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One-man show ‘Defending the Caveman’ returning March 19

Over the years, Kevin Burke and I had this ongoing debate on just what to call “Defending the Caveman,” the one-man show he has performed more than 3,400 times, and where it fits on the Strip.

Burke categorizes the long-form monologue as a Broadway play. He’s stubborn about this, just because it is scripted and ran 674 times on Broadway.

But on the Strip? You probably don’t mention “Caveman” in the same breath as “Jersey Boys” or “Rock of Ages.” But we can safely call it one thing: an alternative to stand-up, variety acts and magic.

And when “Caveman” reopens on March 19 at The D, it won’t be alone among cabaret/sketch-comedy/mini-musical/off-Broadway shows we’re not quite sure what to call without using a lot of these / things.

The field may be getting crowded for this genre that’s not actually a genre. But audiences have more choice after the recent arrival of “50 Shades! The Parody,” which may soon be joined in Bally’s Windows Showroom by the off-Broadway “Sex Tips for Straight Women from a Gay Man.”

Both titles are more easily marketed to the “girls night out” niche than to fans of “Saturday Night Live.” Adam Steck would be the local presenter of “Sex Tips.” He says it fits right into cross-promotions for his “Thunder from Down Under,” even if he is looking for a name star to headline it and hedge his bet.

The girls-night angle doesn’t guarantee success. “The D Word” and “Divorce Party” are among the failed attempts to chase “Menopause the Musical.” And “50 Shades,” which has a big cast for a little show, is said to not yet be on the safe side of the break-even line.

On the other side of the demographic fence — the one where we often find stoner dudes — the campy “Evil Dead the Musical” hangs on, while “Pawn Shop Live” proved a misfire. “Zombie Burlesque” is the hit I touted as last year’s example of responding to not only a hot trend (zombies!) but a restlessness and general stagnation on the Las Vegas show scene.

Perhaps tourist choices are being goaded by more aggressive fare playing outside casinos, such as “Puppetry of the Penis,” coming April 14 to the Erotic Heritage Museum in the west shadow of the Strip. But alternative doesn’t always have to mean transgressive.

“I think people want to see shows that have more to them than just, ‘Hey, it’s a guy telling jokes,’ ” Burke says. “They want to see a show that affects them on some kind of emotional level as well. I think that’s part of the success of ‘Menopause.’ All of these women see themselves in the show and relate to it on an emotional level. It’s the same with ‘Caveman.’ ”

By the way, Burke says the reboot of “Caveman” will include a new set and script changes working toward a return to Broadway this fall, before the end of its 20th anniversary year. Then we wouldn’t have to wonder what to call it.

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

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