I hadn’t watched the undead dancers heat up the Stratosphere showroom in years. But since Bite had been recently reimagined, I wondered what the show offered post-Twilight audiences. Not a whole lot, it turns out, save for fiercer choreography, and a new lead, vampire queen Ashton Joseph, who brings formally trained flair to the glitzy gutter of a topless show.
Now in its seventh year, the sexy-vampires-meet-classic-rock Bite is still a campy revue of staples such as GNR’s “Welcome to the Jungle” and Styx’s “Come Sail Away.” And the show’s momentum is relentless. That the audience only gets a 30-second snippet of each tune initially caused my eyebrow to raise. Was the show’s producer, Tim Molyneux, trying to save money on song licensing? On deeper reflection, I realized that he had strung together specific lyrics in order to tell a story. When the Vampire Lord (Mitchell Tannis) can’t secure sanguinary satisfaction, signal the Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” When he gnaws his first neck, cue Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust.” Unlike most other topless teases in town—which rely on full songs and the same old open-curtain-close-curtain formula—Bite never withdraws its fangs.
Overall, the dancing is demanding, even if the dancers touch their toes and spank themselves (and each other) a few times too many. Credit also goes to Joseph, whose Queen borrows from pop-culture touchstones—think the boldly romantic Belle from Beauty and the Beast blended with Natalie Portman’s darkly elegant Black Swan with a heaping helping of the late Aaliyah’s spirited performance in Queen of the Damned. When Joseph, who starts out a virginal captive, finally embraces her dark nature, her dancing grows increasingly sensual. She’s got the transformation process down pat.
“The cool thing about vampires is that they’re monsters, but they’re still complex,” says Joseph, who scored a spot in Bite hot off earning a performing-arts degree from ‘Rockettes factory,’ Oklahoma City University. “They’re dark and damned, but they’re free. It’s so fun to tap into that feeling every night.”
Bite offers quiet moments, too. A classical piece by local musician Garin Bader kicks off a ballet en pointe segment. Molyneux has an opera degree, which explains why a handful of classical songs appear throughout the show.
But ultimately, Bite is for ADD-addled, alcohol-buzzed tourists, and on this level it succeeds completely. The recent Monday night I attended drew a packed, if not sold-out, crowd, which means Joseph and Co. are likely to preserve Bite’s deathless run.