Thursday, March 30, 2017 | midnight
When he wasn’t peeling clothes off, grinding to Ginuwine’s “Pony” or all-out partying, Channing Tatum’s titular character in 2012 hit film Magic Mike spent the majority of his time trying to prove he was more than just a male stripper.
There’s a similar objective to Magic Mike Live Las Vegas, the new show at the Hard Rock Hotel conceived and co-directed by the movie star. Opening for previews this week, the show all but promises to dramatically revamp the traditional male revue in Las Vegas.
“We came to Las Vegas two years ago to do some research and it was really eye-opening and revealing just how badly this experience needs an uplift,” says associate director Teresa Espinosa, a choreographer and Dallas native who has worked with Prince, Janet Jackson, Britney Spears, Rihanna, Usher, Justin Bieber, and on both Magic Mike films. “We saw Chippendales and Thunder From Down Under and there’s not a lot to offer women these days. We were surprised at how excited the women actually were for the smallest thing a guy would do … I remember one of the dancers in one of the shows did an elbow freeze, which was cool but pretty basic, and women went nuts for it. We knew at that moment the bar was set pretty low, and we knew we could blow these women’s minds for real.”
With its cast of 13 men and two women, Magic Mike still plans to bring the sexy, but with much more daring dance routines and diverse styles of performance over its intimate, 80-minute production. Its Hard Rock home is the legendary nightclub space formerly known as Baby English and Baby’s, now converted into the 450-seat, cabaret-style Club Domina. That name comes from the second film, Magic Mike XXL, a Georgia strip club run by Jada Pinkett Smith’s Rome character, designed as the ultimate temple of female worship. “The club for the show won’t be exactly like the film but the general idea of women being uplifted and empowered will be there,” Espinosa says. “It’s about considering them queens and goddesses and what does that mean, and how do we play into that.”
The Vegas production has been a long time coming with at least two years of development. After Tatum appeared on Ellen in September, the show has sold more than 25,000 advance tickets.
“Channing has been there every day. He’s played a huge part in this and is involved in most every decision we make, just like a regular director,” says Alison Faulk, choreographer and co-director. “Chan always said he would never make a third movie, but this kind of is that third movie, the natural progression of things. We’ve been rehearsing and working so long that we’re really excited to see the audience react.”
A big part of the films’ appeal lies in Tatum’s talent as a dancer, that he’s not just an actor playing the role of a stripper. The show’s long, intense recruiting and audition process resulted in a cast stocked with standout performers, including veteran choreographer Luke Broadlick, who opens the show as a sort of dance captain. He says it’s hard to compare Magic Mike to other male revues, or any other Vegas shows, period.
“All I think of from those shows is seeing a dude in a bowtie and skinny pants and long ’80s hair doing kicks and turns and stuff. That’s the only depiction I knew,” he says. “I wouldn’t consider it that type of show, with the production we have and the choreography we’re doing.”
So could it be closer to something like what hip-hop dance phenoms the Jabbawockeez are doing at MGM Grand? “That level of creativity and dopeness is definitely in this show, but the sexy aspect is also way above what you’ll see [in Las Vegas],” Broadlick says. “It’s just a more creative way of really showcasing the guys and letting them present themselves to the women. We’re not just onstage doing a song and you’re throwing money. It’s really engaging, a fully immersive experience versus a show. It’s hard to compare.”
Magic Mike’s arrival as an ongoing resident show is part of a wave of change at the Hard Rock. Near the show’s newly constructed box office and lounge area—in the casino’s western wing that arrived with the opening of a new hotel tower and parking garage in 2009—are two new restaurant spaces, a recently opened oyster bar and a steakhouse coming soon from Las Vegas nightlife impresario Michael Morton (the brother of Hard Rock founder Peter Morton).
Previews for Magic Mike Live Las Vegas begin March 30 and the show will be presented Wednesdays through Sundays at 7:30 and 10 p.m. Official grand opening night is scheduled for April 21. Tickets start at $49 and are available at 800-745-3000 or magicmikelivelasvegas.com.