Someday I might learn to love the Jabbawockeez … Today, I will settle for understanding their appeal to others, which is—based on their Vegas success—undeniable.
Masked, gloved, enigmatic and either creepy or compelling depending on your entertainment tastes, this troupe of dancers-cum-acrobats-cum-mimes has re-emerged on the Strip, leaving behind their MUS.I.C. show at Monte Carlo for their new PRiSM production at Luxor.
Inside a theater refitted from a motion-simulator ride, the face-concealing hip-hoppers who bounced to fame on America’s Best Dance Crew again stage a show blending special effects and dance-robotics into a kind of live-action impressionist painting for the digital age.
Like its predecessor, PRiSM is athletic, frenetic, visually inventive, aurally imaginative—and emotionally static.
Set to a score ranging from The Bangerz to the James Bond theme, and mounted amid a maze of tubes, platforms and doorways—from which the perpetually-in-motion performers flip, slide, gyrate and energetically pantomime—the show takes its theme from the prism palette. Each dancer represents one of its colors: red, yellow, orange, green, blue, indigo and violet. Spectacular light effects aided by onstage video monitors drive home that theme, underscored by the Gene Wilder recording of “Pure Imagination” from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. You get the idea.
Split into a series of segments and sketches, the structure and elements do vary from their last show, though the fever-dream effect doesn’t. Comic pantomime to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” remains, but charming shtick to “Singin’ in the Rain” is gone. Audience participation has been scaled back, though still highlighted at several points, including plucking a woman from the crowd for a mock-mime wedding.
Creative routines include a mirror-image, yin-and-yang dance between black-clad and white-clad dancers, and a lip-sync to “Ain’t too Proud to Beg” that plays like ethereal Motown performed by ghostly Temptations. And even in a postmodern, tech-loaded production, fart shtick somehow still slays ’em.
Said a woman behind me: “Why does that still crack us up?”
While this Jabbawockeez makeover is still a sensory smorgasbord, a visual and auditory assault, it’s also disturbingly antiseptic at its core, like watching living, breathing animatronics in action. Certainly this troupe aims its art (and it is unquestionably artistic) at a generation raised on the click/beep digital culture, in which social interaction is often depersonalized through computer screens—but those screens are also capable of projecting dazzling tableaus.
Ironically, at the opening-night show, the most affecting image was the Jabbas doffing their featureless masks to take their finale bows.
Wide eyes, wild smiles, flushed faces … flesh-and-blood humanity.
STRIP POSTSCRIPT: Welcome to Veronic DiCaire—or just Veronic, because a missing surname connotes prestige in Performer Land—who debuts her weekend show, Veronic Voices, at Bally’s beginning June 20. Co-produced by Celine Dion—for whom Veronic opened during Dion’s Taking Chances Tour—it features the Canadian talent doing singing/dancing takes on Lady Gaga, Madonna, Whitney Houston, Adele, Pink and Dion herself, among others.
We gather she doesn’t do Elvis, a blasphemous impersonation omission in Vegas. Hopefully, she can at least do Elvira.
Got an entertainment tip? Email Steve.Bornfeld@VegasSeven.com.