If Donn Arden were alive he’d love this idea, love what we’re planning,” says Jerry Mitchell.
The fact that Mitchell is familiar with Arden — the late purveyor of the iconic showgirls preserved in “Jubilee!” — backed up his claim that he always dreamed of working on the Strip.
Tuesday gave Mitchell and the producers of “Peepshow” the chance to take the wraps off the Planet Hollywood production that won’t open until March, but which they’ve already tested in New York workshop versions.
Nearly three years ago, Mitchell was in town to re-create his choreography for “Hairspray” at Luxor. He went on to direct the Broadway hit “Legally Blonde.” But he had designs on a hip burlesque update even in 2001, when he remade “EFX” as a vehicle for Rick Springfield.
“I love this town. I love this form of entertainment,” he says. “Peepshow” will have a set by popular architect David Rockwell, 25 dancers, a live band and celebrity stars Kelly Monaco and Mel B. (Melanie Brown).
“This is as important to me as making it on Broadway, if not more. I really mean it when I say that this town offers me something Broadway can’t offer,” he says.
The reference point for “Peepshow” is less what Mitchell has done on the Strip than something he helms in New York each year: “Broadway Bares,” a celebrity revue to raise money for Broadway Cares.
The first one was in 1992, with Mitchell and six male friends stripping on a bar top to raise $8,000. The next year he added women, and interest snowballed; this year’s edition raised $865,000.
“Broadway Bares” is a tangible way for Mitchell to demonstrate what he has in mind for Vegas. And frankly, topless fairy tale characters such as Little Bo Peep sound a little shaky without Mitchell’s track record. I wouldn’t be surprised if, after “Criss Angel Believe,” county officials passed an ordinance banning shows that follow its characters through a dream. But that’s exactly what this one has in mind for Monaco.
Mitchell says he has the combined experience to make this work. “I think the work I’ve done on ‘Broadway Bares’ in the past 17 years has really educated me on what works, what’s sexy, how much story you need,” and how to “develop characters in dances and songs that we can follow throughout an evening.”
And his past work on the Strip “taught me that language and dialogue scenes really don’t have much of a place in this town. … This is a visual town; the stimulus is visual. You have to figure out a way to make that visual thing work. If you’re going to try to tell a story, how do you make those pictures add up?”
After all the debate of whether Broadway sensibilities transfer to Las Vegas, spring will tell us whether skin is the great equalizer.
Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0288.