The key to any great farce is the balancing of characters that are quite off the wall but retain a sense of highly tuned intelligence that see the world in an utterly different way. “Gator A Go Go” [Tim Dorsey/William Morrow/352 pgs] understands its identity in very specific order through its perception of Florida as an ideal. Like Carl Haissen, who also hails from the state, the aspect becomes one of the surrealist but ultimately humorous perception of life positioning itself between the beach and the swamp. This book, which comes off as perfectly suited for film, comes off as a Macgyver-like romp of two men: Serge and Coleman who are like the space cadets of everything extreme. It is their perception of life which undeniably powers the book’s energy. The beginning starts off with a bit of posturing as to who these men really are and, ultimately, the organized crime background that serves as the motivation for the plot is fairly standard. However, it is the out-thinking and actions of Serge against various combatants and interactions with his compatriots that is completely above average. He is like a commando of leisure who is able to outwit federal agents not because they are inept but because they have agendas of their own. Serge is fun and along with two MILF type party girls along for the ride in the visage of Country and City, the abilities and thwarting of sniper hits and the blowing up of small hotels becomes almost commonplace. The violence is comical and lacking of a certain weight which at times beguiles the circumstances but when one adds the actions such as a carnival setting of hair on fire as a torture mechanism or the heroes of the story being thrown out of a hotel for doing a cannonball into a pool off a 4th story balcony, the irony is just paradoxical eneugh to work. What sells the idea too is that these two older men, still running 100 miles an hour, can show up in Panama City at Spring Break and (especially with Coleman) become the King Of The Party in an age of ADD. That is a feat and comes across as believable because ultimately this guy is crazier than all the kids are. The novel mixes aspects of “Burn Notice” perceptions and humor with angles of “The Blues Brothers” and “The Cannonball Run”. And, while there are glimmers of the kind of world that made “Striptease” a fun read, “Gator”, through the characters of Coleman and Spence, has an energy all its own. Out of 5, I give it a 3.
“Peep Show” is a paradox in a sea of chaos. The publicity blitz behind this new show at the Planet Hollywood Hotel & Casino teases at what the show might be. What it is is a throwback to what old Vegas used to revel in: an adult show that keys into what Vegas was originally loved for but made modern.
In making the show into the essence of fairy tales mixed with club beats and elements of burlesque, the show truly hits is mark. The show is actually and possibly a little too progressive for its audience. The show that this reminds me of is actually the cool club burlesque shows that I used to see back in NYC in the early 90s at El Flamingo in Chelsea mixing everything that was cool and modern. Unlike the equally ravishing and former “Le Femme” where it is all about watching voyeuristically, “Peep Show” brings you into the fun. The girls respond when they know you are enjoying the performance. Mel B works well as the Mistress Of Ceremonies because she can interact with the audience with her personality which sometimes is lost on entertainers in Vegas in today’s age. Possibly the shortcoming of the show is how early it plays. This is a 10:30pm show catered to the young with gusto.
As a spectator I was applauding and encouraging the performers at all points to their chagrin as were a couple girls two rows behind me. I can see this show as being one where people stand up and dance but that didn’t happen which was surprising. It has that energy and the performers seem really into it. Even though Kelly Monaco is fairly quiet throughout the performance, her impact is there in playing the innocence. In all fairness, her body and the way she plays it out to the end is stellar and unbelievably sexy. Her pouting as a Cirque like hunk dunks himself in a bathtub of water equals anything seen in “Zumanity”.
Another wonderful balance was the inclusion of Josh Strickland who grounds the entire show. Most will remember him as a finalist from “American Idol” a couple years back. For men, he doesn’t intimidate within the settings but his voice is phenomenal and rich framing the piece like a Tom Jones with the beauty around him lending an undeniable grace and showmanship that is cool but not grandstanding. Belting out some of the notes while a girls writhe and sultrily flow through the scenes makes the show at times rapturous.
