Saturday, March 28, 2009 | 7:12 p.m.
- ‘Les Folies Bergere,’ 50 years ago (3-28-2009)
Updated at 9:45:
It ends in a flourish, with gymnastics-inspired choreography, and finally the splits, as Jackson wishes. A whistling, roaring standing O. One last cancan, and the sparkling "Les Folies Berger" sign falls, and now, finally, the red curtain. That closes it out, folks. A Vegas institution is no more. She was 49, and we'll remember her well.
Updated at 9:42:
Time for the cancan. Is the cancan a particularly difficult form of dance? It has to be, or there would be more cancan dancers. Clap-clap-clap, we delight in the woman in the orange tops, white skirts and black hats. They look like candy corns, actually. Victoria's Secret on parade now, with a lot of teddy-based costuming with lace and sheen ... Coyne just rode past on a big French bicycle, no helmet. Cartwheels, round-offs, not quite in sync but performed with high spirit. The original stage-dive now, with women leaping from the set's raised deck and into the waiting arms of dancing men.
Updated at 9:25:
Holly is out now, juggling a bowling ball and two regular-sized balls. They are blue baseballs, I think. Holly is so goofy, so salt-of-the-Earth. He pulls out a green M&M and says, "I'll save that for my date later." Risque! Holly makes Mac King look like David Blaine. Two full-size bowling balls and an M&M (peanut) are about to be juggled. "Faux pas," he says, is French for "stepdad." Earlier tonight, as we chatted at the table, Holly joked about having carpal tunnel syndrome. He just said the act was sponsored by the Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Foundation. Maybe some truth to that. But he does juggle the balls and the M&M, which is orange, with the candy dropping into his mouth to end the trick. Bravo! Much better than "Believe;" I'll see it again and again!
Updated at 9:20:
OK, the best music of the night, Janet Jackson's "Black Cat." Everyone is in black, but for the four women in white leather pant suits -- whoops, not anymore. There go the jackets. I wonder what Ms. Nasty thinks of her song being used in "Folies," or if she even knows. Hey, good use of a leash in this number ...
Updated at 9:15:
Time for the woman of the new millennium, who Coyne explains is "complex, athletic and in complete control .. but she has not abandoned her sexuality! Those powers of seduction just under the surface, waiting to ignite!" But the new millennium guy, apparently, is happy doing push-ups in white dress shirts, suspenders and black slacks as Felice sings "Baby Knows" in a black bustier with still more feathers fastened to her waist. And just when you ask, "Where are the topless women hovering above the stage on swings?" they arrive, unleashing all that under-the-surface seduction.
Updated at 9:06:
Mario & Daniel are back! They're doing their Ricky Ricardo act for the new millennium. Mario just called Daniel "corny," which is the pot-calling-the-kettle-black moment in the show. Mario & Daniel were the original Argentinian gauchos, with an act dating to 1973. Someone just cried out from the crowd, and one of them -- Mario, I think -- said, "That's Ginny Murphy!" A very inside-baseball shot at the Trop's former entertainment director. Onstage is now a cardboard cutout of Lance Burton, making an unexpected appearance. "Great to be here," says Lance, or is it Daniel? I love these guys. I'm not sure if they're doing material as part of an act, or are just behaving and have no idea where they are. But it works, and a note to any entertainment directors in town: Find yourself a couple of highly agitated Argentinian brothers who are willing to wear tuxes onstage, say whatever comes to mind, and just wait for the cash to roll in. A partial standing O for Mario & Daniel!
Updated at 8:57:
The production tosses the 1960s and '70s into a single category. Coyne tells us of "free love" and "women's liberation" and a time when "nudity was no longer taboo." Coyne is dressed in a wig and frilly vest, what they used to call a "hippie." The song is "Dancing in the Street," and Coyne pulls off the tux look a lot better than this Hendrix affect he's got going. "We Are Family" and a lavish dance number puts the cap on both decades.
Updated at 8:51:
The figures-behind-the-silhouette scene, which now seems passe in Vegas (thanks largely to "Crazy Horse" at MGM Grand) still works. Too short, though. Just about 10 seconds. But hell, what does it matter now? Up now is "Ray's Rock House," the eight elevated octagon-shaped stages, and another winner. Beautiful.
Updated at 8:46:
Club Tropicana, onstage, looks every bit appealing as the real casino outside the theater. I don't know why I just thought of this, but several years ago, I happened to be sitting at the same blackjack table at the Trop as Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman Tony Casillas. That was some fun, I'll tell you what. Hey, I think the canned music just skipped. Let's try to keep this together, one last time, on closing night.
