During the premiere of “I Love the 90s — The Vegas Show” at Paris Theater, two individuals who were not formally part of the night’s production caused something of a stir. Their collective capacity to groove it up is indicative of the great appeal of this new production starring (in its opening run) Salt-N-Pepa, All-4-One and Rob Base.
One of these zealous audience members was the one and only Mark McGrath of Sugar Ray, who will eventually be onstage in the show’s alternating cast (on Nov. 8-12 its Base, En Vogue and Kid ‘n Play). You want to party with McGrath, trust me. He was among many of the celeb VIPs for opening night, not involved in the formal program, but nonetheless conducting his own one-man show from his seat at the edge of the stage.
McGrath was actually grooving it up near the red carpet before the show even opened, and sang and gyrated as the three headliners bounded through their nostalgic ’90s numbers. At one point, McGrath, overcome by the groove, was nearly the fifth member of All-4-One, coming out of his seat and throwing his arms skyward as the band took to a staircase on his side of the stage.
Later, from the opposite side of the theater, Salt-N-Pepa’s DJ Spinderella took her turn with a slice of Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.” She called out, “I want all the ladies to the stage!” and DeLee Lively-Torti was in the stream of audience members racing to the spotlight.
Torti, for the uninitiated, starred in “Smokey Joe’s Cafe” on TV and onstage, and is especially famous for her wild performance in “Teach Me How to Shimmy.” She’s also married to accomplished stage and film actor Bob Torti, known in Las Vegas from his days in “Rock of Ages” and also the couple’s Vegas production of “Brunch to Broadway (and Tom Hanks’ “That Thing You Do” in one of his many movies).
When Spinderella called to the audience, Bob leaned over to DeLee and said, “Honey, maybe you should … ” only to see his wife already up onstage. Her hair-raising appearance could be a fixed number in this show, it was that entertaining.
“I Love the ’90s” is that — wholly entertaining — in a contagious sort of way. The acts all command that the audience get up, get out and groove. The show’s dance team starts the night in the audience prior to the show to spread that vibe. Salt-N-Pepa (new column faves Cheryl James and Sandra Denton) smile and shake through “Let’s Talk About Sex,” “What a Man” and “Push It.” All-4-One (the original Jamie Jones, Delious Kennedy, Alfred Nevarez and Tony Borowiak) highlighted with the soaring, “I Swear.” Base thundered through “It Takes Two.”
Produced by Seth Yudof’s UD Factory operation, the show’s mood is effectively set by of-the-era videos, a live DJ and drummer with a kit trimmed in LED. Design great Andy Walmsley has conceived an all-encompassing set with a giant boom box in the middle and projection panels (not all of which are in operation, curiously) flanking the scene.
The show is loaded with thunderous, low-end bass and heavily tracked, which usually causes me to wince. But that audio technique does work in the theater’s club atmosphere; now someone needs to address the egregious feedback problems that cut through All-4-One’s otherwise flawless set. Some of the show’s transitions need to be smoothed out, too as the acts effectively rotate through show. The lineup moves in and out, which keeps the pace swift.
Mostly, “I Love the 90s,” similar to the energized Backstreet Boys residency at nearby Zappos Theater (which I also caught last week) reminds us of the joy of the groove. Grooving is universal. You don’t have to have any talent, or even natural rhythm, to stand and shake and gyrate.
“I Love the ’90s” is the show where your feet, and even legs and derriere, feel the effects of the show. But it’s a welcome bit of post-show discomfort, especially in times when you need a healthy escape. I believe Mr. McGrath would agree, and so would DeLee Lively-Torti. We’ll ask, as soon as she’s done dancing.