Girls just want to have fun. Guys just want to have the “Girls.”
Nothing reminds you of this more quickly than back-to-back viewings of two shows at the Riviera, the venerable “Crazy Girls” and its young tables-turning roommate, “Men the Experience.”
Mind you, the double feature is a pretty bad idea for anyone but a show reviewer. So much that I laughed when “Men” director and emcee A.J. Trunk signed off with the obligatory cross-promotion, “Make sure you check out ‘Crazy Girls.’ ”
There’s a huge energy difference between guys ogling topless women and gals checking out G-stringed guys. A male revue always makes me feel like a party crasher at the beginning, but I always leave amazed by how much more fun everyone had than at the often-listless topless shows.
Girls scream. Guys study.
Both shows had comparably thin crowds on this weeknight. But when Babae (both shows prefer to bill their dancers by first name only) tells the “Men” women the applause level is only where his hand is, waist high, and he needs it shoulder high, they get right up there.
Yet when “Crazy Girls” comedy-magician and emcee Tony Douglas goes to all the bother of escaping from a straitjacket, he notes only “a smattering of applause, but I’ll take that tonight.”
The decorum is different, too. A very reasonable double standard. Gals are allowed to paw the men’s chests. Sometimes their hands are even guided to the right place. You see why this doesn’t work at “Crazy Girls.”
And I guess I’m proud of my gender for not yelling out, “Can I touch your tattoos?” at the “Crazy Girls,” as heard in the audience of the “Men” show.
Since these truisms would hold whether we’re at the Riviera or down the Strip for “Thunder From Down Under” or “X Burlesque,” a few specifics on the Riv tiles.
“Men the Experience” is one of three new ones from Red Mercury Entertainment, which has subcontracted all the Riviera shows beyond the pre-existing comedy club, magician Jan Rouven and “Crazy Girls.”
“Men” doesn’t have the production values of “Thunder” or “Chippendales: The Show.” But it works the bejesus out of the five dancers and a rear-projection video screen, which adds some creative visuals — the Phantom of the Opera turning around to “play” an on-screen keyboard — and a sense of depth to the small stage.
I wondered if the gals would be tired of the same five guys over and over again by the end of 80 minutes. But they seemed to bond with their underdog spirit, not to mention those pecs and six-packs.
All male revues have the obligatory strip-downs by cowboys, gangsters, soldiers and firefighters. If this one has anything the better-funded competition doesn’t, it’s solo-dance space for each guy to stand out, whether it’s Julian break-dancing or Alejandro as James Bond. There’s even a “Dating Game” spoof that turns a couple of the dancers into sketch comedians; Babae in particular gets some laughs from women who came just to scream.
After Bally’s “Jubilee,” the 26-year-old “Crazy Girls” is the longest-running Las Vegas show to play in the same room. The cabaret revue was looking pretty ratty by the mid-2000s, when the MGM started hosting Crazy Horse Paris, the direct inspiration for “Girls” producer Norbert Aleman.
Thankfully, “Girls” started getting some new love about three years ago. It’s now an oddly agreeable mix of contemporary and retro. The upgrades include a live singer and the new one, Jacklyn Maffucci, is a welcome break from the camp lip-syncing of the strip numbers. It would be nice to see her interface more with the rest of the cast.
But it wouldn’t be “Crazy Girls” if it didn’t have someone, this time the lithe Lisa, carrying on the tradition of miming Eartha Kitt’s “How Could You Believe Me?” Nice contrast to the kinky S&M bit with Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer.”
It could be 1988 as you watch the dancers in matching wigs (thankfully, not every number), or jittery magician Douglas in front of a glitter-gold curtain. But soon comes a stripper-pole dance to Beyonce’s “Run the World (Girls)” and a cool girl-meets-girl scene with a techno pulse (the whole show is being relighted to take advantage of new gear installed for “Men”).
As with “Men,” each of the women gets to shine in a solo number, with Summer’s “Whatever Lola Wants, Lola Gets” a particularly memorable climax.
Another overlap with the “Men” show? Both have numbers set to “Feelin’ Good.”
“Men” of course uses the Michael Buble. “Crazy Girls” opts for the original Nina Simone, proving the old “Girls” still has a modicum of class that lets her be proud of her age.
Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at mweatherford@reviewjournalcom or 702-383-0288.