Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014 | 1:34 p.m.
It’s the end of an era. Las Vegas entertainment history changes tonight when the longest-running production show on the Strip shuts its doors after nearly 33 years.
“Jubilee!,” with its cast of 85 gorgeous showgirls and handsome showboys, is about to undergo a major transformation, and version 2.0 to usher the legendary spectacular into our contemporary age will reopen at Bally’s in March.
I’m told that it will be a very quiet exit tonight with the last show at 7. No onstage cake. No onstage speeches. Maybe a few tears as the epic Titanic sinks for the last time and the Samson & Delilah columns crash down forever.
Over the years, those stunning sequined outfits and 35-pound feathered headdresses have been worn by the glamorous, long-legged dancers who have included “Let’s Make a Deal” TV model Tiffany Coyne, “Best Ink” reality TV star Sabina Kelley (my Q+A with her was posted Wednesday) and veteran Linda Green, who was a principal dancer for 23 of the 33 years.
The transformation will be under the direction of Frank Gatson Jr., one of the world’s most celebrated creative directors and choreographers. He has said that while the show is offstage, he’ll work with the cast and crew to bring a bold, fresh and new twist to the production, yet stay true to the spirit of the original.
He plans to preserve the best of the show’s main elements as a salute to the past, including those gorgeous knockout costumes, but the iconic sets, dance routines, staging and music will all be refreshed for today’s audiences.
Frank held his first auditions to find new singers and dancers to complement the existing cast this month in New York and Los Angeles and two weeks ago here in Las Vegas.
Said Frank: “It has been amazing getting to know the cast and crew of ‘Jubilee!,’ who night after night bring the idea of an amazing Las Vegas show to life for thousands who visit from around the world to see it. I am excited to continue working with our existing cast and crew, as well as new singers and dancers, to modernize Donn Arden’s masterpiece. (Donn was the creator, producer and director when the show premiered in August 1981.)
“I have been a fan of ‘Jubilee!’ for many years, so the fact that I can now be a part of the history of this iconic show is beyond my wildest dreams. It is my goal to keep the original spirit alive while putting a modern spin on it. What made Donn’s show so spectacular and successful in their day was that they were fresh for the time. They were dynamic and innovative, embracing spectacle and joy. I am certain that if we re-infuse the show with a modern take, ‘Jubilee!’ will be amazingly reinvigorated and ready for a new era.”
Frank’s award-winning credits are impressive: He’s won a record six MTV Video Music Awards — the most ever in its 30-year history — for best choreography for artists including Jennifer Lopez, Rihanna, Usher, Mariah Carey and The Band Perry. He’s collaborated on several movies, including the Aretha Franklin “Respect” number in “Blues Brothers 2000.” He’s staged choreography and directed concert tours for numerous artists and has won awards for TV commercials for American Express, Pepsi, Samsung and L’Oreal.
Beyonce has worked with Frank for 15 years since the days of Destiny’s Child. In 2012, he was nominated for a Grammy Award for co-directing her “I Am Tour” and its bestselling music DVD of 2010. She commented: “Frank has played an important role in my success, and I know he will do the same for ‘Jubilee!’ His unique style and creativity is legendary, and ‘Jubilee!’ couldn’t have picked a better creative director. When it comes to combining flavors of the past with a fresh modern twist, no one does it better than him.”
Kurt Melien, vice president of entertainment for Caesars Entertainment, explained why the transformation was important: “ ‘Jubilee!’ is the only remaining showgirl production of its kind in Las Vegas. It has been the must-see show for more than 32 years. We are confident that with Frank’s unique creative vision, coupled with the timeless beauty of the Las Vegas showgirl image and true spectacle of the show, it will be around to entertain our guests for many more years to come.”
“Jubilee!” is not the only makeover at the 44-acre Bally’s and its 2,814 guest rooms. Celine Dion’s female tribute artist discovery Veronic DiCaire now calls the resort home for her residency “Veronic Voices.”
The center Strip resort is now home to nightlife czar Victor Drai’s new Indigo Lounge and is getting a brand new open-air shopping bazaar out front — more than 150 stores on a 2-acre outdoor plaza to open before year’s end. President David Hoenemeyer, along with the “Jubilee!” beauties, also just opened the newly renovated 756-room “Jubilee!” tower with its stunning Celebrity Suites. The rooms have unrivaled views of the Bellagio Fountains and the Eiffel Tower at the sister casino hotel Paris.
David summed up: “It’s a new year and a great time to kick off this series of significant milestones. Bally’s is a key piece of real estate on the Las Vegas Strip, and we are very excited for what’s in store this year.”
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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