Tuesday, March 7, 2023

A Musical About Star Wars

Long, long ago, in the Miracle Mile Shops far, far, away…

All right, so if you and the listeners haven’t figured it out yet, I’m a big dork. In my youth, I enjoyed video games, Star Wars, and installing A/V equipment so much that it’s a wonder I ever got laid. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve shifted my dorky obsessions to things like bourbon and Vegas, but I’m still a dork. So when it was announced that the show “A Musical About Star Wars” was coming to the Miracle Mile Shops, I had to check it out.  Over the holidays I grabbed a pair of tickets and we went to see it.

Some background on the show: While I had never heard of the show before it was announced that it was coming to Vegas, it has been around for a few years. It premiered off-Broadway in New York back in 2019, and one of the stars of the Vegas version is a co-writer, and he was also part of the original cast.  

Let’s just get this out of the way: the comparisons to Potted Potter playing at the Horseshoe are inevitable.  Both shows are in relatively small venues, with small casts, and cover similarly expansive series with obsessed fan cultures. In A Musical About Star Wars, the cast is small, with only three performers; Potted Potter has two. Unfortunately, one of these shows works better than the other.

I think the biggest issue I had with A Musical About Star Wars is how accessible the humor is.  In Potted Potter, you didn’t have to be a big fan of the material to get most of the jokes.  Most of the humor in Potted Potter is in the execution, in the journey to try to tell all these stories in 80 minutes.  In A Musical About Star Wars, the humor is in the source material.  Most of the jokes are about the content of the films, and the result is that only big fans will find a lot of the jokes funny.

For example, there’s this recurring bit where the two guys in the show speak to each other mimicking some of the alien languages spoken in the movies. They’re repeating actual dialogue from the movies, and it’s supposed to be funny, but comes across as so cringy. Watching it, I just end up feeling embarrassed for my fellow Star Wars nerds.  Even the subtitle of the show is cringey. The full title of the show is “A Musical About Star Wars, or Why Star Wars Is The Greatest Thing To Ever Happen In The History Of The Galaxy And Is Much, Much, Better Than Star Trek.”  If you’re going to make a show that you need to be a huge fan to enjoy, why would you make the characters who are fans in your show so stunningly awkward?  They even get nervous about talking to the female character. It’s just riddled with simple, unfunny nerd cliches.

The other issue I had with the show might have more to do with me than the show.  So I am somewhat hard of hearing.  I watch TV with the subtitles on.  It’s not severe; I spend about half of my work day talking on the phone, and my hearing loss doesn’t really affect my ability to do my job.  You’ve heard enough of my reviews to know I don’t really have any issues with this when it comes to Vegas entertainment.  But I could not for the life of me hear about three quarters of the dialogue and singing in this show. I think this is probably due to a variety of factors, including my hearing trouble.  I think their sound system sucked.  You probably don’t get the best audio quality in the theater at the mall. Wait, actually, it’s the backup theater at the mall.  Through most of the show, you got 2-3 people singing at the same time.  They’re singing the same things, but they are going kind of fast and they aren’t perfectly in sync. Couple this with the bad sound system and my bad hearing, and I couldn’t really hear what they were saying.  I don’t think this was just me; I didn’t hear a lot of people laughing at lines that I was missing.

The premise of the show is also similar to Potted Potter.  There’s kind of a show within a show, with the two male cast members trying to get their Star Wars play shown at Comic-con Las Vegas. They need a real, actual, girl for the female roles, and that's where the other cast member comes in.  Except she doesn’t really want to be there, and thinks Star Wars is stupid and sexist.

It’s not all terrible, there’s a few parts that work really well.  When they cover the Star Wars prequels, they decide to tell the stories of episodes 1-3 “Hamilton style.”  They parody the rap style from Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical, which in itself is funny, but the spoken method also means more of the jokes can be heard.

The show is in the V Theater, at the back of the Miracle Mile Shops, next to Flights.  I haven’t seen any other shows here but I think this isn’t even the main “V” Theater, I think it’s their secondary theater. We had to wait in line on a flight of stairs to enter, while they tried to do that thing where every party has stop in front of a green screen to get their pictures taken. Super annoying. Oh, and when we exited and they were trying to sell everyone their finished pictures, they weren’t even related to the show. The green-screened background was the Vegas skyline.

If you do decide to see the show, I recommend center seats.  The venue is very wide, but only goes a few rows back. The stage is raised, so it’s better to be in the center back than on the front row but the far edge.

