There is no shortage of fun to be had and places to explore at Theatre Bizarre’s choose-your-own-adventure, carnivalesque celebration at Detroit’s Masonic Temple, hailed by many as the “greatest masquerade on earth.”
The yearly fully-immersive event, centered around Halloween season, takes place over the course of two weekends in October with a formal Preview Gala on both Fridays and a larger, main event on both Saturdays. With eight floors, 55 spaces and more than 250,000 square feet of room, it’s impossible to take everything in in just one night.
If you want to try, though, here are the 10 best things we saw and would recommend checking out if you’re attending the event’s second weekend:
The Preview Gala: Launching off Theatre Bizarre was an exclusive, 350-guest masquerade preview gala on Friday night that took guests through the event floor-by-floor in a traveling parade. There was a strolling dinner that leaned Asian fusion, burlesque performances and a giant dessert spread that even included a “donut wall.” The gala will once again take place this Friday with tickets available for purchase.
Roxi D’Lite x Messer Chups live performance act: Hailing all the way from St. Petersburg, Russia, Messer Chups—an experimental band that leans surf rock, reverb and Halloween vibes—coincidentally connected with the burlesque star in Vegas. Not only did they agree to play three out of four nights of Theatre Bizarre, in a live show/live performance mashup with D’Lite, but they formed an entire U.S. tour around it — their first in decades. Messer Chups’ spooky sound was the perfect background to D’Lite’s devil-themed performance, which went as far as drinking and spitting out fake blood.
The Bad Girl of Burlesque Roxi D'Lite performs before
The Bad Girl of Burlesque Roxi D'Lite performs before a large crowd during Theatre Bizarre at Masonic Temple October 14, 2017. (Photo: Christopher M. Bjornberg, Special to the Free Press)
Zombo’s Ice Cream Parlor: It was the chillest respite from the heat of the Masonic, which, being an old structure, doesn’t cool down very well. The ice cream parlor served three flavors: “The Zombo,” a pumpkin-spiced and gingersnap ice cream with dark chocolate and bourbon (our personal favorite); the “Green Fairy,” a mint chocolate chip absinthe ice cream; and the “Bloody Valentine,” a blood orange Valentine Vodka sorbet. Yes, all three were highly boozy.
Tricks and Treats were the theme at Zombo's Ice Cream
Tricks and Treats were the theme at Zombo's Ice Cream Parlor, October 14, 2017. (Photo: Christopher M. Bjornberg, Special to the Free Press)
The Ghost Train: It was worth the long wait if you were patient and made it through. Theatre Bizarre’s Ghost Train took guests on the ride of a lifetime through a pitch black seventh floor room illuminated by strobe lights. It was like something out of a horror movie but still so fun you couldn’t help but laugh the entire time. Led along by a maniacal driver, guests held on while they zoomed through the unknown.
Railroad Mike greets guests to the Ghost Train ride
Railroad Mike greets guests to the Ghost Train ride at Theatre Bizarre October 14, 2017. (Photo: Christopher M. Bjornberg, Special to the Free Press)
The candy corn: Boy oh boy was there lots of candy corn scattered across Theatre Bizarre. More than a whopping ton of it, in fact. For anyone who wanted a quick, sweet snack, every table, every installation was covered in mounds of the stuff. It was easy to sneak away with a quick handful to munch on throughout the night. (We think candy corn is underrated.)
A mix of Candy Corn and Candy were a part of the table
A mix of Candy Corn and Candy were a part of the table decorations at Theatre Bizarre 2017. (Photo: Christopher M. Bjornberg, Special to the Free Press)
The clowns: Strolling through the floors were several sneaky clowns that would stop at nothing to trick you and make you laugh. One hopped into our car as we pulled up to the Preview Gala Friday night, another pulled coins from behind our ears when we were least expecting it. They’d follow you in the elevator, crack jokes, pull pranks and all around cause upheaval but in the most entertaining way possible.
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Scary clowns at Theatre Bizarre October 14, 2017.
Scary clowns at Theatre Bizarre October 14, 2017. (Photo: Christopher M. Bjornberg, Special to the Free Press)
A revamped Asylum: Finally acquiring full blueprints to the Masonic’s chapel room for the first time, Theatre Bizarre creator John Dunivant was able to create a brand new stage buildup. Flanking either side were 27-foot-tall sword-wielding devil goats, with blue stalagmites surrounding the area. It added a hellish satirical twist to the chapel room, which is entirely holy with a giant cross hanging dead-center in the middle of the space, also the exact center-point of the Masonic Temple.
The Asylum room featured an elaborate stage setup during
The Asylum room featured an elaborate stage setup during Theatre Bizarre 2017. (Photo: Christopher M. Bjornberg, Special to the Free Press)
The Crystal Ballroom: As the gathering point of it all, the expansive Crystal Ballroom was one of the event’s most done-up rooms. Featuring carnival games like Down-A-Clown and Poison Darts, where you could win stuffed Zombo punk toys, a giant dance floor and a stage for live shows and performances, it was a space to walk around in and marvel at the decor—the Crystal Ballroom was the equivalent of a 1930s dance hall.
The Crystal Ballroom at Theatre Bizarre 2017.
The Crystal Ballroom at Theatre Bizarre 2017. (Photo: Christopher M. Bjornberg, Special to the Free Press)
Fountain Ballroom: It was the place to boogie the night away in your costume. Featuring top Detroit DJs including Mike Agent X Clark, Erno the Inferno and more, things got groovy in the Fountain Ballroom, where dance music was fused with new wave and classic spooky theme songs like John Carpenter’s “Halloween.” What’s better than watching people dressed as Stormtroopers break down their favorite dance moves?
Fistotorium: The fetish-themed room was the ultimate people-watching experience. Moved from it’s old location, the new and completely expanded Fistotorium lies on the event’s sixth floor in what was formerly a cafeteria-style dining room unused for three decades. The Theatre Bizarre team discovered the room and gutted it out to turn it into a new event space. We can’t describe the room in a PG-13 way, so you’ll need to see it for yourself.
Ashley Zlatopolsky is a Detroit-based journalist. You can follow her on Twitter at @ashley_detroit.