Left gig-less after Peepshow quit peeping in September, singer Josh Strickland transferred his power pipes to another corner of Planet Hollywood, joining Vegas! The Show. Peeking in on a recent performance revealed that Strickland is gelling nicely with his new peeps in this affectionate paean to retro Vegas.
Likable and sensual in equal measure, Strickland adds unruffled sleekness to a show that thrives on a hellzapoppin’ vibe as it compulsively leaps from performer tributes to vaudevillian shtick to balls-out production numbers. Entertaining as all that is, this show equates taking a breath with taking a nap.
Keeping pace while keeping cool, Strickland blends into the vocal ensemble but anchors the antics almost intangibly. When he’s on, a ring-a-ding-ding ease envelopes the stage. Asked to assume the veneer of Vegas legends, he does so with style, if not dead-on impersonation.
Admittedly, it’s tough to fall into the illusion of Strickland as 15-year-old Wayne Newton making his baby-faced Vegas debut, but he imbues “Danke Schoen” with the sweetness and finger-snappy swing upon which Newton built his career. It’s not an impression, but an interpretation that conjures up Mr. Las Vegas just as well.
Likewise, he meets his Frank Sinatra requirements just as impressively in an extended Rat Pack segment. Taking turns with talented David Villella as Dino (singing “Mambo Italiano”) and high-spirited Eric Jordan Young as Sammy (“Once in a Lifetime,” “The Candy Man”), Strickland purrs and powers his way through “Luck Be a Lady,” especially effective milking the lengthy lead-in (they call you lady luck, but there is room for doubt … ). Re-creating the Rat Pack clowning from their Sands heyday, he channels the Chairman’s “cuckoo” charm.
Happily, during the Elvis segment, Strickland doesn’t distract us with a clichéd impression—even his spiffy white suit and tie is classier than the hoary white jumpsuit that’s long been a visual joke. Instead, Strickland reaches his zenith in a spine-tingling take on the King’s “If I Can Dream,” following it up with a raucous “Devil in Disguise.”
Only Strickland’s final appearance—garbed as Elton John warbling “Rocket Man” to clips of hotel implosions—falls shy of a bull’s-eye when he dons oversize Elton specs and sequins. Though Strickland can sing Elton convincingly, like most impersonations, his fails to capture the pop legend’s grand eccentricity.
Still, given what Strickland adds to Vegas! The Show, you hope his run is prophetically reflected in the “Rocket Man” lyrics: I think it’s gonna be a long, long time …
STRIP POSTSCRIPT: Oh, what a Vegas web he’ll weave when Spider-Man downs a yard-long margarita, goes clubbing with a Kardashian, then tries to scamper across the rafters of a Strip theater.
Such a scenario is possible now that Broadway’s notoriously problem-addled Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark has announced its Gotham closing come January, with an intention to relocate to Vegas in 2015.
Hey Cirque, there might be a new ceiling-scraper in town. Be a good scout and welcome him with a gift basket of Dramamine.
Got an entertainment tip? Email Steve.Bornfeld@VegasSeven.com.