The Audience Fuckery Factor for this show is minimal. They can’t even talk to girls. They aren’t going to venture out into the audience and talk to you.

If you and everyone else in your party have excellent hearing and are Star Wars fans, maybe give it a shot.  The show plays daily at 4:30 at the “V” theater at the Miracle Mile Shops. Tickets start at $29.  We always appreciate it when you purchase your tickets from vegas.com via the link on the blog or here in the show notes.

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Mad Apple

So this is actually the first Cirque show I’ve reviewed for the podcast. I’ve seen several Cirque shows; the wife is a big fan. Our first trip to Vegas together included The Beatles - Love, which I really need to revisit. Maybe Tony will go with me, since he really should see it. Since that first trip we took together, my wife and I have seen “O”, Mystere, as well as Zumanity. Confession time: I liked Zumanity. I think we saw it twice. I was definitely disappointed when I heard it was going away. But we really like Cirque, and we like New York- New York. We’ve never stayed there, but we always end up hanging out there. So I was very interested in what we were going to get when Mad Apple was announced. I heard a lot of buzz that it was “not your typical Cirque show,” which actually made me really nervous because that’s also what they were saying about “R.U.N.” and that show was apparently a giant belly flop… 

Not the best photo, but she was hanging by her hair. By her hair!
To me, it’s kind of funny that since I started doing these reviews, it’s pushed me to sort of have a greater sense of urgency to see new shows so I can review them for the podcast. We made an effort to see Rouge at the Strat, Miss Behave’s Mavericks, and Mad Apple all within a few months of their opening so that I could get the review content for the show. Anyway, I snagged tickets for a trip in July, and we really enjoyed the show. One of the things I like about Cirque shows is that since I’m a cheap bastard, it’s actually often better to sit back a ways so that you can take it all in. In fact, out of all the Cirque shows I’ve seen, none of them really benefit from front row seats. So there’s a frugal Vegas tip for you. 

If you ever saw Zumanity, Mad Apple is in the same theater. From the audience perspective, the theater doesn’t really look that different from the time that Zumanity was there. One cool thing is the bar at the end of the stage. So the stage looks like a regular stage, but it has this part that sticks out into the audience, which is actually called a “thrust stage.” Insert joke here about parts that stick out and thrusting. So at the end of the stage, there’s now this half circle bar, and you can go up to the bar and order drinks for yourself before the show starts. When the show begins, there’s a cover for the bar that’s lowered down so it just becomes part of the stage. 

I don't remember. I just remember laughing my ass off.
The show itself isn’t your typical Cirque show. I would describe it as “intro to Cirque.” It has the acrobatics, but it’s not all acrobatics, and it doesn't have the weird French-Canadian stuff that’s all over “O” and Mystere. What it does have is live singers and a live band. A few years back, word was that Cirque du Soleil was moving away from live musicians, so that was a pleasant surprise. It also features 3 different comedians throughout the show, which gives the show a chance to breathe. 

I think Mad Apple - while not a show for kids due to the humor - is a show for younger adults, or those who might be bored by the more traditional Cirque material. (Seriously, I think it was purely my confusion keeping me awake during “O”.) I try really hard to keep politics away from my Vegas discussions, because Vegas is my escape. However, it should be noted that this is a show that celebrates the bluest city in the bluest state. It’s not too in your face, but I’ve seen complaints online about some of the content. New York City’s population leans left on average, so the show, in that spirit, is going to lean left a little. This shouldn’t be shocking, but apparently some people were nonetheless clutching their pearls. Consider yourselves warned.

Feel the thrust of the stage.
The format of Mad Apple is more like a variety show than anything else. Between the aerialists, the
singers, and the comedians, it feels almost like Ka and Absinthe had a baby, but it’s a beautiful baby. I’ll be the first to admit that I have a short attention span; even more so when I’m in Vegas, and the way Mad Apple frequently switches up the content works for me, and is a great blend of funny, amazing, and musical talent.

I enjoyed all three of the comedians. There’s a Little Person comedian, an absolutely hilarious Jewish guy, and someone who is a virtuoso with shadow puppets. From what I’ve been reading, most of the people who are complaining about the show are complaining about being offended by the comedians, which to me is a pretty good indicator that they’re funny as shit. I’ve been told that the writers and producer of Mad Apple gave the comedians free reign, so their routines aren’t run through the corporate filter. If you’re easily offended by naughty words, you should find a different Cirque show (and maybe a different podcast). 

