"Ooh La La"

It's not every show that breaks out the whips and leather before 8 p.m.

If you've ever seen hypnotist Anthony Cools, you know he has a very dirty mind. So it's not surprising that as his entertainment empire expands -- with his name on a small venue at Paris Las Vegas and a vehicle-wrapping ad business -- that he might try his hand at producing a girlie show.

"Ooh La La" is a pretty good one as these things go, better than three of the five small topless revues now competing with it. And even with the bondage scene, it's classier than Cools' frat party of a hyp show. It had better be, in the eyes of casino regulators, since we're talking about real skin here and not the mental state of audience volunteers.

The quality of the content is less debatable than Cools' business strategy of offering most performances at 7 p.m.; an attempt to avoid nightclub competition and draw the bachelor buds in early. Wishful thinking, based on the typical batch of tourist couples at a show last week.

The grim faces on many of the women in the house was a reminder of how far Cools is veering from the established topless formula. It's standard practice to throw in a comedian or variety act for the sake of the wife or girlfriend who is kind and tolerant to indulge her fellow.

Guy's guy that he is, Cools audaciously makes a whole show of five women (rotating each night from a corps of eight) and even more daringly gives some of them things to say or sing.

It almost works.

The gals do magic tricks. They perform aerial acrobatics on a giant hoop or while suspended in swaths of fabric. One of them, Kelly Adkins (who is also the star of "Fashionistas") does a number in pointe shoes. And they change clothes a whole lot.

The lighting design is luxurious and downright impressive for a makeshift venue carved out the casino's former tour and travel lobby.

Still it's mostly a dance show, and despite the well-honed choreography by Gary Thomas, there's a limit to how much bump and grind you need to see from a cast of five. (There's always one recurring question at a strip club: Who's next?) The bag of tricks isn't quite deep enough to keep a show that's only 65 minutes from running thin on ideas at about the 40-minute mark.

The unifying strength is the same wit that elevates Cools' hypnosis show above the pack. "Ooh La La" is full of sight gags, particularly a blackout skit where two women strike different poses behind a photo frame while Cher Westcott and an audience recruit narrate a "slide show" about a Vegas vacation.

Westcott also sings the show's theme and proves a capable emcee. Assuming one audience member wasn't a plant, she improvised a quick line when he told her he was from Regina (Canada): "Well so am I. Aren't we all?"

Even the bondage scene has a funny lead-in, with Westcott walking out in a sundress to the vomitous strains of Minnie Ripperton's "Lovin' You" before being strapped and stripped. "It's just a song..." she protests.

It's one thing to compare these Las Vegas topless shows to one another, or consider them in a vacuum. It's another thing to say whether it's good to spend $58.75 on such a trifle. What's the standard of comparison? Three lap dances at a strip club? Or several more substantial shows in that price range? Everyone comes to Vegas with his own expectations and circumstances, and ours is not to question yours, brother.