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Jabbawockeez release positive energy in ‘Prism’

The Jabbawockeez flip the switch from black and white to color in their new show “Prism.” But really, the whole effort at Luxor brings that “Oz”-like illumination.

Almost any show is better up close, but one with break dancing at its core? If a guy is going to the trouble of crab-hopping on his hands and feet in a straight line across the stage, we should be able to appreciate that.

And now we do. The troupe that spun Las Vegas stardom from a TV competition, “America’s Best Dance Crew,” did what they could with larger spaces at the MGM Grand and Monte Carlo. But those played like an away game compared to their new custom venue.

The theater stacks at least the first 10 or 12 rows of the 830 seats almost on top of the action. We can’t see the faces of the masked dancers but we can see the precision geometry of their dance work and feel how hard they are working.

And the stage pulsates with its own manic rhythms, a theatrical Tokyo or Times Square reflecting all that positive energy it’s absorbing.

Walking in, you wonder if the retrofit — replacing a bygone motion-simulator ride on the second floor — left enough room for seven guys to jump around. But the stage soon fires up like the funhouse on a carnival midway, full of ramps and video panels and missing only the zigzag steps and revolving barrel.

“Prism” also finds the human content more accessible than the last edition, “MUS.I.C.”

Starting the show with Gene Wilder’s “Willy Wonka” song “Pure Imagination” is a pretty clear sign we won’t be in for a night of head-mulching break beats.

Ever since it landed on the Strip in 2010, the troupe has tried to expand its evolution from B-boy dance competitions. Directors Napoleon and Tabitha D’umo continue to build upon the juvenile energy, turning the Jabbawockeez brand into an oddly endearing mix of mime, modern dance and physical theater.

The Jabbawockeez pile into a “car” and go for a ride. They jump into old-school video games, and turn into synchronized Motown hoofers. As a narrator tells us “Life is a balance,” one figure clad in black and another that’s all white do that mirror image routine a lot of us still associate with Lucille Ball and Harpo Marx.

It’s still the youngest show on the Strip, in attitude as well as target audience. The show will test your tolerance of gags depending on audio snippets of songs or movies, and it perhaps overindulges short attention spans by shifting ideas as quickly as the cut-and-splice sound collage that drives them.

And yes, there will be ninjas. The repeated menace to peaceful Jabbawockeez is one of several holdovers from the last show, along with the break-dance version of air guitar on Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and a bit where a woman selected from the audience is serenaded by competing crew members.

But it all seems to hang together better this time, with a seamless flow and unifying themes of brotherhood and diversity.

About 15 minutes in, the Jabbawockeez save the day in color-coded costumes reflecting the colors of the rainbow (maybe you’ll catch the later joke about lounge singer Roy G Biv).

The colors help, if not to tell them apart, than to at least better follow who is doing what onstage and where. And at 75 minutes, the new show speeds through its bag of tricks without having to repeat any of them.

Like hip-hop itself, the riffs and punch lines are a pop-culture Cuisinart — don’t forget to throw in “Gangnam Style” and “Harlem Shake” — but end up as something original. And, in this case, irresistibly positive.

They even drain the satire from “The Wayans Brothers” TV theme (“We’re brothers, we’re happy and we’re singing and we’re colored”) and turn the sample into a joke that’s simply cute (because they are colored, seven ways).

If that doesn’t make you smile, then maybe you are too old for this one. But most people on this night went out wanting to dance.

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

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