Sunday, July 31, 2011 | 12:33 p.m.
The cast, crew and corporate executives celebrating last night’s 30th anniversary of Jubilee! at Bally’s all agree that the spectacular could easily run for another 30 years. More than 18 million people have seen the longest-running production on The Strip: 18,720 shows to date and counting.
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Amid the beautiful, statuesque and feathered showgirls and their sparkling sequins (Editor’s note: Plus, the fit, ripped showguys and other fantastic performers who complement the gorgeous showgirls), it was a night of true magic kicked off with magic master Teller from Penn & Teller at the Rio giving the opening remarks.
In a touching tribute, Teller revealed that when Penn Jillette and he first came to Las Vegas, Jubilee! was the first show they saw, and it was their “under the same roof” neighbor there before they moved on to another hotel casino.
In one sad note of the night, veteran company manager Fluff LeCoque, who opened the show three decades ago and has rarely missed a performance, was under doctor’s orders not to attend. She had her gown picked out for the special celebration night she’d planned, but during a routine medical checkup this week, doctors discovered a respiratory problem and ordered her to stay home.
Caesars Palace headliner Matt Goss closed the thrilling night after a standing ovation by joining the entire cast onstage to sing his song “Lovely Las Vegas.” Twenty of the cast were outfitted with $250,000 in new costumes -- seen for the first time -- for the epic “Sinking of the Titanic” production number.
Walking the pink carpet before the show at Bally’s: Teller; Matt; The Gazillionaire, Melody Sweets and Penny Pibbets from Absinthe at Caesars Palace; Flamingo comedy magician headliner Nathan Burton; 98 Degrees singer Jeff Timmons, who had to race back to the Rio for his hosting and singing duties with Chippendales; Flamingo comedian headliner Vinnie Favorito; Paris hypnotist headliner Anthony Cools; and Paris magician headliner Stephane Vanel.
Denise Truscello, who is normally behind the camera, also went in front of the photographers to be recognized for her extraordinary photographs of the Jubilee! cast, which we are proud to showcase here. Her collection of black-and-white and color photos, which took two months to shoot, was curated from thousands of shots and on display at the cast party at the adjoining Paris after the milestone performance.
Legendary comedy impressionist Rich Little and singer comedian Steve Rossi were in the audience. Rich told me: “Jubilee! was the first show I saw when I moved to Vegas. It still is an epic. It still has all the true Vegas glamour and is the only one of its kind -- totally unique. After 30 years, it’s as great as it was the first night. It doesn’t get tired or worn. It can run forever as the only theatrical spectacular that truly embodies everything Vegas.”
Nathan told me: “The show is the ultimate Vegas magic. From start to finish, it’s one high-speed rocket ride, and how they sink the Titanic every night with thousands of gallons of water still amazes.”
Bally’s President David Hoenemeyer added: “We have given it every vote of confidence for the future. It is our intention to keep it going for another 30 years. It’s something we’re very proud of it. We are the classic Vegas Strip experience. Jubilee! exemplifies that. It’s an iconic show, the last of its kind. We are committed to it for many more years!
“Every year, they come to me with what they want to spend to keep it fresh and updated, so we’re absolutely committed to it. We keep it modern and refreshed without changing the basics. The cast believes it can run another 30 years. They’re still excited about it. They feel good about its longevity.
“It’s worked because it’s the last of its kind -- the feathers, the sequins, the costumes and the topless. I look at that stage for the finale and see the true spectacle of it -- it’s the very heart and soul of Vegas.”
Diana Palm is the longest continuous member of the Jubilee! family who danced in the first show 30 years ago. Today, she’s the assistant company manager and told me: “The secret to this lasting 30 years is beautiful girls, talented people, great choreography and fantastic costumes.
“Its passion and soul from that very first night hasn’t really changed at all. It’s still there and gets better. You can see that onstage, all that genius from the first day the show opened. It was tremendous and huge back then and even more so today. The spectacle of it all still holds true today with those 85 people onstage.
“It could easily run another 30 years. It won’t go out of date. We are the only true showgirl show left in Vegas. When you think of Vegas, you think of showgirls. They have to be authentic, real showgirls -- professional dancers -- and you can see that difference on our stage. It takes a lot of talent to balance those headdresses, kick over your head and smile all at the same time.
“The very first night, I was the dance captain and showgirl, so I had to know all the choreography. It was the biggest of its kind then -- very elaborate. Nobody had ever seen anything quite like it. We had no fear at all it wasn’t going to last. It was set in gold from the start.
“The most recent update -- although, of course, we have redone costumes and changed choreography along the way -- was in 1997 when we changed the opening with all-new costumes and routines and 12 minutes of show time that cost us then $1.5 million.
“Titanic and Samson & Delilah, the most talked about production numbers, are still intact from when we opened. Each night, surprisingly enough, is never the same. It’s different every night because we have different people for different roles on the rotation. We restage that show every single night. We change over every six months with the cast. It brings in exciting new blood. They’re overwhelmed, and we all get excited again.
“If there had been any kind of an emergency tonight, I know every one of those dance numbers inside out, so I could have strutted right into any of those routines if I’d been called! I’m truly honored to be a part of what definitely is show business and Vegas history.”
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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