Luxe Life Blog
Peep Show, Part 2: Topless dancing with the stars at Planet Hollywood
*Click HERE for yesterday’s interview with Peep Show star Kelly Monaco.
Mastermind Jerry Mitchell is an award-winning Broadway director and choreographer whose credits include Hairspray and Legally Blonde. He takes off after the April 18 grand opening of Peep Show to oversee several new projects, including Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber’s follow up to The Phantom of the Opera, titled Love Never Dies and which he’ll stage in London, Toronto, New York, Shanghai and Australia next year.
Jerry first dreamed the early ideas for Peep Show 14 years ago. He turned elements of it into “Broadway Bares,” an extraordinary annual fundraiser with performers who happily go nearly nude. His charity show raised nearly $1 million last year. He brought Peep Show to the front burner three years ago, and now with Planet Hollywood chieftain Robert Earl and BASE Entertainment’s Scott Zieger, its journey of creation has ended and comes to life full bloom Monday.
Robin Leach: So, Jerry, here you are Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, 96 hours away. The place looks a mess! Will you be ready?
Jerry Mitchell: I will be ready. The girls are ready. The show is ready. This is always the painstaking process: the tech rehearsal process where everything goes at a snail’s pace. I talked to the girls when we left the rehearsal rooms and got ready to come into the theater and said, “This is the last time you will see the show for the next 10 days,” so you have to remember what we have achieved, because now everyone else has to catch up to where we are, the sets, the costumes, the lights. It will take us 10 days. We’re not on time, but everything is now in the theater.
Our red car has been here. We were waiting for Wicked Wendy’s Wagon, which holds a giant tank that holds and is filled with milk for the girl with the wicked little curl. She doesn’t sell her milk; she bathes in it. It’s more about how you take it off than how much you see.
RL: So every fantasy known to man and woman has been fulfilled?
JM: I don’t know if every one, but I have enough for a second edition of Peep Show. Today’s the first day the girls are all on set with all the scenery moving up and down on the elevators from below. Wait till the audience sees the final moments of this number with the flying saddle when the dancer blindfolds herself and rides it right out over the audience to finish her dance. It is spectacular. It is very sexy.
We cut one number in the rehearsal process. … There were three to four other numbers that I had to choose from, but that would have made it more than a 90-minute show. They were too long; it was getting redundant. Sexuality is all about confidence, so I think women will get a big kick out of our show. I think it is always a good idea to leave them wanting more.
Everybody is getting along, and everything is working together amazingly well.
RL: I don’t know if there’s been an all-female band in a Strip burlesque production show before.
JM: The band is amazing. The women are incredible musicians. Nan played for Celine Dion, she has been drumming for Celine, and we were lucky enough to scoop her up. Sue is our musical director; she has been incredible. Our guitarists are gorgeous in their own right. In one of the numbers, I feature them and bring them forward on these platforms playing guitar. I feel like they are a real component of the show because live music to me is so important.
We wound up with 15 actual girl dancers and the two girl singers who move a lot. They don’t necessarily dance, but they are in numbers. We have three girls who were in Wayne Brady’s show -- two dancers and one singer. Carolyn and Lena also performed in 40 Deuce at Mandalay Bay. They are both stunning. Lena, who no one knew is an amazing singer. She is taking lead in two of the songs. The other girls are just adorable, and I found them at the auditions in Vegas, L.A. and then the rest are from New York.
RL: Have you created the finest cocktail of gorgeous glamour girls?
JM: I think so. I think I have also created variety. I didn’t know when I first started doing burlesque that not everyone needs to look the same, so variety becomes a good thing. When there is differentiation, there is something for everyone in the audience to sort of latch on. Blondes, brunettes, redheads, white, black, short, tall, thick, thin … it is small busts and large busts … small behinds and big behinds. It is a buffet. Why eat the same meal every night?
