Steve Wynn’s ShowStoppers

| June 18, 2015

Steve Wynn’s ShowStoppers

Encore Theater, Wynn Las Vegas, Las Vegas, NV, May 15, 2015

Reviewed by Michael Barbieri for Cabaret Scenes

Kerry O''Malley, Lindsay Roginski, Nicole Kaplan, Steve Wynn, David Burnham, Randal Keith and Andrew Ragone

Kerry O’Malley, Lindsay Roginski, Nicole Kaplan, Steve Wynn, David Burnham, Randal Keith and Andrew Ragone

Over the last several years, attempts have been made to bring Broadway to Vegas: some successful, like Phantom, Jersey Boys and Mamma Mia!, while others, like Hairspray, Avenue Q, The Producers, and Spamalot were relative failures. Drastic cutting of original Broadway scores and books, allowing shows to fit a requested 90-minute running time, may be a factor, as may be the popularity of Cirque du Soleil and Blue Man Group, which don’t rely on spoken language, appealing to the city’s many non-English-speaking visitors.

Now there’s (fanfare!) Steve Wynn’s ShowStoppers, a slick, shiny new revue featuring some of the best-known songs from such classic Broadway shows as Gypsy, Guys and Dolls, Cabaret, Damn Yankees, Chicago, and A Chorus Line. At a tidy 80 minutes and with plenty of spectacle, and only a few interstitial narrative bits, this is a show capable of pleasing most any audience.

The onstage 31-piece orchestra starts the show off with a good portion of the overture to Gypsy—to my mind, one of the finest overtures in Broadway history. Seamlessly incorporating several songs from some of the evening’s other classics, this overture was a refreshing detail sadly missing from a great many modern musicals.

The vocalists—David Burnham, Randal Keith, Kerry O’Malley, Lindsay Roginski, Andrew Ragone and Angelina Mullins—next perform a rousing, if slightly obvious medley of “There’s No Business Like Show Business” (Annie Get Your Gun) and “It’s Today” (Mame). These numbers, along with re-written versions of Hello, Dolly!’s “Elegance” and “Anything You Can Do” (Annie Get Your Gun), while beautifully sung, come off as a bit saccharine—something you might see performed on a cruise ship. No matter; the songs themselves, even out of context, are still excellent and the audience ate them up.

Luckily, those songs, sung mostly in front of the main show curtain, lead into the real meat of Showstoppers: the production numbers!

First, two gorgeous, silver-and-white set pieces glide in to create Kander and Ebb’s iconic Cabaret. In “Wilkommen,” David Burnham’s Emcee is appropriately playful and a bit sleazy, and while much of the material has been sanitized for the Vegas crowd, some of the more ribald lines concerning the cabaret girls (“…each und every one, a virgin!”) have thankfully been left intact. “Money, Money” is fun, though essentially a retread of the film version and, although Kerry O’Malley belts out a wonderful rendition of the title song, it’s still difficult to put Minnelli out of one’s mind.

Two numbers from Guys and Dolls are handled with self-assured swagger and strong vocal chops, and Marguerite Derricks’s revival meeting choreography for “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat” is simple, yet exciting. These are followed by selections from Damn Yankees, including “The Game,” which felt overlong and dragged the show down just a bit.

Reproductions of iconic Vegas neon signs set the mood for a kicky “If My Friends Could See Me Now” from Sweet Charity—which includes an homage to Bob Fosse’s “Rich Man’s Frug”—after which Randal Keith delivers Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley’s “Once in a Lifetime” with bravura.

At this point we enter the home stretch: selections from Chicago—an appropriately glitzy “Razzle Dazzle” with a fine vocal from Andrew Ragone and one of the fastest costume changes I’ve ever witnessed; “Cell Block Tango,” inexplicably done by five merry murderesses, instead of six (Irving Lipschitz didn’t make the cut, apparently), but still wonderfully staged and performed’ and “All That Jazz”/“Hot Honey Rag,” showcasing the excellent ensemble.

Kerry O’Malley rises up through the stage to show us that she’s got what it takes to play Gypsy’s Madame Rose with a stunning “Everything’s Coming Up Roses.” Finally, we get the grand finale: a glittering “One” from A Chorus Line, with choreography re-staged by original cast member Baayork Lee! Having seen the original Broadway version six times, and the revival twice, I’m very familiar with this particular showstopper, so I’ll admit to being slightly thrown when the top hat and tailcoat-clad dancers began entering from both sides of the stage, rather than the traditional stage right wing, but allowances had to be made for the larger cast. The number itself, one that holds a very special place in my heart, still left me in tears and, at the end of the show, I was on my feet with the rest of the audience.

My criticisms of ShowStoppers are minor: dancers pulling my focus during the “Cabaret” solo; the hokey patter (“I can’t believe that a few months ago, I was auditioning for Steve Wynn, and now here I am in Las Vegas performing for you nice people!”); and the re-written songs. But, thanks to the amazing cast and orchestra, fabulous choreography, and slick, clean direction from Phillip Wm. McKinley, these are tiny details that audiences will likely overlook.

Steve Wynn’s ShowStoppers is aimed mainly at the 40-50-year-old crowd who grew up with musicals from Broadway’s golden age—nothing later than 1975—so you won’t see material from more recent shows like Rent or Wicked. What you will get, however, are some of the best moments from some of the greatest shows ever to grace the Great White Way. It’s 80 minutes of classic Broadway bliss!

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Category: Las Vegas, Las Vegas Musical Theater Review, Musical Theatre Reviews, Off-Broadway Reviews, Regional

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