If the world is ending, they’ll go out dancing

If you’re opening a show with an unconventional premise at midnight on one of the slowest weekends of the year, it’s good to have the Mayan apocalypse as a backup plan.

"Let’s go on the day the world’s supposed to blow up, so we either go out with a bang, or if the show sucks, no one’s going to be around to tell anyone else anyway," Steve Stanulis explains with a laugh.

But Stanulis’ timing seems better than the Mayans these days.

"Stripped the Play" fuses the male g-string format with theatrical monologues. As the catchphrase goes, they bare their souls as well as their bodies.

It arrives not long after "Magic Mike" became the year’s biggest box office surprise (in terms of return on a modest budget), and quite soon after two Chippendales dancers (Jaymes Vaughan and James Davis) came in second on "The Amazing Race," even further humanizing the profession.

Stanulis cut a deal for midnight shows at the Saxe Theater starting Friday, after New York success with a different version of the show. That one was about 70 percent talking and 30 percent dancing; this one will be more of a 50-50 proposition, and may even tilt the scales to more dancing.

Stanulis also has reworked the piece to make it more factual and more about him and the days of his double life as a New York cop and Chippendales dancer.

But he will continue to set his work apart from the Chips or "Thunder from Down Under," because the unlikely combination of dancing and theater piece works.

"Girls in their 20s, all of a sudden all their friends start getting married around the same time," Stanulis explains. "You do the whole male revue thing. And then the next one, you do the same thing. After the third time, you want to do something different."

This show offers them "still the male revue aspect, but brings them into the guys’ lives."

In New York, the theatrical format also put the dancers at a more respectable distance. A lot of bachelorettes "wanted to see the guys, wanted to see them dance, but didn’t want to be engaged or touched," he adds.

(It should be added, on behalf of Jaymes and James, that "no dollar dancing" has always been a point of pride and distinction for the Las Vegas Chippendales. "Thunder" too.) …

Two producers controlling three shows at the Plaza have pulled them until January, after forcing the hotel’s hand in separating producer-entertainer Anthony Cools from control of the Plaza’s showoom operations.

It will be mid-January before "Bite," "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas" and the "Grand Ole Vegas Revue" return to the hotel’s vintage showroom, though their producers say the titles are in good standing with management and guaranteed to return.

That leaves The Phat Pack to hold down the fort at least through New Year’s eve. The cabaret show from three former "Phantom" singers will have to take a break then, so new lighting and sound equipment can be installed after Cools removes his gear.

Cools (who also performs as a Paris Las Vegas hypnotist) was brought on board last year as an outside contractor to helm showroom operations at the relaunched Plaza; he had long-standing ties with marketing executive Steve Rosen.

But Cools was cut loose last week after "Bite" producer Tim Molyneux and Matthew Resler, who oversees "Whorehouse" and "Grand Ole," complained about box office operations, accounting and ticketing reports.

The Plaza was supportive and responsive to producer concerns about "the box office and showroom not being run at a professional level," Molyneux said. "Until these issues get cleared up we cannot continue."

The producers admit they would have been a bit more patient had this been peak season. But except for this year’s long New Year’s weekend, tourism is at low ebb; a good time for the Plaza to either contract with another third-party operator, or take the showroom operation under its wing.

The Phat Pack chose to stay because it has only four cast members, and they agreed to weather the operational issues to sustain the show’s momentum. But "Whorehouse" has a cast of 18, "Bite" has 12 and "Grand" has nine. "As a producer, I had more responsibility for others," Molyneux says. …

Now that her long, hard-fought presidential campaign is behind her – yes, she was on the ballot in three states, drawing close to 49,000 votes – Roseanne Barr is giving stand-up another try in Las Vegas.

Barr will do a residency at the Tropicana Las Vegas’ Laugh Factory club, starting Jan. 14 and going at least through March 3.

Her 7 p.m. shows come before the club’s usual multi-comic format at 8:30 and 10:30 p.m., but move magician Murray (SawChuck)’s comedy-magic showcase to 5 p.m. starting Feb. 4; he takes a vacation starting Jan. 6.

Roseanne (by whatever last name, or none at all) has a long history on the Strip, from her 1986 breakthrough as a "domestic goddess" to being one of the last headliners at the Sahara in 2008. …

Seems Elvis can always find a way to be heard at he former Las Vegas Hilton, this time through the fingers of single-name guitar maestro Esteban (Stephen Paul). The flamenco king of home shopping will roost in the Las Vegas Hotel’s Shimmer Cabaret for at least three months starting Dec. 27 at 8:30 p.m.

Esteban will perform Thursdays and Fridays when Rich Little is off, and will likely pick up three Saturdays in January and other nights the impressionist gives up for one-nighters out of town.

The guitarist’s show will be close to what it was in September stop at the Cabaret Jazz room of the Smith Center for the Performing Arts. He will again enlist daughter Teresa Joy to help out on everything from "Classical Gas" to "Love Me Tender." …

Finally, crack open a bottle of Sting’s Casino del Ville to toast the memory of Karl Carsony (Schrom). The acrobat died last week, but lived more than 86 years, long enough to say goodbye to the Sahara, which he opened as part of the Carsony Brothers in 1952.

And why did I suggest that particular wine from Sting’s Tuscan vineyard? Because it licensed a photo of Carsony doing a handstand for the label.

Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at mweatherford@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0288.

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