A venue with an ambitious take on entertainment is slated to open in the spot last occupied by the now-closed Maplewood branch of the Jive & Wail (7376 Manchester Road, Maplewood). Called the Jumpin' Jupiter, it's being dubbed a "neo-supper club" by its owner, Jim Callahan.
"We specialize in unique, Las Vegas-style entertainment, everything from variety acts to circus acts to, like, classy burlesque," he says via phone from Colorado, where he was purchasing some kitchen equipment for the venue.
The Jumpin' Jupiter's main attraction indeed will be a Friday and Saturday night supper show, which will feature a cocktail hour, a five-course meal and a two-hour variety show. Preliminary pricing for the ticketed event is $59.95 a person, with drinks extra. Callahan stresses that it's not what you might expect from traditional dinner theater.
"If you say dinner theater, it sounds like you're attracting sixty year olds and up," he says, and adds, "The difference is at any given time, it'll never feel stuffy, it won't feel like a place that you feel uncomfortable or have to necessarily behave in."
Indeed, while the show itself will change monthly, the basic premise will remain focused on theatrical, stylish entertainment.
"We'll have a variety of acts that'll come in - jugglers and fire eaters and circus acts and dancers and comedians and magicians," he explains. "But they'll be done in a more hip, cool, edgy way for a new generation, as opposed to something from the '70s or something." He laughs. "Las Vegas is doing really cool stuff now that's really edgy, and it's fun."
The supper show will also feature a "six- or seven-piece" live band that Callahan says will be "extremely versatile" in what it performs. "One moment you might hear an accordion with a violin arrangement, the next one you might hear a big-band swing thing," he says. "Because of the nature of the show, it's going to call for a lot of those kind of things."
Israel Rodriguez (a.k.a. Chef Izzy), who was recently at the now-shuttered SLeeK at Lumiere Place, is the one tasked with "custom-design[ing] a meal around the theme of the show," Callahan says. "Right now we're going with a neutral theme, but we may later go on with a gourmet barbecue or we might go with an Indian flavor or we might go with an Asian motif, where the show reflects it in a kitschy kind of manner."
Callahan notes that local burlesque performer Lola Van Ella is helping the venue "custom-design" shows and book some of the talent. The Jumpin' Jupiter performers will also be local, at least at first - although he says they might be recruiting regional and national performers as the venue progresses.
The location of the Jumpin' Jupiter:
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Post-supper-show, Callahan says the Jumpin' Jupiter will turn into a "really chic, entertainment-based nightclub" that will feature music and more late-night-type performances; according to him, you might see things such as fire-eaters, a dance group, jugglers, contortionists or sword-swallowers. When the venue expands its hours and days of operation - it'll only be open from Thursday to Saturday at first - Callahan envisions it as more of a traditional music venue for local bands or touring acts. A Sunday gospel brunch is also in the works.
Callahan also owns Midtown's Jupiter Studios, and says he's been interested in expanding the scope of that business for a while now. "We thought expanding into live entertainment was the best way to do it," he says. A possible venue in a for-sale Central West End church didn't pan out: "We just couldn't put the whole thing together," he says. "It's sill up in the air, but [the space is] just too big." Neither did a 2009 attempt to re-open a music venue under the name Mississippi Nights, which was to be located in the Laclede Power Building. Besides the fact that it turns out they didn't have the rights to use the Mississippi Nights name, the public outcry at the move made him lose interest.
"I genuinely thought I was doing St. Louis a favor by re-bringing back Mississippi Nights," Callahan says. "I thought, 'Everybody loves this, they want to keep this tradition going,' but there was such a backlash, I was like, 'Oh, I guess my assumption was wrong.'"
If anything, the Jumpin' Jupiter is what Callahan's always wanted to do; he just took a circuitous route to get there.
"My true inspiration came from watching The Mask and [Who Framed] Roger Rabbit? and seeing these venues that looked like old-school, Las Vegas-gangster-type places," he says. "They would have little lamps and tablecloths and be watching this entertainment. I always thought, 'That is so cool. I want to do that!'"
Capacity of the Jumpin' Jupiter is 200 seated, 400 standing. The venue is scheduled to open in early June, with a soft open over Memorial Day weekend. Ticket prices for non-supper-club shows vary; Callahan estimates that local music shows could be $5, $10 or $15.
"Our slogan is, live entertainment, food, drinks and chaos," Callahan says. "Our philosophy for the show is, you just never know what's going to happen next. All the waitresses may come out in Indian headdresses, beating pots and pans. Or dessert may be served on sparklers while there's fire-eaters on stage --or a trapeze person may grab a table or contortionist and do some kind of crazy act right there."