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Dita Von Teese dusts off costumes from classic Vegas show — PHOTOS

Dita Von Teese found a card to play when prospective production partners caught her performance of “Glamonatrix” at the Chicago Theater in 2023. The execs brought a vision back to Las Vegas, an obvious fit for what Von Teese could bring to the stage.

“Caesars Entertainment came to see the show, Live Nation came to see the show, and they were like, ‘We think the Jubilee Theater, of course,’ ” says Von Teese, a worldwide burlesque star and production historian. “And I said, ‘I loved “Jubilee!” ’ “But I remember standing in the theater thinking, ‘I don’t know about this. It’s daunting. This stage is huge compared to where I’ve played.’ ”

Von Teese had an idea as grand as that stage, though.

“I said, ‘Hey, what are the costumes from “Jubilee” doing?’ ” she recalls. “It gave me the idea of — can I say, a bargaining chip? — ‘I will take this on if I can fill the stage with those gigantic feathers.’ ”

Von Teese needed to review the pieces themselves. She soon toured the lower reaches of the Jubilee Theater, where the costumes have been stored since “Jubilee” closed in February 2016.

A treasure chest of costumes

“The Queen of Burlesque” was elated to see the costumes famously designed by Bob Mackie and Pete Menefee were in good enough condition to be returned to the stage.

Von Teese cashed in her bargaining chip, and “Dita Las Vegas: A Jubilant Revue” opened this past October at the Horseshoe. The show returns May 16 to 18 and continues through June 15.

In “Dita Las Vegas,” the star realizes her Sin City dream, reviving several “Jubilee” costumes and some of the previous production’s set pieces.

Asking Von Teese to single out her favorite costumes is like asking a parent to choose a favorite child.

“I have my favorites that I’m not necessarily wearing. I love the Bob Mackie-jewels Mae West, which I always make sure is near me so I can watch it onstage,” Von Teese says with a laugh. “It’s my favorite, but I’m too short for it.”

The white costume from the show’s original finale is a universal favorite. The ensemble features a “backpack” of five branches of white feathers and crystal rhinestones with a towering headdress.

The show had run for about six months before Von Teese donned the costume.

“I was a little bit afraid of it, because I thought I couldn’t do it, that I was too short,” says Von Teese, 5 inches shorter than the “Jubilee” requirement of 5 feet, 8½ inches. “But then, you know, I got the confidence, and I can do it.”

She premiered the piece last month, with costume director Jose Rodrigo heading up the effort — it’s his favorite piece, too.

Not a showgirl revue

Von Teese’s concept for “Dita Las Vegas” is not exactly a showgirl revival. The production is a fusion of traditional feather shows and the style, whimsy and humor of traditional burlesque. The Von Teese model mixes those forms of entertainment, and their respective cultures. This is her dream — and her greatest challenge.

Owned by Caesars Entertainment, “Jubilee” had run out of options to move forward eight years ago, its audience having dried up, the show taking on water like the ship in its kitschy “Titanic” scene.

And burlesque is a fickle concept in Las Vegas. Though the community is fervently loyal, and the Burlesque Hall of Fame is headquartered in downtown Las Vegas, the art form is a notoriously tough sell as a large-scale residency production.

Von Teese studied showgirl history on the “Bluebells Forever” podcast, featuring the elite Bluebell dancers, where Mackie and Menefee have been interviewed extensively.

A daring production

In “Dita Las Vegas,” Von Teese has made bold moves. She has run counter to showgirl tradition by outfitting male dancers in original “Jubilee” costumes. She’s put performers of different shapes and sizes into these costumes as well (starting with herself, as noted).

This is the result when you enlist Dita Von Teese to create striptease on the Strip.

“I’m trying to stay true, to a degree, to some of the important things about those costumes. But it was very important to me to make sure that this is a Dita Von Teese show,” she says. “It’s not a showgirl revue. It’s my perspective. It’s my life’s work interspersed with the spirit of the showgirl. We don’t need to just rehash what was done in the past. Believe it or not, that’s not what I do. I’m here to advance it.”

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on X, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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