection, to find a magical flow where everything looks effortless and the work becomes invisible. 

In that sense, then, the performers I saw tonight were better than flawless.

From the minute we walk into the beautifully appointed Spiegeltent, the performers are all around us, between us, and on top of us, inviting us to play with them as they dance, juggle, take selfies, and suggestively peel carrots. They are testing the boundaries of a fresh audience, yes, but also blurring the line between the show as rehearsed, and the instance of its performance. The stage itself is tiny, but we are drawn into it.

For the rest of the evening, I am on the edge of my seat (often literally), as I find myself torn between “They must have practised that so much, or she’d split her head open,” and “But what if she does, though? What if tonight’s the night?” The occasional stumble or wobble, far from detracting from the magic of the show, only serves to remind us that, as with any live performance, we are all in the room together and anything could happen tonight. 

The show is a loose paean to New York, with just enough Big Apple flavour (pizza boxes, protest signs, and the most unusual Statue of Liberty you’ll ever see) to tie it together without ever tipping over into pandering to the theme. Some acts – such as my personal favourite, the delicate banquine performed by the lingerie-clad Gorilla Girls – don’t seem to be in theme at all, but this is never a detraction. Everything just belongs. 

It’s tempting to gush about every act (because every act is certainly gush-worthy), but a large part of the joy of the evening is the way one is never quite sure what would come next. Happily, what ends up coming next, be it acrobatics or clowning or burlesque or a mixture of all three, always seems to be the very best possible fit: I never find myself wishing I could either skip ahead or still be watching the previous performance. Much of this is due to the bombastic, ribald MCing of Oscar and Fanny (Jonathan Taylor and Anne Goldman), who engage the crowd with an explosive energy like nothing I’ve seen before.

From the show’s delicate aerial opening until everything comes crashing to earth at the end, I am well and truly mesmerised. The opening night crowd, vocal and responsive throughout, are soon on their feet, and the atmosphere as we leave the Spiegeltent is every bit as electric as it was coming in. EMPIRE is a sexy, sumptuous, spectacular show, and if you don’t see it, you’re missing a trick.


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