Ambitious ‘Cherry Boom Boom’ doesn’t quite leap beyond lower-budget topless cabaret

It’s a fairly typical number for a topless show, with plenty shaking to The Kills’ “Sour Cherry.” Except for that couple up there slow-dancing in the middle, oblivious to all the skin and boots.

“Cherry Boom Boom” is ambitious and different in a few ways. But the main one is this couple, played by Nick Huff and Nicole Unger. They give the usual dance gyrations a thread of a storyline, meeting cute in the beginning and then splitting up to face different temptations.

“Cherry Boom Boom” has a big stage to fill at the Tropicana, so this is a welcome idea — even if it reminds us of “Rock of Ages” and so many “boy meets/loses girl” sagas — for a show that wants and needs to stand apart from topless cabaret on the Strip.

We’ve all seen a pole dance, but have you ever seen one in context? Here, Unger’s innocent follows a mysterious temptress (Danielle Rueda Watts) to a street-sign seduction.

A lot of us would love to see a lavish new Las Vegas “floor show” update a genre that helped put Vegas on the map in the ’50s. But no one’s figured out quite how to do it, or whether enough people, particularly women, even want to see such a thing. “Peepshow” came close, but owed its success to Holly Madison and the reality-TV show that promoted it.

This one offers a sense of spectacle as well as theatricality. It’s cool to see the old “Folies Bergere” theater roar back to life with lasers and side stages. A stock effect from the cabaret shows — shadow dancers in silhouette — blows up to impressive two-story vertical panels.

And yet the general consensus at the opening-night after-party was that “Cherry Boom Boom” is doomed. It has 19 people on stage and must be spending north of $70,000 a week to compete with little shows such as “Sexxy” and “X Rocks,” which spend $15,000 to $25,000.

“Cherry” bears some blame for not making a bigger leap from that genre. It seems to be on the right path, understanding you can only create a real erotic connection in a cozier room. The dancing is athletic and sassy, and only randomly topless.

Karly Robinson’s purple-haired “Darling Nikki” may be a cabaret-sized number on a bed, but you also get Sarah Johnston on a mechanical bull. Patricia Bouchebel’s “Black Magic Woman” solo seems arena-rock big when video panels light up with fire.

And whip-cracking Coco Boom (Ruthy Inchaustegui) really gets to work the entire room with all-out abandon, so watch those drinks at the VIP tables

But where does it go from there? The problem with a dance show is that only dancers fully appreciate the intricacies. The numbers get repetitive and let the show lose steam. They are spelled by a couple of acrobatic acts, but we’ve seen these routines up and down the Strip.

Emcee Lena Giroux turns out to be a fun singer, but doesn’t get much opportunity. Instead, a couple of songs are lip-synced by our actors or other dancers. And our cute couple has to mime their flirtation, which avoids the risk of atrocious dialogue, but is an even sillier thing to many.

And yet we are so close to really having something here.

The show has an innate sense of cool and an eye for detail. Artistic director Lindsley Allen was one of the original Pussycat Dolls and carries over that blend of pop-video burlesque and strutting L.A. rock. The women range from soft curves and blond to ripped muscles and mohawks.

Classic-rock standards such as “American Woman” and “Whole Lotta Love” are balanced by more offbeat tunes, such as AC/DC’s “The Jack.” The honking sax of Morphine’s “Super Sex” fires up a club scene with old-Vegas neon, cigarettes and chairs that serve warning that a cliched Bob Fosse chair dance is on its way, yet we are mercifully spared.

No wonder the female half of our cute couple goes all Olivia in “Grease” after getting the full girls’ night immersion into Joan Jett’s “Do You Wanna Touch Me.” If she still needs a guy after this, it’s the smallest spoiler alert in history to declare our dude reinvested.

But are we? It’s easy to walk out saying this one started with a boom, then sputtered. But I think the problem is better summed up by the show’s cool program: a vinyl album jacket, complete with a care-worn circle. High expectations for what’s inside, which turns out to be something you’ve mostly heard before.

Read more from Mike Weatherford at reviewjournal.com. Contact him at mweatherford@reviewjournal.com and follow @Mikeweatherford on Twitter.

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