Published Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016 | 2 a.m.
Updated Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016 | 10:22 a.m.
Bryan Cheatham considers this question about the new show “53X” he has helped develop under the Chippendales brand.
“Let’s say a guy goes to the show with his girlfriend. With them are a gay couple,” I offer. “Also in the party are a bisexual couple, and maybe a solo artist.”
Cheatham likes that lineup. A lot.
“That is my dream audience!” says the singer and stage performer who has fronted Chippendales for years at the Rio. “Gay dudes, straight dudes, gay women, straight women. Everyone has a good time. Hey, sex is fun, and this is a fun, sexy atmosphere.”
The first Chipps offshoot in Las Vegas, “53X” opens March 11 at Chateau at Paris Las Vegas. Performances are 9 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays. Tickets start at $29.95 for general admission, with VIP packages offered at $49.95.
Tickets are on sale beginning Friday at 53XLV.com and any Caesars Entertainment box office. Ticket-holders also are offered admission to the new Beer Park Las Vegas and Chateau Rooftop and Gardens at Paris.
The show is a rollout of expertly produced dance numbers in the Chippendales tradition featuring a balanced blend of eight dancers — four men and four women.
The self-dubbed "Drag Empresario" and MC Shangela of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” hosts “53X.” Last spring, Shangela released “Uptown Fish,” a rowdy sendup of “Uptown Funk,” on YouTube, and has also appeared on the hit reality show "Dance Moms."
The producers of Chippendales, expressly the show’s artistic director Cheatham and the company’s managing partner Kevin Denberg, began developing the show with Chateau execs Perry Rogers and Corey Jenkins.
The idea was to expand the audience for Chippendales, which has regularly filled its theater at the Rio for 11 years, while concurrently animating Chateau, which is seeking a niche in the face of such gargantuan clubs as Hakkasan, Omnia and Tao.
“53X” is a play from the letters 53X as they read on an old pager digital readout, looking like “SEX,” one of about 500 titles knocked around in the run-up to the announcement of the show.
Thus, the overarching entertainment strategy at Chateau can be summed up in one word: “Party.”
“This is a high-energy party, and when you look at Las Vegas entertainment, one of the reasons for Chipps’ success is the audience’s lack of attention span,” Denberg said during a phone interview from New York.
“People are looking for a good time without thinking too much, and the party we’re really focused on is the type of party that has worked so well with Chippendales. But with ‘53X,’ it’s not just men dancing for women.”
True. Unlike Chipps, which is legendarily directed primarily at a female audience (secondarily for a gay-male audience), “53X” is an equal-opportunity adult show. Shangela is the sort of performer who defies classification as a male taking on a female character. Every number is designed to appeal to any sexual precondition.
Which, of course, is good for business.
“We were first presented this by the people at Chateau who wanted a show but were not sure how to use the Chippendales brand in that club,” Cheatham says. “I had just been with the Chipps on tour and saw we had this opportunity of creating something that was, instead of a male revue, a combination of the two.”
“53X” is opening amid a ripple of new entertainment options at Paris Las Vegas.
“This show is a great addition to add to our current offerings at Paris,” said Steven Kennedy, operating partner of Chateau. “From dinner at Hexx to ‘53X,’ then a nightcap at Beer Park or Chateau Rooftop, we truly have created a one-stop destination for partiers in Las Vegas.”
Despite its randy descriptions, “53X” will not be totally topless, leaning on theatricality and the audience’s imagination. Always, both sexes are to be represented onstage — neither a male nor female will dance solo.
“You can look at whatever you want to look at,” Cheatham says. “There are options.”
The club is uncommonly designed, but there will be traditional seating at the front of the stage with the performers moving around the club, similar to how “For the Record: Baz” worked fluidly through Light at Mandalay Bay.
“The nature of the room is that it is not a traditional theater. It’s more of a checkmark design,” Denberg says. “That forces you to bring the show off the stage because of the sight lines.
“The comparison I hear most is what ‘Baz’ did at Light, though I didn’t see that show. It’s also similar in concept to how ‘Alice’ works in its space at Brooklyn Bowl using that entire space effectively.”
The music in “53X” is effectively familiar dance fare.
“We have everything from current Top 40 to hip-hop throwbacks,” Cheatham says. “ ‘Shut Up and Dance With Me’ (by Walk the Moon), ‘Burn It Up’ by Jessie James, some Swedish House Mafia, throwbacks like Christina Aguilera,” Cheatham says. “It’s all very current music.”
The dance community will be interested to know that auditions for the eight performance roles in the show were held in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. All eight were taken from the Las Vegas tryouts, as Denberg says, “Possibly the difference (in L.A. and Vegas dancers) is a bit more the build in the bodies.
“You have a bit smaller, more music-video style of dancer in L.A., where in Las Vegas we have seen a combination of talent and power and a somewhat more athletic build. … It’s just a matter of the type of dancer we are looking for in this show, and we happened to find all of them in Las Vegas.
“It’s a great opportunity. All eight offers were accepted immediately.”
Though it is an adult revue, “53X” intends to deliver some classically inspired artistry to the nightclub.
“Our show is going to focus on striptease,” Cheatham says. “A lot of the topless shows are just, ‘Here are our (breasts)!’ There’s no foreplay. We want the foreplay because it’s even better than the sex.”
Cheatham speaks metaphorically … for the most part. But the crew at “53X” is confident that it will deliver a satisfying experience.
As the man who helped develop the concept says, “I can’t imagine them not having a good time and feeling turned on.”
Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at Twitter.com/JohnnyKats.