It may not seem hip and it certainly isnt trendy, but a trip to see the National Restaurants weekend show is well worthwhile. Located in the heart of Brighton Beach, the National is one of several on the strip that puts on elaborate stage and floor shows as part of a night out, which includes the three Ds: dancing, dining and drinking. The Nationals nightclub/catering hall has the elegance of a palace with a French motif. Giant chandeliers accentuate the dance floor and dining area, and masquerade faces with green eyes adorn the gold and brown walls. Tom, the photographer for the evening, and I were seated by our waiter, Igor, given two plates of hors doeuvres, including one with smoked meats and the other with smoked fish. Meanwhile, a five-piece band took the large, well-lighted stage and began playing a mix of Russian, Spanish, European and American songs. One by one, the band was joined on stage by four female and two male dancer and singers. As the music played, the dance floor became flooded with those out for a night of revelry. Meanwhile Tom and I were served a bottle of excellent Merlot, and three salads were brought to the table in white bowls that tipped toward the plate, making the effort to scoop the fresh greens and toppings downright simple. The salads included a Caesar with calamari, a Greek with feta and chopped tomatoes and cucumbers, and a healthy vinaigrette with morsels of fruit and walnuts. At this point, the curtain to the large stage went down for an intermission before the stage show was to begin, and we were served plump shrimp that burst with flavor along with tortellini cheese pasta in a white sauce. This intermission also gave me the opportunity to go to the lobby and speak with Sofia Vinokurov, who, as co-owner along with other family members, came to Brighton Beach 30 years ago. Brighton Beach is completely different now. Its more like Manhattan, said Vinokurov. Theres been a lot of changes. Theres more kids now and younger people, she added, introducing me to her grand-niece and nephew, two young teenagers. I feel more American since I was born here, but I will never lose my heritage, said Brian Furleiter, 13, who like his cousin, Jena Rakhman, also 13, comes to the club every weekend for dinner with their family. Back in the nightclub, the show started with an excellent dance number featuring the four women and two male dancers, all dressed in white feathered chorus-type costumes. The show then broke into a variety of song and dance numbers with beautiful and elaborate costumes. In many of the numbers, such as The Flight of the Bumblebee, large video screens were shown behind the performers. Among the more pleasing offerings was a cute sailor number that could have taught the new burlesque movement a trick or two, a funny gypsy number with outlandish peasant costumes, and a good song and dance cover of La Bamba. All told, the entertainment spanned a great cultural and historical divide, and was performed with strong technique. The performers clearly exhibited a sense of freedom, and made me realize that freedom is not merely a political concept. The one American singer/dancer in the show was Roxanne Freedove Price, who is originally from New Orleans, and after a two-year stint in San Francisco, came to New York City five years ago. Price showcased a strong set of pipes in such songs as I Will Survive. Meanwhile, Tom and I were feted with a tray of tasty beef, and chicken treats with a spicy red sauce. While Tom enjoyed a flaky pastry for dessert, I found a chance to talk to Freedove. I answered an ad [in Show Business magazine] and got this job, and since then Ive been part of the Russian community and Im like a staple here, said Freedove, who now makes her home in Sheepshead Bay, and said her family in New Orleans avoided the recent hurricane. Its like my second home and second culture here, if you know what I mean, she added. Freedove is about to release a single she just did with Duran Duran, which is a remake of John Lennons Instant Karma as part of Amnesty Internationals Music for Human Rights series. For more information on her, log onto www.freedove.com The National Restaurant and catering hall is also available for weddings, anniversaries and other special events. Stage shows are Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, but call ahead as the place may be booked for a private party. For the Russian menu, the cover is $50 plus 10 percent gratuity on Friday and Sunday; and $65 plus 10 percent on Saturday. The French menu is $65 plus 10 percent the entire weekend. Expect to leave the National pleasingly satiated no matter which menu you choose. The National is located at 273 Brighton Beach Avenue and the phone number (718) 646-1225. For more information, visit www.come2national.com or email email@example.com.
©2006 Community News Group
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