Colorful lights, a merry-go-round, the sound of children? Alexander McQueen's mise-en-scène brought to mind family trips, fun and games, and maybe a couple of lighthearted mimes.

But once the lights went down and the blaring soundtrack began, it became perfectly clear that there was nothing even remotely candy-coated about his lascivious carnival crashers. Cavorting and gyrating around poles, a posse of hard-as-nails girls took over the stage wearing shiny patent-leather jackets and jeans, scalloped coats and skirts, S&M overcoats, skintight leather pants and ornate military jackets that would've put Napoleon to shame. A nearly naked princess turned up in little more than a feathered headdress, a net gown and a few chains; her cohorts wore frayed sweaters with giant skulls and bones, and long suit jackets that became dresses as they wrapped around the body and then draped at the side.

When the frantic pace finally slowed down, it was to reveal an eerie backdrop of gigantic stuffed animals, discarded dolls, puppets, balloons and ragged circus paraphernalia, out of which several macabre characters emerged, wearing massive ruffles, centuries-old suits and beat-up lace. The perfect accessory? One of McQueen's otherworldly creatures dragged around a golden skeleton with her foot.