‘Sirens of TI’ cast enjoys camaraderie

Fireworks are to Vegas what the fat lady is to opera: Once you see them, you know the show’s over.

And as white sparks shoot into the sky above Treasure Island on a recent Wednesday night, hundreds of people crammed in front of Sirens Cove take their cue and leave.

The cannons were fired. Swords clashed. Cheesy lines were hurled across the bay before the Bull ship sank for its 7,440th time. The sirens lured the pirates onto their vessel, made them do a choreographed love-slave dance and then whisked them away to wherever your imagination takes them.

It’s as good an ending as any for a show. But for "Sirens of TI," it’s far from over. While the audience walks away buzzing about the performance, the cast and crew gear up to do it all over again. And again. And again. Four times total in one night, weather permitting.

It’s a testament to the professionalism of this motley bunch that they can perform an 18-minute show — with pyrotechnics, a sinking ship, stunts, music, dancing, swimming — and then raise the ship, prime the explosives, dry off, change costumes and freshen makeup so they can repeat everything 45 minutes later. And squeeze in a rehearsal and dinner, too.

"I think when people see the show, they don’t think of what goes into it or what these kids do," says production manager Kim Cornell-Lyle.

A typical night backstage might not be as entertaining as the show itself, but it’s certainly enlightening. The cast arrives an hour before the 7 p.m. performance. After they clock in and get their assigned roles for the night, they use the time to "put on our game faces," says pirate Jamey Gustafson, 40.

He joined "Sirens" in 2005, but from 1998 to 2003, he played a pirate in the original show, which depicted a battle between British sailors and pirates. His role on this Wednesday is to operate a spotlight. The cast is trained in a variety of roles, even production jobs. That’s one of the things that makes "Sirens" different from every other Strip production show: The cast can be the crew, and they do their own maintenance, too.

Gustafson, who has a degree in public relations, hired on with Treasure Island as a marketing coordinator in the ’90s. One day, he saw a poster advertising auditions for the pirate show. A native of land-bound Kansas City, Mo., Gustafson felt the call of the sea, he says. Mostly he wanted the excuse to grow his hair out and jump around on what he calls a "jungle gym that explodes every 30 minutes."

Many of the 16 sirens and 14 pirates either have college degrees or are working toward one. They have to plan for an eventual end to their performing careers, Cornell-Lyle says.

Las Vegan Brian Kehoe, 36, got a teaching degree. He first auditioned for the original pirate show when he was a student at Eldorado High School, but wasn’t cast until he turned 21. He still had plans to teach, but after doing an internship, Kehoe says he realized he is more comfortable acting like a kid than teaching one.

Kehoe has effectively grown up as a pirate and couldn’t imagine doing anything else. He thought he might have to after the original pirate show was canceled to make way for "Sirens of TI" in 2003.

When Las Vegas underwent its metamorphosis from family destination back to adult Disneyland, Treasure Island abandoned the sailor versus pirate format and opted for a sexed-up production show. That decision proved to be a bit controversial, as every pirate and siren can attest. The British sailors wore redcoats; sirens wear hot pants. Some fans preferred the family-friendly version while others liked the more risque battle of the sexes.

"We get asked all the time, ‘When are you going back to the old pirate show?’ " says siren Anna Cooke, 40.

That’s not happening anytime soon, if ever, says Michelle Knoll, vice president of communications and marketing for Treasure Island. The old kid-friendly pirate show doesn’t fit the hotel’s demographic now.

That question often leads to another one: "What’s a siren?" A lot of people think it’s a mermaid, Cooke says, but it’s actually a mythological creature that hypnotized sailors with their voices and lured them ashore, sometimes crashing their ships on the rocks.

"We do lots of luring during the show," Cooke says.

Cooke, who has a bachelor’s degree in English and literature, started with the show in 2005. Slim and fit, she performs some of the more difficult stunts done by the women.

"What do you do with an English degree?" she sings in the sirens’ dressing room while waiting for curtain call. Her cast mates laugh; Cooke is known as a backstage jester. An avid reader, she has hooked her cast mates on several books, most recently a series called "Outlander."

"She got us hooked on the ‘Twilight’ series," says siren Teresa Baker, 38.

They even went to see the movies together, which isn’t unusual. When they’re not at work, the women often hang out together. Doggy birthday parties are their thing right now, says siren Mindy Memory, 30.

The cast and crew are like a close-knit family, they say. Pirates have even married sirens. Rhett Noseck, while playing the captain five years ago, stopped in the middle of a performance and proposed to Tara Taylor. She said yes.

