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The sight of a woman hula-hooping with a drink balanced on the top of her head is something you might expect to see in the wee hours at the end of a party (if ever), but at Thursday's opening-night party for Cry-Baby, the Broadway musical based on the John Waters film, this stunt actually took place before the celebration had even started.
And that kind of sums up the spirit of the evening, produced by Classic Entertainment Group at Mansion, for more than 800 guests fresh from seeing the show. The company, hired by the show's producer Adam Epstein Productions, meticulously re-created the vibrant, kitschy world of the 1950s spawned by Waters's brain: On the venue's first floor, CEG brought to life the rough and tumble home to the cool kids, Turkey Point, while the more refined environs and denizens of the R.S.V.P. Charm School took over the club's upper level.
Regardless of which world guests found themselves in, whimsical and period-specific details could be found at every turn, often in the form of vignettes attendees could visit to score goodies to fill their Cry-Baby-branded bags. (Pitch-perfect actors in costume merrily hammed it up as they doled out the swag.)
In Turkey Point, the Makeout Booth distributed piles of Altoids mints and gum, and a Makeover station provided gussying-up, temporary tattoos, and handfuls of makeup from Tarte Cosmetics. Bad boys and bad girls (go-go dancers in prison outfits) flanked the dance floor, which was situated under massive globe chandeliers and a giant disco ball, while bobby-soxers jitterbugged to a soundtrack of classic '50s tunes on the floor itself. The Baltimore Bomber Bar nearby served drinks for both the cool kids (ice-cold beer in a cup, Lucid Absinthe cocktails) and the squares (champagne, chardonnay, merlot).
Upstairs, interactive vignettes included the Hula Hoop Challenge, which rewarded participants with coupons for the Treats Truck, which dispensed homemade '50s-era cookies outside the venue; Prom Night 1954, where guests could be photographed in front of cutouts of formal dresses and tuxes (and later retrieve the shots at CryBabyOnBroadway.com), and the Tastykake Bake Sale, which featured prim church ladies quizzing attendees on the musical and rewarding correct answers with family-size boxes of the confections.
“We look at everything as if we're producing a TV show,” said Classic Entertainment Group partner Jimmy Floyd, whose company does, in fact, also produce television shows. “It's important to us to carry the entertainment on through the entire evening. It's not just about watching [the performers] have fun.”
Countless other details abounded, including catering reflecting the two worlds of Cry-Baby. Maternal, hairnet- and-daisy-covered-smock-wearing lunch ladies dished out classic comfort food such as authentic Betty Crocker “surprise meatloaf” (the center of each slice included a hard-boiled egg), macaroni and cheese, tater tots, and Spam paté onto cardboard lunch trays.
Across the way, food in the spirit of the charm school sat atop tiered, crystal-draped trays, and servers in chefs hats offered crab puffs, tea sandwiches, assorted canapés, and more. The Turkey Point food stations' popularity created a nearly impassable bottleneck in a central corridor of the venue, which resulted in some badly needed traffic direction by staffers and the opening of additional exits for those attempting to leave.
The reigning spirit of the evening was one of fun and celebration, creating a party where, in true Waters-esque fashion, no one was a freak. Even a casual scan of the space produced a scene of a tumescent transsexual, a regal aging drag queen, baby boomers dancing old-school-style, and David Byrne hula-hooping. At the center of it all was Waters himself, eschewing what was by far the least-inspired zone of the party—the V.I.P. area—to circulate through the crowd instead.