RL: How is it working with Mel as the guide to a sexually fulfilled life and Kelly as the innocent ready to explore it all?
JM: I had no experience of working with them before in an extended rehearsal process. Kelly I had never worked with other than meeting her in L.A. and immediately falling in love with her. She is an actress, and that is the most important part. I think she trusted me and is trusting me. I think Kelly knows that I know what I am doing, so I don’t ask her to do something that is going to make her feel uncomfortable, because then I will feel uncomfortable. The most important thing that she can bring to this show is the ability to communicate so sensually with those watching her -- without any spoken dialogue. She has two to three lines.
There is no dialogue in the show, but she propels that storyline going through the numbers and observing them or us observing her observe them or thinking. She is not in every number, but she participates in the Little Boy Blue number, then she participates in the “Rub a Dub Dub, Man in the Tub” number. Kelly is the opening and takes us through her transition from lost to finding herself and coming back empowered to do her own thing. It’s a discovery, an awakening. She finds love. … In a burlesque show, she finds what love is really about. We are to believe she has found true love with the man in the tub. She’s in the tub. She’s in her glory. I haven’t seen her costume, but you are going to see some glory. She is loving it, working hard and showing lots of flesh! She is gorgeous and has a great body.
I met Mel B on the dance show I did for Bravo. She was a guest judge. Immediately I loved her; she was sassy and crazy. We exchanged numbers. I tried to rope her into playing Paulette for me in Legally Blonde in London, which I’ll be doing later in the year. Mel didn’t want to return there now that she’s got her family all settled here. Then Peep Show happened. I knew she could lead the show as the woman who has all the answers.
She has a low, throaty voice … and an accent that is adorable. She is a workaholic. She comes early, leaves late, works through the breaks. She and Kelly have been going to the gym every morning for two hours together. They have roped a couple of the girls into going with them. They are leading the company. They are here for the first three months, and they can always come back.
RL: So there could be star changes every three months? They could always come back? But the storyline and limited dialogue for Kelly could fit a number of other guest stars?
JM: Yes. It is her awakening role. She is a great actress with more movement than words. We start with a video that really sets the story. You watch her in a close up of her face, and you get what she is feeling. Then she is in the shower. She is washing off the sins of the day and hoping for love. It starts the whole show. This screen and this screen are in the middle of the stage, and the giant curtain lifts and it takes us into the story. Once she drifts asleep reading the book, it animates, goes crazy. She falls upside down 50 feet wrapped in the sheet with the book in her hand. She wasn’t scared about the fall and didn’t even flinch in high heels. She did it over and over to get it perfect. She didn’t even want to rest.
Mel rises out of the basement out of a keyhole and basically says, “Come with me.” That is the opening, and all the girl dancers are in it.
Mel has all the confidence of the world in the show. She comes up to me and says she has to take off more clothes, so in the brick house number, she takes it all off and puts two bricks here. Then the number blacks out. She takes her top off, the girls hand her two bricks, and they stick. I haven’t seen the costume yet, but that is the plan. She has been unbelievably game and supportive of the girls. Mel can really dance. She has taken on the role of Mom to the cast. I’m not sure if she’s the oldest, but she is the lead, so she has to be the one who leads.
RL: So here we are just 96 hours until curtain up?
JM: The show was there 10 days ago. What I want to do in the preview period is tighten bits and pieces. The one thing that I find a little bit different about my training and the way I was raised to create a show is that I come from the school of when you walk into the theater to tech it, it is almost there, almost complete. You don’t have that much time to make your changes. That is not always the case with shows here, and our show will change because we will have celebrities rotating in and out, so we will change it for them.
We have all the elements. The costumes -- the little that they are -- are spectacular. This last part is up to the carpenters, painters and electricians. We have the car, the saddle, the wagon of milk … the first big thing is the car that comes on stage. My co-choreographer Nick Kenkel plays the Big Bad Wolf on top of the car. He is gold, and Vegas will love his moves.