Updated at 8:42:
The signature turntable-under-the-giant mirror scene. Very buoyant. A dozen dazzling Vegas showgirls, swinging around in pink feathered fans. This, I say sadly, is a scene that will never quite be matched again in our city. You can't help but smile. Coyne and Felice Garcia are doing their ballroom number, her in a white gown and him in tails. It's a veritable spin-fest now. He holds her aloft. Big finish! Smiles! Shake those fans like it matters, kids!
Updated at 8:38:
The Long Twins, a vision in red, purple and yellow spandex, are tossing rings and stuffing each other into a long cylinder. What happens of the Long Twins? I wonder. My money is on the midway at the Circus Circus Adventuredome, where they will kill. Cirque du Long, absent the bungee, is what this is. What I also wonder is, what if one of the Longs wants out of the act? Is he pressured to stay by the other Long? Are they equally committed to this form of entertainment -- what if one wants to go off and play the mandolin and sing ballads? We'll find out later -- the Amazing Long Twins have just left the stage to polite but not thunderous applause.
Updated at 8:32:
Seven topless vamps have just sauntered across the stage to the thumping, piped-in orchestral backing music. Ballroom dancers now cavort, with the Woman in Red dramatically carried onstage and flipped about. The vamps are back! Titillating the audience one last time after emerging from tall pyramids. Where is all this setting going after "Folies," closes, I wonder? Lonnie Hammargren's backyard.
Updated at 8:27:
"Vamp" is a word we need to get back in the lexicon, while I'm thinking of it.
Updated at 8:25:
Emcee Chris Coyne is a toothy sort. He tells us the show's signature attraction is "beautiful women," and lots of 'em. One thing about "Folies," it has always served to celebrate the human form. The ballet number is happening now, and the guys are looking a little unsteady. I've been hearing that quality control in the last version of "Folies" has been lagging even before the show's closing was announced this year.The curtain's in need of vacuuming, that sort of thing. It's just a little loose up there. But, hey, Chris tells us, it's 1922! Flapper time, and "Anything Goes!"
Updated at 8:20:
Former "Folies" cast member and current Tropicana Entertainment Director Elaine Celario introduced Jackson to the thrilled crowd. Jackson has given a short history of the show, which he reminds dates to 1869 in Paris. Someone shouts, "Were you there?" Nice. Jackson also reminds that the "Folies" alumni includes Siegfried & Roy, who made their Vegas debut with the show in 1967. "Giddy-up, it's time to get outta Dodge," is how Jackson closes his comments. Show time.
Updated at 7:58:
The Tiffany Theatre, which seats nearly 1,000, is about packed as the lights fall. Entertainers and Las Vegans who have lived in the city for a while often complain that audiences don't dress up for shows anymore. Well, they're all dolled up tonight. A lot of glitter in the house, and I haven't seen a ball cap or a single pair of flip-flops.
Updated at 7:11:
Jerry Jackson is in his mid-70s and can still perform the splits without warming up. This is the type of information you pick up, almost without trying, at the final night of "Le Folies Bergere" at the Tropicana. Jackson started with the production as its choreographer in 1966 and took over as producer in 1975. As he noted, he remains in awe that the production lasted just a year short of 50.
"I've had the greatest job for 42 years," he said earlier. "Any time you have your dream job for 42 years, you can't complain.
It's about 30 minutes before showtime and Jackson, today the choreographer, director and producer of "Folies," is in high demand. He has helped conceive six versions of the production and seems, even now, to be able to leap onstage and perform a few numbers. I mentioned that to him, and that's how I found out he can still do the splits, though I didn't ask for verification. Not as noticed as Jackson is Marjorie Fields, a raven in red near the front of the stage. Marjorie is dressed in a siren-red dress and her hair, too, is red. Her nickname during her days in the show was "Big Red," in part because of her height and, in part, because of her "big boobs." Marjorie turns 80 on Monday and spent four years with the show, from 1960-1964.
"I'm not sad," she said. "This is a great chance to catch up with everyone."
Nevada Ballet Theatre co-founder Nancy Houssels, quite a dancer herself, is also seated near the front. And at my side, in a quirk of fate, is longtime Tropicana Public Relations Director Ira David Sternberg, who worked at the hotel from 1986-1997. Next to him is his wife, Gina Polovina. "I don't think we'll see the likes of this production again," he says. "It had the unique combination of professionalism and warmth. It was a warm show, but not to the point of sterility." Lance Burton was part of the production during Sternberg's tenure; Burton can't be here tonight because he has his own show at the Monte Carlo and is one of "Folies" more accomplished alums.
Comic Michael Holly just stopped by our table. He says, "I'm going to do some jokes, and I'm going to juggle a little." Holly is booked at the Suncoast from June 26-28. As for tonight, "I'm wondering what kind of crowd this is going to be. All these alumni, you wonder why they are here. It'll be a lot like when comics get together and tell jokes and say, 'Yeah, that'll work.' But they might not laugh."
We'll be checking back, periodically, as the final show plays out.