While auditioning for the role of a lifetime, Jennifer Lauren heard the words that no other female performer in the history of Las Vegas has ever heard: “Your boobs are too big.”
On paper, Lauren possessed the necessary qualifications for the role of Showbot in the Blue Man Group at Monte Carlo. Recently, show representatives held an open casting call for the part.
It sounded like the role Lauren was made to play. They were looking for short women, between 5 feet 3 inches and 5 feet 5 inches. When does a Vegas show want short women? Never, that’s when.
They needed women who had rhythm and could show emotion through subtle body movements. Lauren is a longtime dancer, actor and stuntwoman. Bam! There’s your subtle movement. She’s also skilled in Filipino martial arts and knife-fighting. The Showbot doesn’t wield a knife onstage but who cares? That’s really cool.
None of that mattered because the Showbot costume doesn’t have much room in the chest area. It was built to accommodate a smaller bust. While the designer could maybe stretch an arm or a leg, there’s no adjusting that breast plate.
Alas, Lauren was too well-endowed to fit into the costume. Her audition for Blue Man Group ended almost before it began.
“That’s the way it is in this business,” says Lauren, who has performed in Las Vegas for 14 years.
She wasn’t too disappointed. Show representatives told her they would call her if something else comes up. And when you audition for a role, that’s often the best you can hope for.
“I think I’ve gotten more gigs because of auditions I have been to and didn’t get,” Lauren says.
The casting call drew more than 100 women hoping to fill one permanent role or one of several swing spots. Since Blue Man Group moved into the Monte Carlo last year, it has become so popular that additional showtimes are needed, says Ian Herrington, co-creator of the Showbot character.
The cute robot debuted in late 2012, just as opportunities for women performers started shrinking. “Show in the Sky” at the Rio closed this year while “Peepshow” is slated to close in September.
The Showbot is one of the hottest characters to come along since Cirque du Soleil took over the Strip, says hopeful Brittany Nance Gazzara.
Because the character is a recent addition, few women knew what to expect in the audition.
Sarah Beck, who has performed in town for the past 20 years, watched the Showbot on YouTube to see how she behaved.
The Showbot plays a prominent role in the pre-show parade that marches through the casino before the first performance, leading people to the box office. She does a pre-show routine and meets audience members after the show. She also appears onstage with the group .
It was hard for Beck to get a sense of the Showbot’s motivations, as she doesn’t show facial expressions. So she took Herrington’s advice to heart just before the rhythm portion of the audition. The process was broken down into several steps, each one eliminating hopefuls. There was an interview, a freestyle dance, sizing, improvisation and interaction with a Blue Man.
Before the dance, Herrington told hopefuls to “don’t do what you would normally think of.” Beck took that to mean two things: Don’t act like a robot and don’t follow the music.
She was on to something. Three snippets of songs were played during the movement exercise, each with tremendously different tempos.
In the first group of hopefuls, one woman did the Robot through LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem,” Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” and Marilyn Monroe’s “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend.” She was committed to the Robot.
Overall, the dancers did a mix of jazzy moves, some balletlike leaps and spins and lots of falling to the floor. One woman did the Charleston, some tap, a little ballet and a whole lot of silly stuff made it to the next round. Robot Lady was cut.
A good Showbot is hard to define, Herrington says. It’s a lot like the Blue Men; you just know one when you see it. The character is an esoteric, ethereal concept.
“It comes from a very deep place within,” Herrington says.
To portray a good Showbot, you’ve got to be a great performer — because your face is covered by a mask, says Showbot co-creator Amanda Deacon. You have to feel at one with the suit, too.
She and Herrington developed their company, Show Creators, and robot characters in 1986.
They were dancers looking for a way to stand out during auditions. About a year ago, they began talks with Blue Man Group representatives. The Showbot seemed a natural fit for the new show.
“Our robots have a sense of wonderment. They want to learn but they also have a comedic side,” says Deacon, who was the original model for the Showbot costume. She is also one of two permanent Showbot performers in The Blue Man Group.
Patricia Bouchebel auditioned for the role last year. She made it all the way to the final round but was cut. She thinks it’s because “my gesture was too big.”
The French dancer currently performs in Cirque du Soleil’s aerial show at Light Vegas in Mandalay Bay. She worked on her improvisation skills, toning down her “gestures,” all in preparation for another shot at the Showbot.
This time, during the improv segment, she was asked to portray an ice cube, a strawberry, a Blue Man and a toaster.
“I came here, I decided I’m just going to be myself,” Bouchebel says. “They asked me to be a toaster.
“I said, ‘Sorry, my first language is not English. You mean a toaster?’ ”
Yep, they meant a toaster.
“Do you want me to be the sandwich inside the toaster?” she asked.
No, just the toaster. So Bouchebel sat on the floor, bent in half and then sprang upwards, arms in the air. She was a pop-up toaster. She thinks.
“They ended up laughing all the time so it’s perfect, right?” she said after her audition.
Whatever she did this time worked. She didn’t land the role, yet. But she did make it to a costume-fitting. She will actually get to try on the robot costume.
It’s a bit like Cinderella’s glass slipper. If the costume fits, Bouchebel is a match.
Bouchebel was hopeful. And, luckily, her boobs are not too big.
Contact reporter Sonya Padgett at spadgett@review journal.com or 702-380-4564. Follow @StripSonya on Twitter.