They could have called this show, “Forget It: Fire!”
“Inferno” knows what it is. The new production that opened Thursday Paris Theater is a indeed flaming spectacular. The pitch meeting for this show had to have been, “Imagine, a stage show with a lot of magic and acrobats. Now, set everything on fire!”
New Strip headliner Joseph Labero is at the front. He is a Swedish magician of great merit, having won a quartet of that industry’s top honors, the Merlin Award. Such past-and-present Las Vegas magic headliners as Siegfried & Roy, Penn & Teller, David Copperfield and Criss Angel have been similarly honored.
Labero dresses in black leather, top to bottom, as if the leader of a magicians’ biker gang. Labero easily bounds across the stage, frequently punching the air to punctuate his scripted delivery. Often, flames leap from the back of the stage as the magician fires his first skyward, and somehow his eyes even flash along with the pyro. He has some sort of tricked-out contact lenses or a Lasik procedure specially for the stage.
Labero could well drop the “Joseph” and just use his surname as his moniker. Has a certain star quality — a star that would be in flames — and performs many impressive, if familiar, magic acts during the 90-minute showcase.
Labero repeatedly and magically pours its contents from a giant gas can at the side of the stage into a large tub, the can appearing to refill onstage during the show’s many acts. He matches a playing card picked by an audience member, producing that card from a block of ice — the show’s moment where ice replaces fire as the show’s primary stage effect.
Labero is a guy you really do like spending time with, crucial to the appeal of any headlining magician. “We’re going to have some fire TONIGHT!” he calls out, eyes flashing, as the crowd shouts back, “Yeaaaah!”
The blond-maned Labero is backed effectively by United Kingdom performance team Fuel Girls, who swing through dance and performance-art numbers with flaming wands, swords, whips, aerial rings, even a flaming cube that might have been left over from “Jubilee.” This is the hotly anticipated female quartet who toured with Fall Out Boy and are an ideal fit for Labero’s fiery showmanship.
We could use more of Fuel Girls, actually. They’re a blast. Bring those ladies into the audience and really heat the place up. They’re also sexy, clad scantily in flaming red and black, in a way that makes the show and its 9:30 p.m. starting time a bit outside the “family friendly” zone.
The show’s sidekick is known as Animal, who looks like Carrot Top in the Topper’s scrawnier, late-1990s physique. Animal occasionally behaves as a feline and is Labero’s go-fer during the show. Toss a match at Animal, and he jumps. Animal lugs many of the show’s props on and off stage, dancing to the showman’s every command.
“Inferno” is the show you walk out of thinking, “What else can we set aflame?” I observed the concession stand at the theater entrance — let’s turn the popcorn buckets into little fire pits. Douse the red-velvet ropes with butane and pass the Bic. Flush a toilet — Whoosh! Fire! Even later, at Martorano’s Italian restaurant, when I ran into my friend Sally Dewhurst and members of the show’s creative team, I said, “We should have fire ringing this entire restaurant!”
“Stop!” she said.
Hey, we’ve just started.
This show satisfies the entertainment adage that you should leave the audience wanting more. We want more fire. And at Paris, “Inferno” is a perfect (wait for it) match (boom!).