One of the things I liked about the variety show format is that the traditional Cirque acts seemed to stand out more. An aerialist couple who hang from straps were previously part of Absinthe, and their number flourishes in the bigger space. There is another aerialist who swings around the stage while hanging from her hair, which probably accelerated my male pattern baldness just by witnessing it. There’s a huge, impressive set piece called the “Wheel of Death” which is best seen live, rather than me attempting to describe it. 

Let’s discuss the A.F.F. or Audience Fuckery Factor for Mad Apple. Cirque shows are reasonably easy on the audience, and Mad Apple is similar. However, having the comedians involved means that if you’re sitting in the first few rows, you run the risk of being singled out, exactly like being at a comedy club. Of course, you're going to take my advice and save some money and get a better view of the whole production by sitting further back, so this won’t be an issue for you. 

If you are taking someone to their first Cirque show - especially someone who might roll their eyes at the idea of a Cirque show - Mad Apple is a great middle ground show, the mixes up the content but doesn’t compromise on the quality. Thinking about it later, I found a certain irony in a show about the city that is home to Broadway (New York) is in actuality structurally perfect for the city it calls home: Las Vegas. Mad Apple is performed twice nightly at New York New York at 7:00 and 9:30, but is dark Wednesdays and Thursdays. Tickets start at $69 (which is probably more appropriate for its predecessor, Zumanity) and can be purchased via the link to Vegas.com in the website or here in the show notes.

      You can find Josh on twitter @vegasjaydubs

Wednesday, January 11, 2023


Let’s talk about Rouge at the Strat. (And it’s Rouge as in “blush,” not Rogue as in “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.”)

So when Rouge was announced earlier this year, I was definitely interested. It’s probably no secret at this point that I’m a horn dog, and like my Vegas shows to be titillating. I also believe that what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, and out of a sense of fairness I once took my wife to a male review; something I probably won’t ever do again. It’s not so much watching the men dance that I have a problem with, it was all the screaming. Why do women feel the need to shriek like banshees during these shows? He’s not going to fuck the loudest one in the room! So for the sake of preserving what’s left of my already terrible hearing, I’m opting out of male reviews for the future.  That being said, I’m willing to bet that a decent looking dude could park himself at the bar outside the Thunder From Down Under Theater around 11:30 at night, and it would be like shooting fish in a barrel. This is just a theory, but if it happens to work out for a listener, you’re welcome. Just don’t be creepy.

Anyway, I digress. Rouge bills itself as a male and female topless show, and ‘The Sexiest Show in Vegas.’ We recently decided to check it out and see for ourselves. First, Rouge is at the Strat. This is not a place we’ve ever spent much time, because it’s the Strat. You kind of need a specific reason to go there.  Now that we had a reason, we ventured over to see it.

The Mad Max reboot is really weird.
Some words about the showroom.  It’s on the 2nd level, almost directly above where you line up to take the elevator up to the skypod. When we entered, an usher did the typical “let’s see your tickets so we can walk you to your seats” thing, but it was kind of weird because they had performers spread all through the audience; including right next to these ushers. The performers were dressed in these really extravagant costumes - probably the best costumes of the whole show - and they were kind of leering at us in a way that was probably meant to be sexy?  Honestly it kind of threw me off, because I’m trying to show the usher my ticketing information on my phone, but I’m also looking at this person in a leather corset who’s next to me licking their lips. I mean, normally that’s not a bad thing, but I felt like my attention was kind of pulled two different ways.

We found their showroom to be a decent space, with a big variety in seating, including the booth tables that seem to be a disappearing part of Vegas entertainment. I had a “preferred seating” table, which consisted of four chairs around a small half circle table. I was hoping that we would have the table to ourselves, because “Stranger Danger” but a couple that I’m pretty sure were a hooker and her John were seated next to us shortly after. She got paid for her time and treated to a show. Lucky gal…  (Side note: they did end up leaving before the show was over.  When that meter’s running, I guess you can’t waste too much time on passive entertainment when more active forms await.)

This fuckin' guy...
Let’s talk about the show itself.  There’s an emcee, who struck me as kind of a poor-man’s Gazillionaire (from Absinthe).  He seemed like he was trying to come across as this vaudeville showman but his jokes, phony French accent, and porn-stache made a lot of the humor land in more of a sleazy way rather than a naughty way. It’s a fine line, I know.

