‘Striptease’ covers bases while ‘Echoes of the ’60s’ needs a star

Two shows from first-time producers seek a foothold on the Strip through durable genres: topless cabaret and never-out-of-style ’60s hits.

But while "Striptease the Show" works hard to live up to the second two words of its title, "Echoes of the ’60s" forgets that a show is more than a band.

‘Striptease’: Classy camp

For years, Vegas topless shows were sold by body parts, not names.

But Holly Madison’s "Peepshow" steered the attention to familiar, uh, faces. For at least three months, the Sahara’s new "Striptease the Show" counters with its own reality-TV star, Taya Parker, the Penthouse model who won Bret Michaels’ affections in the third season of VH1’s "Rock of Love."

Parker also hosts "Striptease" because producers Jim and Ann Marie Hayek supply "featured" headliners to topless clubs around the country and decided to see how they would draw in a ticketed show here.

If you are familiar with the work of Aspen Reign (four-time winner of Miss Nude World to you, mister!), Christmas comes early. If not, "Striptease" still boasts a strong infrastructure, thanks to choreographer Enrique Lugo and six "house" dancers (one of them male) who are less cartoonishly implanted than the stars.

The show has its ridiculous moments, as this kind of stuff tends to. But more often you tend to play along with its good humor and respect fresh ideas that steer clear of "You Can Leave Your Hat On" cliches.

Lugo’s eclectic background includes Russian ballet training and pop-star choreography. He honed a fine balance of camp and class in the highbrow erotica of "Fashionistas" and puts it to good use here. Women behind bars never moved so well.

The jailhouse sequence includes a three-woman "shower," one of several roll-on props that upsize to the challenge of a wide stage in an 800-seat theater.

Ms. Reign might be a bit mechanical, but she isn’t wanting for stuff to do. Her routine begins in a giant picture frame, moves to an elevated tub of water and then to a staircase, with transport assist from sculpted male lead Alin Campan (another "Fashionistas" alum).

Parker is a spirited host with a confident party-girl presence. But when it finally comes time to drop top? Where’s the Bret tunes, dude?

Lugo goes pretentious by putting Parker amid giant statuary and floating swaths of fabric, a bit that lands somewhere between the title credits of a James Bond movie and the old biddies in "The Music Man" doing their "One Grecian urn …" routine.

The athletic Jenny Romas, a Las Vegan seen on "America’s Got Talent," is better matched to a Latin sequence framed with ballroom dance. But more still could be done to incorporate her acrobatic and fire-manipulation skills.

The fourth guest star, the enticing Tali De’Mar, offers the genuine striptease promised by the title, a meticulous burlesque number dropped in from the retro cult spearheaded by Dita Von Teese. Nothing wrong with covering all the bases — or uncovering them, as the case may be here.

’60s band seeking star

Most of the six members of "Echoes of the ’60s," a late show at the V Theater, were in the backing band of late headliner Danny Gans.

This explains why:

a) They are a fine, versatile outfit. After all, Gans offered musicians a premium gig on the Strip.

Here they traverse the ’60s classics with ease, be it Motown pop, the intricate vocal harmonies of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young or the instrumental Santana blowout "Soul Sacrifice."

b) They had an itch not merely to keep working after Gans’ death last year, but to step from the background into the spotlight.

Despite some nice-try wigs and costumes, this Bill DeLoach-led effort produced by Greg and Gracie Fulljames doesn’t really make the leap from "show band" to "show." The group seems to be here at the V Theater because it’s too good for low-paying lounge gigs. But neither is it bringing a production most would expect from a $62 ticket.

Too much of it plays like the backing band waiting for the star to arrive. Singer Marilyn James (long-timers may remember her in the Stardust’s "Enter the Night") gets the focus by default with her bang-up "White Rabbit" and "You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me."

It’s easy to identify the problem here, harder to offer a solution. Perhaps more of a multimedia, "planetarium" approach? Fancy lighting cues and way more historical photos to better use the venue’s rear video wall?

Whatever they do, I get the idea they better think of something quick.

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

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