Miracle at 34th St. and 290: The London Opera Debut of Houston’s Pleasures Cabaret

The synopsis of the new opera based on the life of Anna Nicole Smith is under embargo until performances at the Royal Opera House begin on February 17th. But judging from the released video trailer (below), it’s likely the production will also feature the London stage debut of the former Gigi’s Cabaret on the 290 feeder road just across 34th St. from the Northbrook Shopping Center in Houston (or more probably its interior), where in 1991 the former Walmart and Red Lobster employee had the extremely good fortune of meeting the greatest sugar daddy of them all, billionaire J. Howard Marshall II. Both Smith and Gigi’s later underwent renovations and name changes: Smith from her original Vickie Lynn Hogan; Gigi’s more recently to Pleasures. But how realistic will the portrayals be? Will set designer Miriam Buether’s version get the Houston strip club’s stage and runway areas right?


In case you were wondering, the libretto of Anna Nicole is the work of Richard Thomas, one of the co-authors of the 2003 opera Jerry Springer (“famous for its profanities, dysfunctional characters, and surreal images of American pop culture,” gush the Royal Opera House’s publicists), which starred Harvey Keitel in its New York debut. Anna Nicole itself will feature “extreme language and drug abuse” and — according to reports — the requisite wheelchair sex scene. And of course, death: “It’s hardly unknown in opera for the morally suspect soprano to die in the last scene,” the opera’s British composer, Mark-Anthony Turnage, tells the Guardian: “Originally we weren’t going to have Anna Nicole’s son, Daniel, who himself died of an overdose before his mother did, singing. But then towards the end I gave him this aria, which is just a huge list of drugs.” (No, that’s not Turnage’s music in the video.) The role of Daniel’s mother will be sung by Dutch soprano Eva-Maria Westbroek (in photo above).

Photos: Candace Garcia (Pleasures); Royal Opera House (Westbroek). Video: Royal Opera House.

4 Comment

  • Suggested title for the opera: “Stern und Jugs”.

  • I’ll make sure to bring plenty of one dollars!!!!

  • You’re kidding, right?

  • I might be the only one, but I found the attached clip strangely moving. I scoffed at the notion of Anna Nicole’s life being played out as an opera– but if anyone’s life is befitting a soaring aria, it is certainly Anna Nicole, in the hospital having just given birth to her daughter, waking to find her son, dead, slumped in his chair. Now that is tragedy.