"MGM Grand's Crazy Horse Paris"


OK, I think we have arrived at some rules on when it's acceptable to lip-sync in a Las Vegas show.

1. When the song is in French.

2. When the lip-syncer is wearing only black mesh undies and writhing on a sofa shaped like a giant pair of lips.

The other Las Vegas girlie shows -- and even Britney or other tabloid pop tarts -- likely would be up for the second challenge. But only the ladies of "MGM Grand's Crazy Horse Paris" dare to mouth the number "Lecon D'Erotisme."

No need to even talk about how few other booby shows would stage a sequence in pointe shoes.

And that's the line between this import, which clings to the authenticity of its French tradition, and the competitors that Americanized its groundbreaking format.

The revue came to the MGM in 2001 with the name "La Femme." It was an attempt to avoid confusion with both the Crazy Horse strip club and "Crazy Girls," the long-running Riviera revue that lifted the concept of the historic Crazy Horse club.

But early this year, new owners decided to steal back the name that enjoys brand recognition in Europe dating back to 1951.

The new management put to rest any fears that they would be cranking up the Buckcherry "Crazy Bitch." In fact, they went the other direction, digging deeper into the show's history. Artistic director and choreographer Molly Molloy recently restored three popular numbers from the past (including "Tico Tico," the sequence where dancers wear pointe shoes).

So who's your action hero, James Bond or Vin Diesel? As someone who grew up with the Bond books and movies as a portal to foreign worlds, I always enjoy stepping out of Las Vegas into European mock-sophistication for 70 minutes or so. "Crazy Horse" tries to re-create not just the show but its environment, down to the pyramid-shaped lights on the tables.

The stage is built like a movie screen, a Cinemascope window that makes the dancers look taller and even more like illusions than real people. The 12 women are as symmetrically matched as physically possible, all of them free of volleyball-sized implants.

And it's quite possible, given the timeline, that the Bond movies were inspired to fashion their title sequences after the Crazy Horse's groundbreaking use of lighting. Film and kaleidoscopic projections wash over the dancers, using their bodies as canvases to paint in patterns of light.

The revue doles out its surprises slowly. Egyptian dancers seem to vanish and reappear in the blink of an eye in "Vestal's Desire." At one point, screens block the view of a dancer above her legs, and at another moment all you see is a chorus line of legs and derrieres of dancers on their backs.

There are those who will argue the show is too classy and stylized for its own good, that there's nothing for a guy who can't help his big-breast fetish. Understandable. And however interesting it is to see someone strip to Sarah Vaughan and Prohibition-era jazz, a big smile of familiarity likely will emerge with Rod Stewart's "Hot Legs."

The European cabaret aura of the club extends to its two specialty acts. Sleight-of-hand magician Stephane Vanel flips a lot of cards and the Quiddlers answer the question, "How far would two guys with no special talent go to be in a show with a dozen beautiful women?"

Answer: Dress up like a monkey and "Micro Jackson," dancing to "Beat It" by using your arms for Jacko's legs. Too bad Chris Farley died; I felt the plot for a buddy movie with David Spade coming on.

The stubbornly European aesthetic does have its setbacks. But look at it this way: "Crazy Horse" doesn't stop you from seeing "X Burlesque" or "Fantasy." It might just make you have to see two.

But for some of us? Hearing that '70s soft-core porn music and that French-accented narration, straight from an old Penthouse ("For the Libra woman, it's a quest for balance. ... Dressed or nude? Nude or dressed?") makes us glad we decided to leave town.

 

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