Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010 | 11:31 a.m.
Note: This story appears in the current issue of our sister publication Las Vegas Magazine.
Some entertainers jump ship in a figurative sense.
Lorena Peril did it for real.
Five years ago she was an entertainer on a Carnival Cruise Lines vessel, just off the coast of Florida. A friend of hers she’d met on these tours, percussionist George Bryant, had encouraged her to drop anchor in Las Vegas. Bryant was based in Vegas and felt Peril had the gifts of voice and dance that might one day make her a star on the Strip.
“We were talking about this and I was literally looking out of the porthole on the ship, trying to get reception, and he was saying, ‘You should move to Vegas, give it a try,’” Peril recalled. “I could always come back (to Carnival), but I didn’t want to keep jumping from ship to ship.”
So the innately gifted (if untrained) vocalist and dancer answered an online ad seeking a “swing” singer to spell Stephanie Dianna Sanchez in the adult revue Fantasy at Luxor.
This was in 2005, and when show producer Anita Mann observed Peril in her audition, she remembers thinking, “I didn’t want her to walk out of the door.”
The problem was, Sanchez was firmly in place as the show’s host and vocalist. Mann reasoned that Peril needed to showcase her talents full-time, not as a pinch-hitter once a week while Sanchez was off. So it was with a promise from Mann that Peril would always be in her thoughts if a full-time role in Fantasy ever broke open, and Peril went off to star in Sunset Strip—which would evolve into Sin City Bad Girls—at the Las Vegas Hilton’s Shimmer Cabaret.
For two years, Peril also portrayed Christina Aguilera in American Superstars, a turn so convincing that those who saw her in that tribute show wondered how it was that the woman portraying the pop superstar wasn’t herself headlining a show.
“She needed a full-time job, and I just hadn’t been able to give her one,” Mann said. “She is so, so talented. Just wonderful.”
The break at Fantasy finally materialized in July. The show’s star, Angelica Bridges, growing weary of the physical and scheduling demands of performing six shows a week, asked Mann about cutting back her schedule. It had become clear that the show was not a good fit for Bridges anyway, as her voice was more suited to the techno-pop style of her singing group Strawberry Blonde. Bridges gave her two week’s notice; Mann countered with an offer to Bridges for her appear as a featured star in the show. Bridges was not interested.
Meanwhile, in a fortuitous bit of timing, Sin City Bad Girls was closing at the Hilton. Peril called Mann and within days she was in rehearsal.
“I was really, really fortunate,” the 35-year-old Peril said. “Entertainment in Las Vegas can be very cutthroat, but to be working with Anita Mann, who has such an entertainment history—I’m thrilled to have this opportunity.”
A former dancer who appeared in a few Elvis films and who also choreographed the Solid Gold Dancers, Mann has added a few new scenes for Peril in her role as the show’s main (and, unlike the rest of the cast, covered) performer. One is a take on the Shakira hit “Hips Don’t Lie,” which she performs with the show’s longtime comic, Sean E. Cooper.
“We’re still working out a lot of things, but we’ve made a lot of progress,” said Peril, who jokes about a misstep she made on her first night while climbing down the stage’s staircase near the end of the show. “It’s been like auditioning in front of an audience at times, but you have to expect that when you’re making changes in a show.”
Dealing with such issues is not new for Peril, who has proven she is adept at navigating choppy waters. At Luxor, she hopes it is smooth sailing.
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