While the cast members have varied backgrounds — siren Stacey Kane, 33, was a cheerleader for the Oakland Raiders; Kehoe planned to be a high school math teacher — they have one thing in common: stunts.

"Sirens" is a live action stunt show, Cornell-Lyle says. The guys jump off of a sinking ship and dangle as high as 80 feet in the air from harnesses. The women zip down cables as high as 40 feet. It’s dangerous and exhilarating.

It’s also a physically demanding job, requiring many of the men to dive from 40 feet in the air. During the show, the pirates swim from their sinking ship to the sirens’ ship. The cast overall has avoided serious injury, but Kehoe hurt his neck when a pirate fell on him in the water. Another pirate banged his head on a piece of equipment while swimming across the bay. It opened a giant gash in his forehead.

Ask any of them what they find most challenging about the show and almost the entire cast will give the same answer: "the cold."

During the winter, the water can be as cold as 40 degrees, and while some of the men wear wet suits, others elect not to. For several months, Cooke was the only siren who ended up in the water during the show, performing a stunt that carried her overboard with a pirate. Even though she stopped doing that more than a year ago, Cooke still has an appreciation for what the pirates go through nightly.

"I think they deserve hazard pay for it," she says.

Contact reporter Sonya Padgett at spadgett@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4564.

Artists from Cirque du Soleil contribute art to Las Vegas art exhibit
Artists from Cirque du Soleil contribute art to Las Vegas gallery exhibit
Red Plate on the Las Vegas Strip serves a cocktail made with blooming jasmine tea
Red Plate on the Las Vegas Strip serves a cocktail made with jasmine tea
Benny the Ice Skating Dog
Benny is a Las Vegas Labrador who was rescued by former pro skater Cheryl Del Sanyo, and trained to ice skate. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Nevada State Museum
The Nevada State Museum of Las Vegas, located at the Springs Preserve, covers all eras of the state, from prehistoric to today.
Throw a better dinner party
Cash appears at Baseball Winter Meetings
Lights FC mascot Cash plays the electronic drums at the EZ Inflatables’ booth on Tuesday at the Baseball Winter Meetings trade show at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.
5 albums to soundtrack your holiday gatherings in style
1. Various Artists, “Holidays Rule," with Rufus Wainwright, The Shins, Calexico and more. 2. Various Artists, “We Wish You a Metal Xmas and a Headbanging New Year," with Lemmy Kilmister, Alice Cooper, Chuck Billy and others. 3. Various Artists, “Christmas on Death Row," featuring Snoop Dogg and Nate Dogg to name but a few. 4. Bright Eyes, “A Christmas Album.” 5. Various Artists, "The Motown Christmas Album." (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Inside the kitchen at Springs Preserve
The staff of Divine Events do party preparation in the kitchen at Divine Cafe at Springs Preserve. With nine parties the following day, this is a particularly busy time for the crew. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
WinterFest in Henderson.
Miss Rodeo America Fashion Show
The 28 women contestants of Miss Rodeo America compete in a fashion show at the Tropicana on Dec. 7, 2018.
Tournament Of Kings Holiday Show
Wizards and warriors are ready for the holidays at Excalibur's Tournament of Kings Holiday Dinner Show.
Take a dive with the Silverton mermaids
A visit to the Silverton Casino Hotel is not complete without taking in the popular, and very unique, mermaid show.
Cowboys and western aficionados can buy virtually anything at Cowboy Christmas
Vegas Golden Knights Christmas Display
In the Las Vegas Valley, the chances of getting a white Christmas are slim. But this year, you can have a “Knight” Christmas. A Henderson resident has a Christmas lights display that is synchronized to the entrance music for the Golden Knights. GG Misa’s Knights light show is played every 30 minutes from 5 to 10 nightly. His light show consists of two songs: Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” and the entrance music, “Le Castle Vania,” from the movie “John Wick.” The display is located at 730 Bollons Island St. (Richard Brian/Las Vegas Reivew-Journal)
Holiday Hooch At El Cortez is Just in Time For Repeal Day And Christmas
Holiday Hooch At El Cortez Is Just In Time For Repeal Day And Christmas. Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal
TV's LGBT superheroes
Green Valley Ranch's Winter's Village
The Mob Museum
Best Friend Menu Reveal Wednesday
Chef Roy Choi tells us what to expect from Wednesday’s Facebook Live Menu Reveal for his new Park MGM restaurant Best Friend. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Quick Chat With Criss Angel
James D. Gish and Susan Anton rehearse
Susan Anton will be special guest at James D. Gish’s holiday concerts Dec. 7 at Summerlin Library and Dec. 9 at Clark County Library. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bellagio Winter Wonderland
"Majestic Holiday Magic" at the Bellagio Conservatory.
Underwater Santa At The Silverton
