With a gritty ’70s vibe and a pulsating disco beat, creator Robert Siegel (The Wrestler) is opening the Pandora’s Box of sexual liberation in Welcome to Chippendales, his new original series, streaming January 11 on Disney+.
It’s a skillfully produced and dynamically styled immersion into the world of Somen “Steve” Banerjee (Kumail Nanjiani), founder of America’s first female-only strip club.
Produced by Emily V. Gordon (Little America) and Kumail Nanjiani (The Eternals), Welcome to Chippendales follows Steve Banerjee from gas station salesman to strip club owner with a concise narrative. He delves deep into the connections, coincidences, and inspirational bits of entrepreneurship that ultimately make up an empire.
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As writer Robert Siegel and director Matt Shakman (WandaVision) shape these opening episodes, you’re drawn into this uninhibited world as you watch first Paul Snider (Dan Stevens) and then Nick De Noia (Murray Bartlett) join the venture. One is a charlatan who makes baseless promises, while the other adds Emmy-winning panache to proceedings with expert choreography.
With an air of creative revolution happening on the fringes of this show, as directors like Peter Bogdanovich (Philip Shahbaz), Welcome to Chippendales seems to capture a specific moment in time. However, when Paul Snider and his Playboy roommate Dorothy Stratton (Nicola Peltz Beckham) fall sideways, this expansive dramatization soon takes another intriguing turn.
Gone was the tempestuous Snider with his unsavory introductions and petty jealousies, only to be replaced by his love for Irene Annaleigh Ashford. Steve’s businesswoman, voice of reason and future wife expects stability from her when his venture quickly becomes a California phenomenon. It’s an addition that will soon bring Nick De Noia’s costume designer and wingman Denise (Juliette Lewis) to the team.
What becomes obvious as the series progresses, aside from pioneering the revelation of male objectification as big business, is how successful the show is with its excellent cast. Kumail Nanjiani gives his best career turn as razor-sharp Steve Banerjee, using a combination of handsome depreciation and ruthless alpha male tactics when required.
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Elsewhere, Dan Stevens makes an impressive start as Paul Snider – opposite Nicola Peltz Beckham’s Dorothy Stratton – leaving no scenery untouched every time he appears on screen. Compared to him, his platinum blonde playmate is both modest and gentile, alongside a mass of masculine insecurities that he effortlessly overshadows.
However, Murray Bartlett’s Nick De Noia is undoubtedly the one people will remember from these credits. As an Emmy Award-winning choreographer on the brink of collapse, there’s quite a bit of pathos in this production. As a bisexual man at the height of the 1970s sexual revolution, his character from opportunistic grifter to disgruntled creative force is riveting.
There’s a hint of Boogie Nights in the period-specific set design, not to mention Bob Fosse’s All That Jazz and the uneven charm of A Chorus Line in these early dance auditions. Murray Bartlett teams up with Kumail Nanjiani for a creative clash of these character actors as Welcome to Chippendales builds to a crescendo.
As the influence of this pioneering men’s revue reaches New York and Chippendales begins to resemble a global brand, Robert Siegel controls every ounce of drama. At this point, this Disney+ original morphs into a full-blown character study as tragedy threatens to undo everything Steve Banerjee has built so far.
While Banerjee is in India trying to reconcile his cultural responsibilities with his success abroad, Irene is encouraged to break free. Immersed in the culture of the cocaine era, Nick and Denise manage to create a professional rift that will never truly heal.
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By all accounts, this dramatization adapted from the book Deadly Dance: The Chippendales Murders by Patrick MontesDeOca and K. Scott McDonald screams quality. While the subject matter may reek of 1970s exploitative kitsch, this show also celebrates innovation over the odds – the defining feature of the American Dream, which aims to convince anyone with drive and ambition that they can achieve greatness.
Plus, Welcome to Chippendales is another example of a TV drama that really benefits from this way of storytelling. As film and TV take their first tentative steps in 2023, viewers can take comfort in the fact that Disney+ and its subsidiaries have their finger on the pulse of creativity.
With the release of The Last of Us just a week later and the arrival of Rian Johnson’s Pokerface on the horizon, this year already promises to exceed expectations.
Welcome to Chippendales is available to stream on Disney+ starting January 11.
Watch the trailer below.