It’s a familiar Las Vegas scene: dancers wearing little fill a stage and preen for tips from an audience brandishing sweet-talk and singles.
For this show, though, those tips don’t pad the dancers’ paychecks. They are tax-deductable donations to a charity that has raised more than $6.5 million to help provide services for those living with HIV and AIDS.
Broadway Cares figures that it’s much more appealing to give a donation to a girl in high-heels and a G-string than to, say, a guy dressed up as Santa Claus who is assaulting auditory senses with a bell.
For the first time, the hit striptease show “Broadway Bares” came to Las Vegas after being established in New York City for nearly 20 years. Created in 1992 by Jerry Mitchell, the show incorporates performers from Broadway.
Now the Strip is included as well and has raised $6.5 million since its inception for the organization Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS (BC/EFA.)
“Broadway Bares” originated from the idea that audiences would flock to a performance featuring familiar Broadway performers in a context outside of their show. A striptease revue was born, drawing standing-room-only audiences and eventually spawning the Las Vegas hit “Peepshow,” featuring Holly Madison, as a side project.
The Las Vegas premier of the show, performed at the Chi Showroom at Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino on May 23, proved that Vegas audiences support the strip-for-substance idea as much as their counterparts in the Big Apple.
The showroom was packed with tourists and locals alike, some enticed solely by the emcees Holly Madison and Josh Strickland. Many of those in attendance were cast in shows themselves; talk of rehearsals and recent performances could be easily overheard as professionals came to support their fellow cast members.
The show began with a parody of a lost New Yorker looking for the A train who, directed by Strickland, got on the N train (“the naughty train”) instead. Jeans, a back-pack and about everything else were shucked throughout some serious hip-hop choreography, ending with a strategically placed map and a howling crowd.
The variety and intensity exploded from the beginning, illustrating the talent, technique and sex appeal of performers and choreographers alike. Pacing was effective and surprising, starting with the signature production number from “Peepshow,” which lent a sense of cohesion to an otherwise wide-ranging show.
Straight-ahead sexiness was well represented, pulsing through numbers like “X-Rated,” performed by The Ladies of Vixxens; “Gonna B Ur Bad Girls,” featuring dancers from Sin City Bad Girls; “Touch Me,” with performers from “La Reve;” and the raging “Burn it to the Ground.”
“Feedback” was sexy, sexy, sexy, and Giselle Rarinca in “Not Myself Tonight” demonstrated that strutting solo can have as much power as being part of a posse.
“Why?,” with performers from “Viva Elvis,” displayed strong technique through clean turns and tight first positions (among other things.)
On the sweet side, members of the cast of “The Lion King” purred with feline sexiness in “Free Kittens,” a short and syrupy number at the top of the show. Even the men tried “feminine” on for size in “If I Were a Girl,” which ended with guys in garters by the end of the piece.
For the audience participation obligatory to a strip show, “Reverse Strip” featured a handsy Chippendale in a towel. The challenge? Get him dressed!
A Midwestern-looking audience member was charged with the task, proving that putting pants on can be as risqué as taking them off. (The Midwestern good-sport mentality will, apparently, remain steadfast through travails of all types.)
Tighty whiteys can be sexy, it turns out.
So can role-playing, although you might already know that. The allure of bars, red cars and gangsters was demonstrated in “Fantasy,” one of the more theatrical numbers in the show.
Choreographed by Saleemah E. Knight, the piece was performed by Knight, William Credell, Joe Rivera and Andrew Arrington. A threesome dominated the story, accented by a fierce funk choreography and an affronted bartender that eventually joined the party.
The audience was periodically reminded of the uniqueness of the show with numbers like “Fantasy,” and “I Gotcha,” with performers from “Zumanity.”
It was obvious that these performers were experienced in more than burlesque and the melding of extreme sensuality with their own strengths was the differentiating factor between “Broadway Bares” and other headliners.
“Vessel,” one of the first numbers in the show, brought a velvety ambiance signature to “La Reve” and was chill-inducing for the audience. Hand-balancing acts illustrated the functionality of chiseled physiques and it was a credit to the women onstage that the audience was paying attention to them as well.
More subtle sensuality meandered through several pieces, with Sin City Comedy’s Dorimar Bonilla displaying classic burlesque at its quintessential best. Draped over an upright bass laid on its side, Bonilla languished in a red special and a black fedora and brought an interlude of depth and smoky class.
Novelty was also in no short supply, but it didn’t come in a meter-high glass or on a key-chain with the iconic Vegas sign. “Good Mornin’” began with three couples under three respective sheets, taking the teasing to the floor and making the audience wonder what, exactly, is going on beneath the covers.
“Mr. & Mrs. G Crossbow Striptease,” featuring performers from the Viper Vixens, topped the list of gasp-inducers. A sashaying dancer was adorned in giant white balloons, playing the target for her male counterpart and his crossbow and making strategic balloon placement necessary.
The number ended with a role reversal, with the de-ballooned Vixen bearing the crossbow and taking aim at the one long balloon of her partner.
Atmospherically, the show was interesting. Perhaps because of the one-night-only appearance, “Broadway Bares” surged with a sense of freedom, accentuated by a crowd largely made up of those who know what it’s like to be onstage.
Tipping at the end of the show was a generous affair, likely because every cent made during the production is donated to BC/EFA.
It also might have had something to do with the fact that sliding money into dancers’ costumes strip-club style counted as tipping.
Bottom line: Take beautiful bodies. Combine with flaming choreography, expert skill and a good cause and mix well. A genuinely incredible show will result.