Producers scan the great urban landscape to find the right star for a stage show. They review hours of YouTube clips, review video submissions and read reams of material to enlist the perfect performer.
But sometimes, you really can’t top a Vegas alternative nightclub — especially one that hosts Drag Queen Karaoke — for artistic prospects. As proof, a casual conversation between Jai Rodriguez and Chester Lockhart at Charlie’s Las Vegas on Arville Street, helped fill a role in a Strip stage show.
“We were at this random place, and Jai suddenly asked me if I wanted to do the show,” says Lockhart, stepping in for Rodriguez as Dan Anderson in “Sex Tips For Straight Women From a Gay Man” at Anthony Cools Theater at Paris Las Vegas. “He said, ‘You would be perfect!’ So The next Tuesday I submitted a tape to the producers, and Friday I had my photo shoot.”
That was in December, a month after Lockhart’s co-star, Scheana Shay of the Bravo series “Vanderpump Rules,” had been signed to take over for Kendra Wilkinson as Robyn. Thursday was their first performance in the Cools room, fittingly named for its chilly temperature.
Despite the venue’s nippy climate, Vegas has warmed to the show. The adult comedy, in which Robyn is lectured about the “Sex Tips” book opened in late-May. The show benefited from exposure on Wilkinson’s “Kendra on Top” reality show, and was extended over the summer.
The connections between the show’s outgoing stars and the newbies are not so random. Lockhart and Shay have both known Rodriguez and Wilkinson for years, through their various TV projects. Shay is nationally known in the reality-TV culture as a mainstay on “Vanderpump Rules” through all of its six seasons.
While linking the TV show to the stage show is a tantalizing way to sell tickets, “Sex Tips” and the taping schedule for the Bravo series won’t overlap. The new stars’ contracts with Adam Steck’s SPI Entertainment run through May 6; Shay won’t hear until April if the show will be picked up for a seventh season.
“If they want to pick up (“Vanderpump Rules”) , and assuming they want me back, absolutely I would be all about that,” Shay says. “We would start shooting the show in about mid-May, and that’s where my priority would be, but I would want to do both, absolutely.”
Lockhart is an independent recording artist, choreographer and dancer best-known for his role on MTV’s “Todrick.” He’s one of these guys who seems always “on,” framing his phrases as if he’s memorized them for any conversation.
“Aside from this show, I’m focusing on my music career — I make way broken-glass, haunted-house, gay music,” he says, raising an eyebrow. “That’s a thing, right? Its own genre? I just love things that can put me in front of people, interact, and be myself.”
Shay earned a bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis in journalism at Azusa Pacific University in Southern California.
“My goal would be to take over Maria Menounos’ or Mario Lopez’ careers in entertainment news,” she said, before smiling and adding, “I’m amazing with a teleprompter,” inadvertently naming one of the few props not used in “Sex Tips.”
LMS leaves ‘Baz’
The former star of “Pin Up” at Stratosphere, Smith had been out of “BAZ” for a year due to vocal concerns. Swing performers filled the role while she recuperated. Show producers ended her contract, as allowed under Actor’s Equity Association terms, after she’d been away from the stage for a full year.
Smith says she is almost fully recovered from her voice problems. The Las Vegas Academy graduate just signed with Fervor Records and is planning to record new music with the label beginning this spring. Fervor is known to place artists’ music on network TV and feature films (most recently the movie “The Big Sick”) and has also signed former Strip performer Becca Kötte, late of “Rock of Ages.”
Smith is also back with the cover band Revolution, which performs regularly at Le Cabaret at Paris Las Vegas. Smith, too, has been in talks with existing and upcoming Strip productions. Stick around for the what’s and when’s of all that.