More than a fantasy: Powerhouse singing, dynamic dancing and comedy create an adult show that appeals to all
By Jennifer Whitehair
Las Vegas is a city built on fantasies, but the reality is, few ever come true.
“Fantasy,” a topless show at the Luxor hotel and casino on the Las Vegas Strip, is the exception.
Here, reality is looking more like a fantasy every day.
First there are the dancers – a bevy of beautiful and talented women who look like they belong in a magazine swimsuit edition. They already have their own swimsuit calendar.
Then there’s the new lead singer. She’s gone from being a housekeeper in California to starring in a show on the Las Vegas Strip.
Finally, there’s the show itself. A topless Vegas extravaganza that manages to blend amazing dance numbers, a singer with raw vocal power, a lone male comedic impressionist who can compete for attention with the mostly-nude cast and a silk aerialist with sensual acrobatics into a show that regularly attracts a diverse audience of single men, single women and couples.
What a fantasy.
“We really want to make it an entertaining show,” says Producer Anita Mann. “I would like folks to know they are going to have an entertaining production show, and it’s not about selling sex. It’s about celebrating talent and performance. Most of all they are going to have fun.”
“Fantasy” owes much to Mann’s diverse choreography background that spans Vegas spectacles like “Hot Stuff” to mainstream entertainment like the Solid Gold Dancers and the 1995 Miss America Pageant. Mann has even tackled family fare. Her choreography can be found in “The Great Muppet Caper” and “The Muppets Go To Hollywood.”
It’s this varied experience that allows Mann to produce a show that appeals to more than just a Vegas bachelor party.
“What’s unique about Vegas is it’s live, it’s exciting, you get instant gratification,” Mann says. “You get your applause right away. But what I really love about Vegas, and it’s not dissimilar to television … you get a great cross-section of an audience.”
Single men, single women, couples, conventioneers, vacationers, bachelors and bachelorettes, international visitors – Vegas’, and Fantasy’s, audiences can sometimes feel like a mass case of multiple personality disorder.
Fantasy” finds a way to create an adult show that’s more than just boobs and babes and in doing so earns applause and fans among these varied audience members.
“People like variety,” explains Mann. And “Fantasy” works to provide it, incorporating not just gorgeous topless dancers, but singing, comedy – even classic Vegas moments where the show’s host and powerhouse singer Lorena Peril banters back and forth with the audience.
“They don’t realize there’s going to be singing, dancing, comedy and beautiful women,” Mann says. “They are going to get everything.”
There’s even a meet-and-greet with dancers after the show.
Fantasy’s successful format has earned it an 11-year run on the Las Vegas Strip – a rarity in a city that worships at the altar of au courant. The show recently had its contract extended through 2011.
Besides an appealing line-up that includes multiple elements, Mann credits the show’s longevity to constant updating. While there have been only four singers in Fantasy’s 11-year run (Peril is the most recent addition having started in August), the music, dances and comic performances are constantly being evaluated and tweaked.
“We really work on keeping the show fresh; changing it a lot and keeping it a fun experience,” Mann says.
When Peril began with the show, “Fantasy” took advantage of the singer’s Latin background and powerful voice by introducing a duet to Shakira’s “Hips Don’t Lie,” featuring Peril and the show’s one male co-star, comedian Sean E. Cooper.
Peril also gets to exercise her vocal prowess in an ovation-worthy performance of James Brown’s “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” and an innuendo-laden rendition of Christina Aguilera’s “Desnudate,” a song whose lyrics fit “Fantasy” so perfectly you’d think it was commissioned by the show.
With her powerful vocals, quick wit and tremendous stage presence, it’s hard to believe Peril was once working as a housekeeper in California. After her stint as a housekeeper, a production singer on Carnival Cruises and working in smaller Las Vegas shows, Peril had her fantasy to perform on the Vegas Strip come true this fall.
“I’m just so grateful,” she enthuses. “I love being on the Strip. It’s what I always wanted to be doing.”
“Fantasy,” Peril says has an amazing producer, choreographer, comedian and dancers. “I love working for Anita Mann. She’s just huge. The cast is amazing. Sean (Cooper) is awesome to work with.”
Peril’s enthusiasm for the show is something the entire cast echoes.
“I love it here,” says dancer Tracey Gorman. “It’s the best job in the world.” Gorman, who is originally from Manchester, England, has been performing in “Fantasy” for four-and-a-half years. “It’ll be the last show I ever do. I’ll be here forever, hopefully.”
“The girls sincerely have a good time on stage and I think the audiences feel it,” says Mann.
Beyond the dancing and singing, the show has an erotic and acrobatic number featuring silk aerialist Sonya Sonnenberg and a series of comedic impressions by Cooper ranging from Sammy Davis Jr. and Michael Jackson to Tina Turner. We’re not kidding; Cooper pulls of an amazing and funny female impersonation of Turner singing “Proud Mary” that’ll have you momentarily forgetting all about the beauties of Fantasy.
“It’s like a variety show,” Gorman says. “There’s a little something in there for everybody. It’s not just boobs and dancing, there’s a whole host of other things.”
Some of Fantasy’s routines have become so popular with audiences that they are always included, albeit with a change in music. Two have been perennial audience favorites and in the show since the start – a teasing number featuring three women and a bed that fulfills the show’s “Fantasy” promise and a chaps and cowboy hat number set to Big & Rich’s “Save A Horse (Ride A Cowboy).”
“I just care about what the audience wants,” Mann says.
And the show’s performers work every night to pull Mann’s vision off.
Performers in “Fantasy” work five to six nights a week and that doesn’t include the time spent learning new choreography, public appearances and volunteer work in the Las Vegas community.
“We dance our asses off at Fantasy,” Gorman says. “We are on our knees, on our backs, all over the floor – it’s crazy. It’s hard work but it’s fun and as a dancer that’s what you want to do, you don’t want to just stand there in a line looking like every other girl. You want to be moving and dancing. Fantasy’s quite a bit different. It’s kind of re-invented the showgirl.”
Forget the feathered headdresses, identical girls and kick lines. Fantasy’s dancers, all who are formally trained in ballet, jazz or tap (sometimes all three), bring a modern take on the concept of a Vegas showgirl with current fashions, different heights and looks and energetic routines.
“There’s something very classic about the beauty of a showgirl, we’ve just brought it into more of a contemporary light, Mann says.
The show also breaks down the invisible wall between performers and the audience as the dancers and Peril venture out to interact with guests.
“I like to really look people in the eye as you go down front to go into the audience and to really break that fourth wall and have them feel they are really part of the show,” Gorman says.
That’s aided by the show’s intimate 350-seat theater. And, one lucky audience member really does get the chance to appear on stage with the dancers.
From the enthusiastic performances to enthusiastic audiences, the reality is “Fantasy” is a Vegas success story.
“It’s a lot of luck but it’s also a lot of hard work,” Mann says. “Everybody takes pride in what they do. We rehearse a lot. We change dance numbers. We want people to come back. We care about the audience experience.”
“Every night is the first night that an audience member is seeing the show. If you are going to spend money on a show in Vegas, I want it to be entertaining.”