Yesterday was never so … tomorrow-ish. Or such a balls-out blast today.
With the throbbin’ new Shakin: Classic Vegas Remixed With a Twist, entertainment hurricane Eric Jordan Young—formerly the crooning host of Vegas! The Show—not only bids to be crowned The Happiest Showman on the Strip (his grin could be sold as a nightlight), but busts into the ranks of Vegas headliners to be reckoned with.
Linking him to his idol and inspiration for much of the show by calling him a next-gen Sammy Davis Jr. in progress would not be an overstatement. Should that not match up with Contemporary Correctness, Young makes a potent argument for retro bliss.
And for a non-magician, Young’s actually a damn good one: piling a party-size platter of material—singing, dancing, sketches, shtick, video montages, costume changes (with one onstage behind a scrim)—into a fun-size hour-plus. Only two dancers and four musicians are onboard. Around Young? More than enough.
In Planet Hollywood’s cozy (read: small) Sin City Theatre that Young infuses with a Sammy-at-the-Copa vibe, Shakin’ is informed by the star’s affection for ’70s-’80s TV variety shows (Flip Wilson, Sonny and Cher, Carol Burnett, etc.) with their hellzapoppin’ dashes from song to joke to ensemble number.
Leaving and returning after nearly every number so each entrance becomes a ta-da! event—and dancing with a ferocity that’s almost Jim Carrey-like in The Mask (i.e., possessed)—Young dives headlong into a bygone era. Yet the updated, often Latin-tinged musical charts take old-hat standards and pump fresh energy into them. When he’s done, he’s stripped the mold from oldies including “Downtown” and “Up, Up and Away.”
Tunes such as Bye Bye Birdie’s “Got a Lot of Livin’ to Do’’ nod to Young’s Broadway résumé. Stylized touches include dramatically starting familiar tunes such as “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” in the middle and riffing around them, often breaking into engaging patter mid-song.
Paced like an express train—with backup dancers executing inventive choreography and deployed more like co-stars, incorporated into both the comedy and music—the show is the proverbial box of chocolates (you can fill in the rest of that):
Young dons an over-the-top pimp outfit (wearing a bizarre leather-and-feather coat concoction) to go humorously badass on “Keep Your Eye on the Sparrow” (Sammy’s theme to Baretta); he goes outlandishly drag, a la Flip Wilson, to pull a Tina Turner on “Proud Mary”; he assumes the persona of a spry old vaudevillian to spray rim-shot jokes at us; he breaks into a charming soft-shoe during “Just a Gigolo.” He pays tribute to Davis in quintuplicate (snippets of “The Candy Man,” “Once in a Lifetime,” “I’ve Gotta Be Me,” “That Old Black Magic” and “Mr. Bojangles”).
During it all, his high-beam gaze swivels around the room, at some point going eyeball to eyeball with everyone.
Embodying the notion of “owning it,” Young demands something nearly impossible of his audience: to have an even better time than he does. On that score, let’s compromise and call it a very happy tie.
Got an entertainment tip? Email Steve.Bornfeld@VegasSeven.com.