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‘Play’ is Katy Perry’s Las Vegas Strip trip

Again, we wonder about these planning sessions for Strip production shows. Wednesday night it was during Katy Perry’s very effectively titled “Play” opener at the Theatre at Resorts World Las Vegas.

“What about Mr. Poo? How tall? Twenty feet?”

“Shorter. We can’t have Mr. Poo dwarfing the superstar. Have him rising from the orange commode.”

“Right. And the commode? Talking or no?”

“Talking. He has a name, John Loo. So, he talks to the superstar.”

“Right. And what about the oversized toilet paper? Like, a dozen rolls?”

“Go with eight or nine, next to John Loo, but not in a tidy pyramid. Just sort of stack ‘em randomly.”

“Right. So we’re going with a dancing plunger and toilet brush?”

“It’s a set, yes.”

“And Mr. Maskie? He’s a permanent effect?”

“Right. Mr. Maskie is in at least as long as the crowd is in masks. He tells jokes in every show, during the acoustic set.”

And that is without mentioning the dancing toothbrush and toothpaste, Perry’s beer can top she uses to pour a cold brewski, and the many mushrooms strewn about the stage. The mushroom references are magical, plentiful and revealing in “Play,” a show that is often a hallucinogenic trip.

Perry’s burst of sound and color is also a glorious example of what an unbridled imagination can achieve with a seemingly boundless budget. As in …

“Can we get a giant yellow power cord to chase me around the stage to open the show? Yes? Great!”

Perry promised this flavor of production when she first mapped out her residency at Resorts World. She’d spent ample time during the pandemic watching “Pee Wee’s Playhouse” and “Honey I Shrunk The Kids.”

The result is Katy in Wonderland, where the star is sometimes larger than life, such as when she covers Whitney Houston’s “Greatest Love of All” from a keyhole cut into a screen at the front of the stage. Or when she stands atop a bright orange rocking horse while her backing dancers climb up the classically oversized toy.

Perry also banters alongside Mr. Maskie. This is an involved effect, not a one-show-wonder, which indicates Perry’s team feels the pandemic will be around for the long term. Mr. Maskie himself says so, taking on a kind of Shecky Greene persona with, “You know why they call it a ‘novel’ coronavirus? Because it lasts SO LONG!”

Perry then turns to the crowd of 5,000, the majority of whom seemed to have remained masked throughout, “Give applause to Mr. Maskie, especially if you believe in him.”

In other numbers, Perry is difficult to find amid all the kinetic activity. This can happen when you are scrambling around dozens of mushrooms. Or climbing a crushed beer can. Or performing a musical number alongside a large-scale alarm clock, a pair of walkie-talkies and a used athletic sock. Or even, singing through a scene amid soldiers wielding hair combs and carrying knapsacks full of crayons.

At one point, after conversing with Mr. Loo and Mr. Poo, Perry advised her fans, “If you think that is stupid, stick around.” Later, she offered, needlessly, “I’m not Celine Dion.” Agreed. Dion’s signature water effect is a beautiful shower curtain, Perry’s is an orange toilet … once more, art knows no bounds.

“Play” has been designed by Baz Halpin and Silent House Productions, who has also designed Perry’s touring show and the 2015 Super Bowl XLIX performance, made famous (or infamous) by the rogue dancing Left Shark. That figure is returned, in video in “Play.” The video work is from Blink, which has designed video for the MTV Video Music Awards show and worked with several stars.

As promised in a video posted on social media this week, Perry delivered the hits and fan favorites, picking over her best-selling and most-streamed songs. “Waking Up In Vegas” was a natural. “Hot n Cold,” “California Gurls,” “I Kissed a Girl,” “Teenage Dream” and “Roar” in the mix. Perry also uncorked her new release with Alesso, “When I’m Gone.”

The show unfolds in storybook fashion with five chapters, or acts starring the animated Katy Doll (an animated version of Perry). The story unspools, inspired by “Alice in Wonderland,” until the crowning segment, “Perry Playland,” is performed on a giant staircase that hearkened to the fabulous topless “feather” Vegas shows of a bygone era.

Perry spoke of her aunt and grandmother, both of whom worked on the “Lido de Paris” production at the Stardust. That was the iconic hotel-casino that once stood where Resorts World stands today. Both of Perry’s relatives have since passed. The superstar mentioned her grandmother by name, Ann Pearl Hudson, and said she could feel familiar vibrations during the show, calling out, “Don’t you find it kind of serendipitous that, maybe 30-plus years later, I would be standing on this very stage, on the floor, on the grounds, where my family gave their blood, sweat and tears.”

Maybe that’s where Perry gets her sense of grandeur, her wild imagination and appreciation of Vegas spectacle. She’s funny, fearless, fit for the task. Even Mr. Maskie can’t conceal the appeal of Perry’s “Play.”

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 Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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