“C’est La Bouche,” the big closing chorus number of Act 1 of Thrillpeddlers’ “Jewels of Paris,” has the bounce, camaraderie and joy of “Be Our Guest” from “Beauty and the Beast.” Could it be that composer Scrumbly Koldewyn was inspired by the Disney animated classic?
Thrillpeddlers, of course, are anything but G-rated. In all of their productions, the plucky San Francisco troupers champion sin and sex, with private parts abounding in glory. At the same time, the shows gleefully celebrate freedom, humanity and acceptance. Edgy yet somehow nice: It’s a rare tone to achieve.
Perhaps because it’s a revue rather than a musical, “Jewels of Paris” ultimately seems a little less nice than some previous Thrillpeddlers’ shows. The vignettes, tied together only by a sort-of narrator Pierrot (a soulful Birdie-Bob Watt sings “Chic and Tragic”), don’t quite add up to an entirely satisfying experience.
But does it really matter? Individual numbers pack a punch, from the opener “Everyone’s a Genius in Paree Today” _ which introduces art-world revolutionaries Gertrude Stein (Hayley Nystrom), Pablo Picasso (Michael Soldier) Jean Cocteau (J Iness) and Erik Satie (Jack Crow) to Marie Antoinette (Lisa McHenry) and her court (Dee Nathaniel, Christine Kim and Watt) crooning “Let Them Eat Cock.”
Andrew Darling and Steven Satyricon, donned only in chef’s hats and little aprons, actually do, in “Come Eat Me, Eat Me, Eat Me.”
A bare-breasted Nathaniel sexes up the joint as Josephine Baker in “Love Locks Around Continent,” a political number taking on colonialism, yet comes into her own in the solo “But Underneath.”
In another sexy skit about the plight of a sideshow bearded lady, talcum powder flies onto the nude, alabaster body Madame Penumbra (Bruna Palmeiro).
“Cupid’s First Flight,” a too-long journey into classic French theater’s take on Roman mythology, doesn’t fare as well.
Industrious director Russell Blackwood and Andy Wenger show up as unsophisticated Americans Pitt and Patt.
The show’s best vocal talent comes in evocative torch songs by Roxanne RedMeat (“At the Sideshow”) and Noah Haydon, glamorous in jewels and a bright blue gown in “Singer in a Café.”
As in every Thrillpeddlers’ show (and despite the ample nudity), dazzling costumes (designed by Tina Sogliuzzo and Watt) are glitzy and spot-on, wonderfully recreating pivotal eras in French culture.
Off-the-wall, wild, eyebrow- and question-raising, “Jewels of Paris” also is sassy and smart, offering something for demanding art and history buffs and for easy, cheap thrill seekers, too.
Jewels of Paris
Presented by Thrillpeddlers
Where: Hypnodrome, 575 10th St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, closes May 2
Tickets: $30 to $35
Contact: (415) 377-4202, www.hypnodrome.org