Santa takes a dive Sunday, December 2, at the Silverton Casino Hotel. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Cowabunga Bay Christmas Town
Las Vegas Natural History Museum
Las Vegas Natural History Museum, which opened in 1991, has exhibits of mechanical dinosaurs and taxidermied animals, along with live snakes, fish and sharks. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Magical Forest Lights
Cirque Du Soleil Performers Team Up For New Show "Kinekt"
Through dance, acrobatics and aerial arts, “Kinekt” tells a story all too familiar to modern families: how to maintain a human connection in the digital age. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ethel M Holiday Cactus Garden
The Pinball Hall of Fame in Las Vegas
The Pinball Hall of Fame was created by Tim Arnold and opened in 2006. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jump! The Ultimate Dog Show at Springs Preserve in Las Vegas
Trainer Lou “Mack” McCammon guides several rescue dogs through a series of tricks and jumps two shows a day weekends through December at the Springs Preserve in Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Incarcerated Christmas
This is the fourth year HOPE for Prisoners has worked with the Nevada Department of Corrections to create a Christmas for prisoners to visit their families. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
2018 Homeless Vigil
Straight From The Streets holds its 23rd annual vigil to remember the 179 homeless individuals who died in Clark County this year.
Getting through the Holiday blues
Psychologist Whitney Owens offers advice on keeping your mental health in check during the Holiday season in Henderson, Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018. (Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Operation Homefront Holiday Meals for Military
Operation Homefront Holiday Meals for Military program gave meal kits to 200 families at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10047 in Las Vegas Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018. It all started with a chance encounter in a supermarket in Utica, N.Y., near Fort Drum. A soldier, his wife and infant had a handful of grocery items they couldn't afford. A Beam Suntory employee picked up the $12 cost for the groceries. The program has grown from providing 500 meal kits to military families in 2009 to providing more than 7,000 nationally this holiday season.K.M. Cannon Las Vegas Review-Journal @KMCannonPhoto
An elegant Tea Party for substance abuse and homeless women
An elegant Tea Party for substance abuse and homeless women at WestCare Women Children Campus in Las Vegas. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Former 51s manager Wally Backman chats about new job
Former Las Vegas 51s manager Wally Backman talks about his new job with the independent league Long Island Ducks during the Baseball Winter Meetings in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Dec. 10, 2018. (Ron Kantowski/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Inside the kitchen at Springs Preserve
The staff of Divine Events do party preparation in the kitchen at Divine Cafe at Springs Preserve. With nine parties the following day, this is a particularly busy time for the crew. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pearl Harbor survivor Edward Hall talks about his memories of Dec. 7, 1941
U.S. Army Corps Edward Hall, a 95-year-old survivor of Pearl Harbor talks about his memories of that horrific day. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Roy Choi on cooking for Park MGM employees
As he prepares to open his new restaurant Best Friend later this month at Park MGM, celebrity chef Roy Choi took the time to cook for the resort’s employees Tuesday. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Best Friend Menu Reveal Wednesday
Chef Roy Choi tells us what to expect from Wednesday’s Facebook Live Menu Reveal for his new Park MGM restaurant Best Friend. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Great Santa Run
People participated in the 14th annual Las Vegas Great Santa Run which raises cubs for Opportunity Village.
World Holidays Exhibit At The Natural History Museum
Migratory Bird Day teaches adults and kids to celebrate birds
Different organizations offered activities for kids and adults to learn about birds and celebrate their migration journey at Sunset Park. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
"Jackson: The Red Rock Canyon Burro" is a children's book about Red Rock Canyon
"Jackson: The Red Rock Canyon Burro" is a children's book about Red Rock Canyon (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Interfaith Amigos speak in Las Vegas
Celebrity photographer dedicates dance book to Las Vegas shooting victims
Behind the scenes with local celebrity photographer Jerry Metellus as he talks about his Dance For Vegas coffee book dedicated to the 58 victims of the October 1 shooting. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Dreamsickle Kids Foundation founder Gina Glass talks awareness
Gina Glass, 35, founded Dreamsickle Kids Foundation to raise awareness for sickle cell disease in Nevada. (Jessie Bekker/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like