Las Vegas is the kind of place where every single performance is touted as the best in the world. With acts that hail from across the globe (and oftentimes spanning generations), skeptics like me aren't apt to believe the hype right away. Still, when I arrived in Las Vegas for the first time in January 2012 the images of Donn Arden's Jubilee! enchanted me.
When one thinks of Vegas, a host of things come to mind but one figure that is, and probably always will be synonymous with Sin City, is that of the showgirl. After staring from my window at Caesar's Palace, across the street to the towering advertisement for Jubilee! I had to learn more. Much like any of the other shows on Vegas.com, Jubilee! was critically acclaimed and earned rave reviews from patrons as well. The production had been running for three decades, making it a staple of the Strip for years. Still, the photos from the show are what drove the point home for me.
The tall, gorgeous dancers dripped in diamonds and feathers flashed million-dollar smiles. Their costumes were incredibly elaborate, making the point that if one didn't appreciate designer Bob Mackie's flair for the extravagant during the Cher years, you had no choice left at all but to take note this time. I imagined the show would be reminiscent of movie musicals in the golden era of Hollywood filmmaking, complete with the classic dance styles I know and love after watching the Rockettes as a child. I would visit Las Vegas two more times before I had the opportunity to experience Jubilee!, and let me tell you, it was worth the wait and worth every cent.
The seven-act performance opens with showboys (the ladies get so much of the hype, I never even realized there were men in the production) singing an ode to the "beautiful girls" who pranced about in jeweled bras and g-strings. Though the majority of the dancers are topless, the scenes carry such an air of class and elegance, it was like watching art.
The Jubilee! Theater at Bally's is an intimate space with a modest stage, but I was absolutely floored by the elaborate settings. From illuminated Art Deco designs with moving staircases to theatrical devastation featuring pyrotechnics, there was never a dull moment. Between the choreographed dance numbers that required more time to ready the stage, male performers would stand before a simple, shimmering curtain and execute dramatic feats. There were a pair of acrobats performing gravity-defying stunts, a twirler who spun large metal shapes that reflected the light into a laser-like display and finally an aerialist who wrapped himself in silks to glide through the air.
The classic dance numbers were especially fun in the production. There was an Americana segment that had a distinct Broadway feel, and the others were decidedly Las Vegas with towering headdresses, fanciful gowns and dozens of performers moving about at once. There was so much to see, it was difficult to even know where to look.
By far my favorite acts in the production were those of the Titanic and Samson and Delilah. The period-specific ensembles were silver screen-worthy, as were the special effects. The disaster scenes in both acts left me staring, my mouth agape at how well-orchestrated they were. An enslaved Samson triumphantly broke his shackles and down crashed the temple around him, with fire and falling stones. In the Titanic scene, the discovery of the flood in the boiler room incorporated both fire and rushing water as the performers feigned fear and ran about. The scene stealthily transitions from inside the ship to a handful of survivors in a lifeboat watching the giant vessel sink in the background.
The production's finale delivered what was probably my favorite collection of costumes, mostly white and silver, and oh so Art Deco. All of the performers gathered for the final number, singing, sauntering and just looking amazing in general. As the curtains fell on the final number the principal showgirl smiled brilliantly as the last face the audience was to see before the encore reveal.
Jubilee! was nothing short of spectacular in my book.
Quia Querisma is a digital marketer by day, freelance writer by night, and a traveler by nature. Get her latest insights on travel and fashion on her blog, MyJetSetStyle.com.