The framing of a pumpkin with Josh sitting atop singing offering a beautiful Russian girl in green who eventually ends up working a steel pole encourages the fire. In a wraparound fashion with girls in similar progressions on either side of the stage, the Russian brunette strips down with knowing playfulness. I had heard that the show had elements of what made “Moulin Rouge” [the real one and the movie one] so intrinsic. It does this by melding music both contemporary (Madonna’s club hit “Hung Up”) to new pieces like “Pink” which had a supposed audience member tied up on a bed and ravished by many of the women, again in playful but assertive fashion.
However one of the most showstopping numbers that upped the energy had the back light of the girls all in silouette being brought to forefront straddling wooden saddle-like props. The visceral nature of it was great, with the girls in full bloom and aware. The lead performer in the front eventual straddles a swing while stripteasing as it swings back and forth above you. This was too much for some of the audience members behind me to handle. However a couple of us (including yours truly) were clapping along with the beat.
The eventual reveal of Kelly Monaco in her full glory plays to that ultimate Olivia Newton John fantasy from “Grease”: from good girl to bad girl with a little good still left inside, the paradox of all. For men and women, this is a great show as long as you get it and go with the flow. The enthusiasm here is unbelievable and you can tell all the performers very much enjoy it. You definitely get that. And the fact of the reveal that this is actually a topless show in the nouveau style (which “La Femme” encompassed as well) has the girls actually not wearing pasties which always seems a cop out anyway. It is all about the tease which is apparent in a cheerleader girl sequence as well as a dance sequence where the girls are barely covered by silken threads that bounce up as they are dancing. It is sexy and alluring because of that. Not too much but just enough to keep the blood flowing. Apparently, the pasties were there just a couple weeks ago but the ante was upped to make the “au naturale”. The show is all the better for it because the show knows itself and embraces it. Granted Monaco and Mel B don’t go inflagrante but they get as close as possible. The performers here all go for the gusto. They could have played it safe but they push the edge both musically, dancewise and edgewise in terms of sensuality. But it all adds up to a energetic experience that right now is fairly singular on the Strip.
After the show, talking to one of the floor managers, it was interesting to hear the responses of different audiences. It is perfect for bachelor or bachelorette parties (as one girl at a later Cinevegas party that night told me). It is one of those shows that has the ability to evolve and evoke as long as the audience is there and establishes a true following. The Pussycat Dolls in LA once had a great following while mixing it up with the various cast members. Mel B and Kelly Monaco leave the show in a couple days with Holly Madison of “The Girls Next Door” and Playboy fame taking over for Kelly Monaco and one of the leads from “Wicked” on Broadway taking over for Mel B. The turning over of talent if done right would really keep it fresh and keep people coming back again and again. I would for sure. Someone like Lindsey Lohan (who was rumored) playing the Monaco part with another celeb like Katy Perry or Rosario Dawson coming in for two months or so for Mel B’s part could really solidify its potential.
On a technical note, the band was phenomenal as it was all live. There is obvious talk about pre-recording in the coming months which would be a shame since the “live” aspect adds to the energy. For example if “Movin’ Out” on Broadway in NYC was pre-recorded or even “KA” here in Vegas, it would change the concept of what the show conceptually is. Josh Strickland, who again really kept the show in perspective, is staying for the time being which is a great boon at keeping that throughline. This gives the show more possibility. Talking to him briefly after the show as he and the other performers slipped away, his excitement about the show was apparent.
“Peep Show” is one of those rare shows in Vegas that captures its moment in time that doesn’t revel in the past but rather in the here and now and makes it timeless. It needs to be intrepidly discovered by the over-18 youth and under 40 jet set types who can really dig it. Some know about it but for the LA and NY sect (especially with the burlesque scene heating up in the Melrose corridor) who don’t and like the essence of sexy, slick, outgoing brashness with a dash of fun, this is a great view into that world.