Personality and variety—does that ask too much from a Strip show?
You’ll find artistry and athleticism at JabbaWockeeZ, which still suffers from a lack of those attributes.
Rising to prominence on MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crew, the gang of masked hip-hoppers debuted at the MGM Grand in 2010. Hoofing between homes, they shifted to Monte Carlo’s ex-Lance Burton Theatre, then split as Blue Man Group, which is departing the Venetian, overhauls that space as its new headquarters.
Now the Jabbas have bounced to a parking-lot tent at Monte Carlo, remaining there until moving into Luxor in 2013. Does the temporary venue alter the show? Atmospherically, yes—the joint lends a coziness, reducing the capacity to 867 seats from the Burton theater’s 1,274. Otherwise, despite its hyper style, JabbaWockeeZ remains oddly static.
In fairness, we must congratulate the troupe for earning the Living Legend of Hip-Hop Award, to be presented at the World Hip Hop Dance Championship Finals on Aug. 5 at the Orleans Arena. Yet extreme skill doesn’t necessarily translate into a full-bodied production.
White-masked and robbed of facial expressions, the Jabbas rely on pantomime to approximate distinct personalities—but not too personable, and therein lies frustration. Anyone annoyed by mimes on the street knows how difficult it can be to emotionally connect to a performer who’s a blank slab, as if interacting with a ghost.
Compounding that is an overload of synchronized dance pieces. Admittedly, they’re visually engaging—replete with strobe lights, throbbing music and smoke effects and featuring imaginative takes on “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Singin’ in the Rain.” Occasionally, there’s sly comedy with patrons pulled onstage, and one Jabba miming to the scene in In & Out where Kevin Kline’s sexually confused character tries to butch up to a tape telling him real men don’t dance.
Mostly, though, one number similar to the next goes by like an arrow on a survey chart that rarely dips or soars, but remains constant, straight—and uninteresting.
Yet in this culture, sameness sells. Consistency comforts us—witness McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC and Walmart, where individuality among franchisees would threaten the brand and unsettle customers. JabbaWockeeZ packages a hip-hop product, its brand protected by the anonymity of the masks, as if any hint of individual personality risks audience alienation.
When JabbaWockeeZ concludes, our eyes and ears have finished their Happy Meal.
NOSH ON NOTES: After getting past the image of that Wonder Woman outfit—tough for males who were ’70s teens on hormone overdrive—you’ll enjoy Lynda Carter at the Suncoast Showroom on July 14-15. She’s Wonder-ful on stage. … Craving another tribute show? Moonwalk over to MJ Live! daily at 5 p.m. at the Rio’s Crown Theater, with Michael Firestone providing Michael Jackson action. … Retro-rockers Sha Na Na hit the Rampart’s Grand Ballroom on July 14-15. Question: Is a Bowzer-less Sha Na Na really Sha Na Na? Or is it Sha No No? However, given how many ’50s/’60s groups in Vegas are devoid of original members, give ’em a Sha Na-Shot.
OFF-STRIP POSTSCRIPT: Heading to k.d. lang’s July 13 show at The Smith Center for the Performing Arts? Request her cool Bond song, “Tomorrow Never Dies (Surrender),” which wound up the movie’s end theme rather than main theme, an inferior Sheryl Crow tune. Just some grousing from Agent 00-Vegas Seven.