The "Crazy Girls" are closing in on their 25th anniversary. It was iffy for a while there, but it looks like both the girls and the Riviera will be around to see it through.
Ruth Wallace would be proud. How many times have an uncountable number of women mouthed to her voice as it sings, "You've got to have boobies, if you want men to offer diamonds and rubies"?
Wallace was known as the "Queen of the Party Song" in the 1950s, and her most enduring novelty hit, "Boobs," has been steadfastly lip-synced in "Crazy Girls" through good times and bad.
The good included many high-flying years after the topless revue opened in September 1987. The Riviera was still a front-tier property, but Vegas was still a middle-America town. Only a few jet-setters would know producer Norbert Aleman had lifted the whole concept from the Crazy Horse Saloon in Paris.
By the time the real Crazy Horse opened a branch here in 2001, the Riviera was in a downward spiral, its financial woes hastened by mega-resorts bringing more and better topless competition. "Crazy Girls" got dingier and seedier -- I believe at one point, I called for the scraggly matching wigs to be burned as biohazards -- and it seemed only a matter of time before the show would go the way of Aleman's companion show, "La Cage," which left the Riv in early 2009.
Instead, new owners are sprucing up the Riviera, and they realized the brand strength of the "Girls" and their bronze butt statues on the front sidewalk. There's a whole themed "Passion Pit" in the casino, and the show itself matches the casino upgrades with a brighter sheen, and more appealing women in the cast (salaries must have stepped up to be more competitive as well).
The numbers themselves haven't changed as much as the details of the costumes, lighting and sound quality. Newer wigs, too. The dancing stays on the cabaret side of off-Strip topless clubbing, with each of the eight women taking a featured solo.
Manic, fast-talker magician Tony Douglas emcees and later burns through several cabaret-magic standards in 15 minutes. The most novel is a straitjacket escape to stop a borrowed ring from falling into a whirring blender.
The dance segments by several choreographers still have a matching wig fetish. It's actually kind of cool in the opening, which presents the whole cast as "fem-bots" in the audience. But the group segments are at least balanced by ones where the women are allowed to show their individual looks and erotic gymnastics.
This show never worried as much as the Crazy Horse about making its dancers of symmetrical body types, so the hetero American male has a wide choice here: the fully natural and petite Danielle cavorting to Led Zeppelin's "I Can't Quit You Baby" or the exaggerated curves of Eliset, who writhes on a revolving wheel to Oscar Benton's "Bensonhurst Blues."
Speaking of, the music is cool. It finds the right place between being too cutesy and obvious, or too edgy and obscure. There's a soulful Nina Simone remix of "Feeling Good" instead of Michael Buble, and Sheba Potts Wright's "I Need A Cowboy to Ride My Pony" in the cowgirl number instead of Kid Rock or Big & Rich.
And what do you know? It took them 24 years, but they finally found a "Crazy Girl" who can actually sing instead of merely lip-syncing to Wallis and Eartha Kitt. Whitney, what were you doing all this time before they recruited you to sing Peggy Lee's "Why Don't You Do Right?"
Oh. Being born, and growing up and stuff. This show's been around a long time.
Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at mweatherford@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0288.