Luxe Life Blog
Jubilee! celebrates 17,000 shows in historic Bally’s run
In this day and age, it’s difficult to believe that an entertainment extravaganza can run for 25 years and still be as cutting edge as the day it debuted. But that’s the amazing truth of Jubilee!, with its 85-high kicking performers and nightly sinking of the Titanic onstage.
Incredibly, it’s an 86-year-old French theatrical legend who still calls the shots at Jubilee!, which tomorrow will celebrate its 17,000th performance at center Strip onstage in Bally’s. You know me and my lust for fun facts; my notebook is overflowing with dish from the most beautiful rhinestone-clad showgirls:
*Way back when, Cher’s costume designer Bob Mackie joined with Peter Menefee to create the gowns and outfits for Jubilee!, which includes nine changes per dancer each show. The ladies have it down to three minutes! In all, they wear 1,000 outfits a night that cost $3.5 million to make and are cared for by 26 seamstresses. Eighteen of them do the laundry.
*The showgirls wear the equivalent of 8,000 miles of sequins on their costumes, which is about the distance from Las Vegas to Paris and back. Gowns for the finale cost $7,000 apiece.
*It’s tough keeping the job because the performers have to audition every six months to ensure that they are up to par.
*The showgirls, who wear only red lipstick onstage, go through about 1,500 pairs of tights a year with their kicks and twirls.
*The heaviest headdress weighs 35 pounds. Now that’s a lot on your mind!
*Shoes, reinforced with steel braces and rubber soles, cost $100 a pair and last about three months. Each showgirl has about seven pairs.
*The jewelry came from two Paris companies that have made the jewelry for all the Paris music halls since the 1900s, including Folies Bergere, Lido and Moulin Rouge.
*The rhinestones are silver-plated Austrian Swarovski crystals, which are the highest-quality rhinestone in the world, along with topaz, crystal, sapphire, emerald, ruby, amethyst and aurora borealis rhinestones. The jewelry weighs a total of 10,000 pounds. When Jubilee! was in production in 1980, there was a worldwide shortage of rhinestones because they were all being used in the show.
*Mostly ostrich and pheasant feathers are used on the costumes, but some rooster, turkey and vulture feathers also are woven into the design.
*There are men onstage, but they are outnumbered 2 to 1. They have to be 6 feet tall, and the girls have to be at least 5’ 8.”
*The set changes 17 times nightly maneuvered by 70 stagehands and 50 people behind the scenes for wardrobe and other duties.
*4,200 pounds of dry ice is used for the fog effects twice nightly, plus 10 pounds of explosives for the 50 pyrotechnic effects.
*You do the easy math to calculate how many people have seen Jubilee!: 1,000 each night for 12 shows a week over 25 years. Drum roll, please. That’s 15 million to 20 million people!
It all began on July 30, 1981, and the 100 dancers, singers and three specialty acts have strutted the stage ever since, winning Best Show on the Strip awards for nine consecutive years during one block of time. The show has seven acts with original songs, dances and production numbers, including aerial stunts and the sinking of the Titanic. In the Samson and Delilah number “The Destruction of the Temple,” a hydraulic system allows Samson to defeat and destroy a 27-foot-tall bull, the heaviest piece of scenery weighing three tons.
“The Las Vegas audience has high expectations for their entertainment experience,” said Chris Nelson, director of entertainment for Bally’s. “In order to maintain our status, we have always insisted on the best technology. This strategy has paid off as we are now celebrating 25 years in a very competitive market.”
The producers spent $3 million on the opening number with computerized sets, surround sound music, special effects, lights, sound, choreography and costumes. The show’s remodeled finale incorporates new scenes and meticulously choreographed dance numbers in the style of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. It includes the Red Feather Fan number with “In the Still of the Night,” “Night and Day,” “Begin the Beguine” and a new version of “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.” Fifty-eight tuxedos based on Fred were hand-cut and tailored.
A one-hour, all-access backstage walking tour by one of the performers is available three mornings a week. When Jubilee! first opened at Bally’s 25 years ago, the show’s cutting-edge technology made the theater here one of the most advanced and technically complex in America. It still rings true today.
“The seemingly flawless blending of live performers, lavish set pieces and complex stage mechanics really makes Jubilee! so special,” said Technical Director Drew Strozza. “It’s no easy task to orchestrate something this grandiose 12 times a week 52 weeks a year, and we’re proud of the fact that we’ve been making it seem effortless for 25 years.”
Behind it all is French-born veteran Fluff LeCoque, 86, who has masterminded it all from Day One. As far back as October 1955 in Hollywood, Fluff was choreographing operations for the late producer Donn Arden, who created the original Jubilee!. You’ll find her unique history and early photographs in our UNLV Library, but look for her original name as a dancer, Ffolliott Charlton. She’s seen in this photo at far right watching rehearsals of the Lido Paris show in the mid-1950s, with Donn second from left.
One Harrah’s executive told me: “Fluff still runs the show, and she is 86 years old! She is amazing.” Congratulations to Fluff and the entire cast and crew for the milestone achievement!
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.
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