Like a certain ocean liner, new ‘Jubilee’ has trouble dodging icebergs


Is it too late for anything but the life boats? Or can the “reimagined” “Jubilee” still steer around that iceberg that makes the nightly sinking of the Titanic an apt metaphor for the new version of the Strip’s 33-year-old crown jewel, officially unveiled Saturday.

A fully deliberated review will arrive soon. But in the hope that director Frank Gatson Jr. and his collaborators can still go back and try to change the course of history, here are some initial “hits” and “misses” continuing the iceberg theme.

“Hits” (meaning iceberg. Boom. Bad.)

1. The wandering showgirl who has lost her mojo and is trying to get back, or forward, to… something.

It’s not a bad idea to attempt thematic unity for audiences who might not remember a “revue” as a loose collection of unrelated things.

But when your theme is this half-baked, confusing and often unintentionally funny, patrons are likely to wonder why that showgirl is wandering around on the “Samson & Delilah” set, and why the ushers aren’t doing something about it.

Degree of impact: Catastrophic. Hear the screams and the tearing of steel as the cold water rushes in.

2. Selling your lost showgirl theme with narration. It only gets worse when the omniscient narrator says things like (and I was laughing and trying to scribble at the same time, so hope I got it right): “Take this diamond and always keep it with you. It is like your soul. It’s the only way back.”

Degree of impact: Jaw-dropping. Surreal, like a bad-movie masterpiece such as “Plan 9 from Outer Space.”

3. Turn off the Dark. Shouldn’t a showgirl revue, by definition, shine bright like a diamond? Most of the new material in this is dark and gloomy. Could be the creators just ran out of time to light it properly, that the six weeks of downtime to reconfigure the show was simply not enough.

More worrisome is that Gatson and company have decided proper stage lighting would keep us from seeing the giant-screen motion picture footage that’s a big element of the new production. Problem is, we came to see live people, not movies.

Degree of impact: Bow-bender. You can at least back up and take another pass at this one.

Misses (meaning “Whew.” Disaster averted, even if there’s no reason to break out the champagne)

1. Live people do seem to be onstage now, doing more than modeling costumes. Gatson has recruited several strong singers, even if they have to sing along to canned backing tracks and are often better heard than seen amid the feathers and mirrors.

Degree of miss: Comfortable enough to stay on course and improve.

2. Updating the music. Imagine if you’re a 40-something soccer mom and you’re trying to burn a CD for your parents to listen to in the car because they don’t get the whole iTunes thing. But somehow before you hit “burn,” you scrambled some of you and your teen daughter’s own favorites into the playlist.

It’s fun to have the show kick off with Justin Timberlake’s “Take Back the Night,” and end (in part) with Beyonce’s “Love On Top.” But a lot of it the original show’s Ray Conniff Singers approach to the standards are hanging in there as well. And other new segments, such as an R&B and disco medley coaxing us to our feet, fall into that eye-rolling place between current and retro: the dreaded cruise-ship oldie.

Degree of miss: “Aye, that was a close call, lads. What’s that up ahead? Another iceberg? Argh.”

3. Restoring men’s dignity. Gatson pledged to de-spangle the male singers and dancers, hoping to catch the eyes of straight women as well as gay men. There’s been at least a 60 percent reduction in codpieces and spandex bell-bottoms, replaced by basic black and dignified tuxedoes. A few bedazzled suspenders still sneak in though, and Siegried & Roy will be be happy to spot their sequined blazers in the opening number.

Degree of miss: Close enough to collision to see the cracks in the ice and feel the cold wave of the ice as brush up near it.

Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at mweatherford@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0288