The show has several vignettes or sections. There’s a running bit they go back to a few times throughout the show with this married couple who are unsatisfied because they’re bored with their bedroom life and apparently aren’t communicating about it. So I guess the show can be viewed as a journey through their exploration of kinks, because by the end, everyone’s fucking and happy and fucking happy.

My biggest issue with the show is that for me, some of these vignettes work, and some of them don’t.  There’s a whole French Aristocracy section, where the women wear these big Marie Antionette style dresses with corset tops, and it’s funny because they turn around and the backs are open so you can see their asses. The men are wearing pantaloons from the same time period, and there’s cut-outs in the back so that each ass-cheek sticks out of its own cheek hole. I get that it’s trying to be balanced (Here’s woman-ass. Now here’s man-ass) but it ends up looking ridiculous. Maybe that’s my straight male privilege talking, but my wife thinks it looked pretty dumb too.

You've been on my mind for a while now
The other wierd-as-fuck bit was a whole horse vignette, where performers had on bridles and shoes that looked like hooves. I am not making this up. I was too busy WTF-ing through this whole portion to be the slightest bit aroused.

That’s not to say that it’s all bad.  There’s some sections that work really well, like a bondage section and a striptease portion in which performers in business suits watch while another performer pole dances.

Perhaps there’s some realism here, if we want to get serious for a minute. A couple exploring their sexuality together is probably going to find some things along the way that don’t work for either or both of them. Maybe the show’s recurring married couple tried French aristocracy horse porn, and it didn’t work for them, but found something else that did? I think that Rouge - by featuring a cast of both men and women, and by having all these different types of content - is trying to say, “hey, there’s something for everyone. Find your something.” And while that’s certainly true, and I’m never going to judge what consenting adults choose to enjoy together, I don’t necessarily want to be presented with every other kink as part of my entertainment. No offense, horse-people. You do you.
I am both frightened and aroused.

No discussion of an adult review show in Vegas is complete without talking about the eye-candy. I know
 there’s more discussion these days about what is and what isn’t acceptable in these types of discussions, but I think that when you’re paying to see a show in which you know people will be removing their clothes with intent to arouse, then objectification is an inescapable part of that transaction. (How’s that for a sentence!?)  So I’m going to objectify. I found all of the women pleasant to look at. There’s a variety of race and body types. Remember that all of these people are young professional dancers, so if you like them super-thicc, you won’t be finding any of that here.  Which brings me to another issue.  I asked the wife if she enjoyed the male eye-candy, and she was fairly indifferent. In fact, she says she found the women more attractive, and she doesn’t swing that way. Rouge also has professional dancer-types for the male roles who tend to be shorter and leaner. These men are not the same types that you would see in Thunder From Down Under or Magic Mike Live. Those tend to be bigger dudes.  Now again, not everyone likes the same thing, but in my opinion, Rouge might appeal to more women if the men were less dancer-type and more bodybuilder-type. Hell, even consider staying with the theme of the show and mix it up a little with some of both. I also recognize that I’m completely out of my element here and this is pure speculation.

Okay, on to the Audience Fuckery Factor, or A.F.F.  As a member of the audience how much do you have to worry about being fucked with by the performers?  Some people don’t mind a little audience participation, some people are mortified if a microphone is pointed in their general direction. Here's the Audience Fuckery Factor for Rouge in a nutshell: if you sit in the front half of the theater, there is a good chance you may be singled out. At one point, Emcee Sleazeball walked through the audience and asked audience members what their favorite position was. There was a guy in a cowboy hat in the front row who was repeatedly picked on throughout the show. Also, if you wear a cowboy hat and sit in the front row, you're kind of asking for it. He seemed like a good sport.

I was trying to best summarize how I felt about Rouge.  I think they’ve set an audacious goal by attempting an adult review show for just about everyone, even if they don’t quite succeed.  What it ultimately came down to for me was, would I see it again? I’d see Fantasy, X-Burlesque, and X-Country again. I don’t think I’d see Rouge again.  This isn’t because it had dudes in it, it’s because so much of it didn’t really land with me or my wife at all. There’s a lot of great entertainment in Las Vegas, so why waste time with entertainment that doesn’t do it for you?  Which I guess, in a way, is what Rouge is about.

If you decide to check it out, Rouge is dark on Mondays. Showtimes vary and some nights have 2 shows. Tickets start at $4 and we always appreciate it when you click the Vegas.com referral link here or on the website. 

      You can find Josh on twitter @vegasjaydubs