Jubilee Backstage Tour: a peek inside Las Vegas show business

Once upon a time I wanted to be a Vegas showgirl. That was long before the chick from “Saved by the Bell” starred in that movie and before I realized eating a whole sleeve of Thin Mints was not in fact, normal. I was also completely oblivious to that whole “topless” factor. Minor detail, right? After seeing the statuesque dancers in “Jubilee,” I thought about how glamorous my life could’ve been if I would’ve continued my dance training. That was before I took the Jubilee Backstage Tour at Bally’s.

A little bit of glitta and featha never hurt anybody. Photo courtesy of the Las Vegas Sun.

A little bit of glitta and featha never hurt anybody. Photo courtesy of the Las Vegas Sun.

If you’ve ever been fascinated by what you can’t see in Vegas, this is a great tour to show you what it takes to create all that glitz and glam we’re known for. For about an hour, you get a behind-the-scenes look inside the world of Las Vegas show business. But don’t let those flawless figures fool you, it’s way more grueling than it looks.

One thousand seven hundred stairs a night, headpieces that are six-feet-wide with some weighing up to 35 pounds, 10 shows a week. That’s what you can look forward to as a showgirl or showboy in the longest running production on the Las Vegas Strip. It also explains perfectly why the only fat on their bodies is in their lips.

The impossibly chic Brittany, our showgirl guide extraordinaire.

Pretty sure it’s a prerequisite to be utterly fabulous in your everyday life.

The tour is given by an impossibly beautiful showgirl in costume. Their average height is 5 feet 10 inches without heels. They’re all pretty proportioned with the opening of the stage, which is 35-feet by 75-feet. With such massive costumes, they have to be long and lean so they don’t look like they’re drowning in fabric and feathers. I learned quickly that I would’ve looked like a Minion onstage next to them. But a girl can dream, right?

“Jubilee” has a staff that works around the clock. From the engineers to the stage hands, to the wardrobe attendants and the dancers, it takes more than a hundred people to keep the show going every night. You’ll see a 6,000 pound set piece and learn who pushes it and how they push it onto the stage. You’ll find out why they go through 1,100 pounds of dry ice per night and learn about one of the most technologically advanced stages in the country.

LAS VEGAS - MONDAY, JULY 27, 2009 - Crew members stand in front of the boiler room set piece for the Titanic scene during a backstage tour of the "Jubilee!" set and dressing rooms at Bally's in Las Vegas Monday, July 27, 2009. LEILA NAVIDI / LAS VEGAS SUN

Hmm, I wonder where this extra screw came from? Photo courtesy of the Las Vegas Sun

I wouldn’t have known any of that without the tour.  It’s one thing to watch the show and become captivated by the sheer production value, which is all built and maintained on-site BTW, but to learn how it all works is totally fascinating. “Jubilee” opened 34 years ago this month and is a multi-year award winner for their showgirls. That’s longer than many of the big name hotels have been on the Strip. If that doesn’t tell you they’re doing something right, I’m not sure what will.

During the tour, we went below the stage to the dressing rooms, met the costume crew and a few of the stage hands. Can you believe it’s actually someone’s job to mend the fishnet tights? Thankfully someone does it, because they go through 600 pairs a year. Imagine if they chucked them out every time somebody’s rhinestone snagged their pantyhose. Considering the total weight of their Swarovski jewelry for 65 dancers is 10,000 pounds, you can bet it happens countless times a night.

LAS VEGAS - MONDAY, JULY 27, 2009 - Various feathered headpieces are hung up during a backstage tour of the "Jubilee!" set and dressing rooms at Bally's in Las Vegas Monday, July 27, 2009. LEILA NAVIDI / LAS VEGAS SUN

Enough feathers to make Cher weep with joy. Photo courtesy of the Las Vegas Sun

The costumes are too delicate and expensive to be subjected to flash photography so you’ll have to put your cameras away when you trek two flights below the stage to see them. I highly doubt Bob Mackie or Pete Menefee would appreciate you breaking the rules and snapping away at their illustrious designs, so don’t do it. Your cell phone pics probably won’t do these beauties any justice anyway, so relax and enjoy the tour. Oh, and be thankful you only have to climb those stairs once – I know I am.


Born a Buckeye - raised a Hoosier. I grew up in a one-horse town that straddles the Indiana/Ohio state line and until 2006, was in two different time zones. There were three stoplights and a whopping 48 students in my graduating class. Fast forward a few years later, I was bitten by the travel bug and decided to head west. It seems like no matter how long I live here, there’s always something that still makes my jaw drop. That’s what I love about Vegas; you never know what you’re going to see next and that’s what makes living here so much fun. Basically, if you’re bored in this town, there’s something wrong with you…not the city. I’m an avid traveler with an incurable case of wanderlust so stay tuned for all the tours, attractions and shopping adventures that Sin City has to offer.