Updated January 13, 2021 - 12:41 pm
“Intimate” has been tossed around so frequently in Las Vegas, the word’s meaning has dulled. Headliners have said they enjoy playing 2,000-seat theaters because they feel “intimate.” Stadium touring acts like the “intimacy” of 15,000-seat arenas.
But the intimacy is genuine, even if socially distant, at the new “X Burlesque: Private Edition.” The topless revue from Matt and Angela Stabile’s Stabile Productions reopened Thursday night, playing to 30 guests, two shows per night at 7 and 10 p.m., Thursdays through Saturdays.
Guests pay $78.88 apiece (without fees) for this private show, still open to the public. Ticket holders receive a signed (by the cast) “X Burlesque” poster, and bottle of champagne in an plastic ice bucket, flashing happily with neon light. Guests are seated at two-seat cocktail tables, and everyone wears masks. The cast, led by the noble comic Nancy Ryan, also is face-covered.
The end of the show is a chance to ask questions. Actually, “chance” might be a bit timid. Audience Q&A participation is a requirement, energetically promoted from the moment you arrive at your seat. Come in armed with something to ask the cast as Ryan emcees. They’ll be ready for the such obvious inquiries as, “Where are you all from?” I thought I was being clever by asking the assembled dancers, “Who is your favorite choreographer and why?”
The answer was “X Burlesque” choreographer Anthony Cardella. That was him, grinning from his position on stage right, alongside his friend and “X” co-producer Tiffany Mondell.
“X Burlesque” is an enduring Strip production, having debuted at the Flamingo in 2007 after five years at then-Aladdin. The show is the second Stabile adult revue to adjust to COVID protocols for live performance in its home theater. “X Country” at Harrah’s was the first ticketed show in any Strip hotel-casino to return to the stage in October.
Getting past masked entertainers on a Vegas stage has become routine in the COVID era. The show’s lineup returned with Emilie Condamine, Danielle Aveyard, Lora Kelsey, Marilyn Weide, Caroline McClain, Cassandra Blanc and Amanda Sampson onstage.
The revue’s format largely is unchanged, though the room’s seating is spaced and the audience moved 25 feet from the stage. Gone is the moment when an “X” cast member spins on the pole in the middle of the room, her high heel whizzing just past your nose. But the X Burlesque Theatre, as it is named when the show is onstage (titled for Piff the Magic Dragon when he’s headlining) is sufficiently cozy to allow a good time.
The cast effectively teases from nine yards away, though the pole is in play and the dancers groove as a team and in solo numbers from the original production. They slam it out to such rockers as “Dirty Girl,” by Slash feat. Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators (featuring Frankie Sidoris, Angela Stabile’s guitarist son, also in the room); and lay off the throttle a bit for Shirley Bassey’s “Diamonds Are Forever.”
The song list, devised by the Stabiles, is an “X” highlight. This is a night where “Midnight Train” by Chris Stapleton shares a show with Christina Aguilera’s “But I Am a Good Girl.”
Audience members adjusted, same as the cast, to the unusual surroundings. Even behind the masks you could hear the crowd’s shouts to the stage. A COVID nurse visiting from Chicago told Ryan during the Q&A that “X Burlesque was his first female revue, “I’m gay as (expletive), but I am loving this!”
From one of the circular tables, a guest asked what was the hardest part of dancing in the show. Immediately the thought “10 months” flashed in my head, and was also mentioned from the stage. “X Burlesque” was off its home stage for 10 months before returning last week. The cast and crew had just two weeks to prepare for a ticketed performance.
They made it count. Similar to many shows that have galvanized to come back in COVID, “X Burlesque” delivered a high-quality Vegas experience. It’s a start, or restart, of this hit show. May the buckets of champagne flash forever.
John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.