Jubilee! Returns from Hiatus Overcooked, Unfocused and Fun

Photo by Denise Truscello

Famously, a great man said: “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little Vegas shows.” (Attribution: Ralph Waldo Emerson after a night of hookers and blow on the Strip.)

Such perversion of a Bartlett Quotation is the only way to rationalize having enjoyed the unruly mash-up that is the rebooted Jubilee!. Returning after a two-month retooling by director Frank Gatson Jr. (best known as Beyoncé’s choreographer), the revamp of the Strip’s only surviving showgirl spectacle sprays over-the-top set pieces at the audience like buckshot from a sequined shotgun.

It’s too long. It’s thematically disjointed. It places performers on side balconies and descending platforms for no logical reason. It even has a chip on its shoulder, declaring in voice-over the relevancy of the showgirl aesthetic in nearly defiant terms. And yet …

Watching it pour off the stage like waves of sensory stimuli—showgirls (and showboys) in outrageous costumes on excessive sets crisscrossed by elaborate video projections—is like being in the ocean when the winds whip up. Embrace the chaos, dive in, let the waves crash over you and bounce you around until you come up for air more than 90 minutes later.

After all, is there any more appropriate way to approach a show that re-sinks the Titanic every night? (Yes, the doomed liner is back, plus the hilariously frenetic Samson and Delilah, complete with the caged-heat clawing of imprisoned women.)

Granted, it’s damn near impossible to hang onto a through line when Gershwin medleys and Jackson Five tributes bump up against spurts of ’60s bubble-gum pop and Busby Berkeley-style grandiosity and even a patriotic tap dance to George M. Cohan’s “You’re a Grand Old Flag.” That through line, told in narrative flashes with dance, is a “story” about a lass named Jubilee who has to rediscover her mojo (you go, showgirl!) and redefine herself in contemporary Vegas.

“Vegas has changed, and she has to go back to regain her strength,” says a voice-over that later addresses the character directly, pronouncing: “Jubilee, you set a standard that’s as magical as the day you came to be.” Should that not be clear enough as a message that The Showgirl isn’t ready for a slab in the Vegas entertainment morgue, there’s the inclusion of tunes such as “Take Back the Night,” which can be read as a bitch slap at Cirque du Soleil.

Cirque shows are sometimes critiqued as gorgeous but cold. This Jubilee! is sloppy and warm, like a shaggy dog determined to slobber all over you and lick you raw.

Disciplined craftsmanship, it’s not. Rather, it’s old-Vegas id run amok, wildly stabbing at ways to both preserve and re-energize the showgirl ideal.

They helped build this city. They still deserve a place in it.

By the way, some Vegas visitors are awaiting the only information they’ll need to decide on Jubilee! as their evening’s entertainment, and to them we apologize for the delay in providing this crucial detail:

Yes, you’ll see tits.

Got an entertainment tip? Email Steve.Bornfeld@VegasSeven.com.

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