“Gotta go, gotta go. Gotta clear the stage.”
The voice over the p.a. system was trying to break up the extended family that assembled for photos after Thursday’s performance of “Jubilee.” Current cast members onstage, still in costume. Down in front, those who were now watching from the audience, but who claimed the show in different decades since the summer of 1981.
The latter had come to say goodbye, or at least “So long.” The scene was reminiscent of one at the Tropicana in March 2009, when many of the same alumni gathered for the final performance of “Les Folies Bergere.”
But there was a key difference this time. “Jubilee” is coming back.
How much of it, and in what form, remains to be seen. It hasn’t been laid out for even those dancers still be on board when the showgirl classic returns in March. The only guy who seems to know for sure is Beyonce choreographer Frank Gatson Jr., who is in charge of the update.
Watching the show as we knew it one last time, one could make some educated guesses.
We probably won’t hear as much Gerswhin piped in by anonymous choral voices recorded who knows when. “Cheek to Cheek” can be as timeless as a black-and-white tux, top hat and tails. But we suspect Gatson will have them dancing to something with a little more thump. Even if he does keep any of those standards, they are sure to come with a bit more bump and grind.
“Jubilee” is such a time capsule it’s easy to forget that it hasn’t been around since the 1950s. “Young Frankenstein” had already been out for seven years, so they should have known any attempt at a non-ironic version of “Puttin’ on the Ritz” would only make us think of Gene Wilder and Peter Boyle. Vegas really was its own world back then.
So change can be good, and some changes to this show should have been in place years ago. “Jubilee” does has live singers, but more of it felt like a pantomime to a pre-recorded soundtrack. Kind of like the new Britney Spears show. Seems like it would have been simple to let more of, say, the little “Titanic” mini-play, be acted out live by the cast.
But Thursday wasn’t about content, it was about family. As cast and crew started to trickle into BJ’s Cocktail Lounge for the after-party, one crew member said it wasn’t so unusual that so many showgirl/crew guy marriages came out of “Jubilee.”
They work six-day weeks and unusual hours. So the backstage guys were surrounded by beautiful women. But only those beautiful women.
Two guys sharing another table were a reminder that the current family is breaking up because everyone had to re-audition. One of them, a dancer, was rehired. The other, a singer, was not.
So it was a night of mixed emotion and the definition of bittersweet. But even those who are out of the show have something to look forward to in March. No doubt they will join the other alumni in the audience to root on friends. And an institution.
Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0288.