Almost 25 years old, the Calypso Cabaret is one of Bangkok’s and Thailand’s oldest ladyboy cabaret shows. For many years it could found be at the Asia Hotel theatre, by the Ratchathewi BTS station, though more recently it has relocated to Bangkok’s latest riverside shopping haven, the Asiatique.
The pride of the ladyboys.
Thailand is well known for its ladyboys and perhaps the best opportunity to watch and admirer them is at such a cabaret shows. Cabaret shows like Calypso illustrate Thailand’s transgendered community in such a positive light, bringing out the full glamour and flamboyancy of the third sex, showcasing their natural beauty and love for performing. For some the fact that these stunning feminine figures on the stage were all born male is entertainment enough (though for most that novelty will soon wear off), while for others there is a chance to be entertained by lots of melodramatic dance moves, fabulous costume changes, and over-the-top lip-syncing.
A new lease of life?
Having been one of Bangkok’s premier ladyboy cabarets for so long, one could say that the relocating to the Asiatique has given Calypso a much needed new lease of life, moving from a somewhat aging hotel to Bangkok’s cool new night shopping hot spot, housed in a purpose built theatre. The pier side location also takes the show away from the hustle and bustle of central Bangkok, to the breezy riverfront, surrounded by over 1500 boutique shops, restaurants, and the Joe Louis Puppet Theatre. So far the Asiatique has proven to be a hit among both the tourist and locals of Bangkok, which has certainly not hurt the Calypso Cabaret.
The new modern Calypso theatre is in stark contrast to the classic Asia Hotel theatre where the show was housed for so long. Gone are the heavy red curtains, moody lighting, and small table and chairs, here you’ll find a much slicker and chic auditorium, with clean white tables and chairs catering to much larger groups, and more intimate seating along the balconies, and a split level stage which allows the show’s choreography to be that bit more flamboyant (not that it needed it!).
Despite the brand new location and change of theatre the show is still based around lots of old routines and musical numbers, with many of the dance numbers simply adapted to take into account the additional level of the stage. That said it is still entertaining and the vast majority of the audience are likely to be first time viewers.
Memorable acts include a Marilyn Monroe impersonator, a series of Madonna lookalikes, and an all-action rendition of ‘all that jazz’ including a full stage of high kicking and hat waggling. The show also embraces the international audience, with routines including Chinese ballads, Korean pop, and an epic Japanese geisha routine. Though, it’s not just about lip-syncing, dancing, and costume changes, there are also plenty of slapstick moments which may just get you giggling.
The effort alone is worth a visit.
Not everyone will enjoy the show, but then not everyone will enjoy a ladyboy cabaret show period. This isn’t classic theatre, at least not in the classical sense, nor is it really that shocking or culturally eye-opening, once you get over the fact that these beautiful girls are actual guys the performances can be a little cheesy at best. However, it shouldn’t be difficult to admire the athleticism and energy levels of these performers who are acting and dancing in high heels under bright lights for up to 3 performances per day 7 days per week! The best word of warning is to come here with low hopes. If you come expecting some lighthearted entertainment and a few drinks and giggles, with a side order of boutique shopping and a walk along the promenade, you won’t be too disappointed.
The easiest and most interesting way to get here is via the free shuttle boat, which you can catch at the Saphan Taksin pier, close to the BTS station of the same name. It’s only a ten minute journey from pier to pier, with boats running from 4.430 PM to 11.30PM.