Then we have the brick house, which is Mel’s number. Then we have Mrs. Pumpkin Eater, who comes up in a pumpkin shell, and when it opens, there is a drape and the stem is a pole, and then we have a little shimmy. Then we have a bed for Little Boy Blue to take a nap in, then we have cheerleaders in Ain’t No Other Man, Georgie Porgie. This isn’t like any other show on the Strip. This is a full-blown production, sets and costumes, $12 million worth! I think there is room for everybody. I am a fan of all those other shows, but this is a big one. This is what I love to do. Each number delivers another scene, another idea. When I think of Jubilee! and the Tropicana and those shows that have long gone away, Jubilee! is the only one left after this weekend. Folies Bergere closes, and we begin.
We’re a new version of that. We are not the lavishness of those shows. Because if you did Jubilee! today, I bet it would cost more than $100 million to make a whole new one. Just the finale costumes alone today would cost $25 million to build and maintain. People would think our budget was cheaper because we’re using less fabric. But not true!
They charge you $1,500 for the briefest show bikini and $1,500 for one pair of panties. It is not the material; it is the labor that goes into it. It is the crystals and sequins and dots. Even the pasties here are all Swarovski crystal. These pasties are the class act of Peep Show. It is what makes it not only appealing to the men, and I am pretty sure I am right also appealing to the women.
RL: The real show starts the minute you walk into the theater here because of what David Rockwell has done? (Click HERE for our previous interview with designer David.)
JM: We wanted to set an ambiance coming into a beautiful theater. The music will be playing, the lights and tables with lights. There will be bottle service and drinking. It is the atmosphere of being at a cabaret show, which I love. We’ve been working hard on this now for three years to get to this point. This is the first time that I have created a show for Vegas of my own. Every Broadway show that I have done is about three years. Some a lot longer. Catch Me If You Can , which is next for me, we have been working on for five years. We’ll open that in Seattle and then take it to Broadway.
Then I have Legally Blonde in London and followed immediately with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s sequel to Phantom, Love Never Dies. … We are opening three companies at once; it has never been done before. Toronto/New York, London and Shanghai/Australia all at the same time. Two of them will be rehearsing at the exact same time, and we’ll be in New York next year before the Tony Awards cutoff date!
I’ll stay here in Vegas for two days after the opening. I leave April 20. I will be back within the next eight weeks, then again within the 12-week period. Whoever is the next person in the show, I will have to be here with them. At that time, I will be in Seattle, so it will be easier for me to commute here. I’m a nomad. This is the most traveling I have ever done in a year. I want Peep Show to be a huge success because I want to buy a place out here. I love it. Then I could commute from here to wherever I had to be: Seattle, London, New York. Very easy. L.A. is just a hop on Southwest to Burbank. Vegas is the center of everything.”
The Peep Show girls are Lena Blake, Olivia Cipolla, Keltie Colleen, Kristin Rose DeCesare, Renay Herter, Monica Klus, Emily Loftiss, Michele Martinez, Allie Meixner, Marielys Molina, Leah O’Donnell, Carolyn Pace, Jessica Press, Jennifer Quinlan, Katie Webber, Adar Wellington and Kaci R. Wilson.
The Peep Show’s male ensemble are Albert Blaise Cattafi, Jason Davies, Nick Kenkel, Stoyan Metchkarov, Josh Strickland and Timber. The Peep Show band are Susan Draus, music director; Vita Corimbi, assistant music director; backup singers Jackie Seiden and Cheaza; male vocalist Josh Strickland; Nan Fourtier, drums; Jennifer York, bass; Jill Warren, guitar; and Dixie Dawkins, saxophone and reeds.
Vegas DeLuxe will monitor the debut preview performance, and we’ll have reports all the way up to the glittering, star-studded gala premiere April 18.
*Click HERE for yesterday’s interview with Peep Show star Kelly Monaco.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.