Sammasseur Reviews 53X Burlesque Revue At Paris
Let’s talk about sex, baby
Let’s talk about you and me
Let’s talk about all the good things
And the bad things that may be
Let’s talk about sex…
Yeah, Salt ‘N’ Pepa‘s in da house, and you gonna learn about 53X — all the good and bad. The lyrics for that 1991 hit set the right tone for a review of, er…the new revue inside Chateau Nightclub at Paris Hotel Casino. The first spin-off from Chippendales promises to titillate members of both sexes…and hopefully leave you in the mood to continue the lessons after the show. Let’s peek under the sheets…ahem, “behind the curtains” to see if it succeeds…or comes up a little limp.
53X is the closest that a theatrical production will ever get to feeling like a first date…if the date turned into a group sex party, that is. As a member of the audience, you really aren’t sure what to expect, where things will head or how you should behave…just like a real date.
The unique location for 53X at Chateau Nightclub sets an unusual tone for a production show. The wide stage has little depth and few props that don’t give any clues. The lights go down and four elegantly-dressed couples enter from behind the audience, walking in pairs through the seating areas and onto the stage. They are costumed as if ready for a Victorian ball. Then the contemporary music busts loose…and so does the cast.
Before you can get familiar with the performers, they start tugging and ripping at each others’ clothing (and their own), and moments later they’re down to practically nothing. In the case of the men, it’s LITERALLY nothing. That pretty much sums up what 53X is all about — gorgeous people in various states of undress, writhing through different scenarios to stir up your libido. It’s very slick, neatly choreographed and sprinkled with comedy and a dash of spontaneity.
We’re told from the outset that there is no plot (“This isn’t Cirque”). Instead, what you get are vignettes that provide reasons to remove the hot sexy cast from their clothing and get them onto each other. We’re talking firemen and damsels, a luau that goes wild, a business traveler who returns home to find his lady on a chaise lounge, etc.
The limited size of the stage serves as impetus to bring the performers down into the audience, especially during a riotous interpretation of Chef’s Salty Chocolate Balls from South Park, brought alive by Okewa Garrett.
Speaking of the cast, it is uniformly excellent. Both the male and female members are ripped, shredded, athletic and gorgeous. Those looking for voluptuous bosom-y women and big buff guys should probably head to Fantasy (Luxor) or Chippendales (Rio). But those into fitness models and gymnasts would be wise to bring drool bibs. Side note: VegasBright profile recipient, Outback rancher Aaron Lucey, just joined the cast this month.
The cast of 53X with guest Antonio Sabato Jr. at the premiere…
As for the choreography, it’s cutting-edge and erotic without being dirty. The tight staging area doesn’t do the performers any favors, but having a stripper pole on one end certainly comes in handy for an eye-dropping number. The costumes by Jeffery DeBarathy, whom we also profiled recently, are sexy and chic.
Host “Shangela” and the ladies of 53X
Interestingly, the overall slickness of 53X proves to be a weak point, especially with the host. Emcee Shangela Laquifa Wadley (Darius J. Pierce) is a former contestant on RuPaul’s Drag Race. Shangela is polished, polite and somewhat predictable…mildly disappointing in this era of Absinthe-style outrageousness. Luckily, I happened to take in my third viewing of 53X when another Drag Race alumnus, Shannel (Bryan Watkins), burst onto the stage for his/her first guest-hosting stint. It was a tour de force filled with daring observations, off-the-cuff improv and side-splitting jokes. Somebody sign up Shannel for the long haul….stat!
Another problem facing 53X is that its “equal-opportunity approach” to sexual stimulation ignores a somewhat obvious demographic. I’m referring, of course, to the LGBTQ audience, a big part of Vegas tourism. Aside from a moment when the women undo each others’ bras, there is a serious lack of same-sex interaction.
Considering that the relatively-conservative Cirque du Soleil has brazenly featured both male and female same-sex sequences in Zumanity since 2003, this is a very puzzling choice in 2016. Gays are openly welcome at Chippendales and Aussie Hunks freely engages the men in their audiences, yet the guys in 53X barely notice each other while onstage. Very strange, indeed.
That’s not to suggest that the folks behind 53x deliberately ignore the gay audience. Quite the opposite is true, in fact. It was during the cast’s guest performance at gay nightclub Share two weekends ago that I first learned of Shannel’s guest-hosting gig the following evening. Here is a clip of that number, which may not be considered safe for work:
Like the “first-date scenario” that led off this piece, I didn’t know what to make of 53X on my initial viewings. And yet, I couldn’t stop thinking and talking about it. There was a lot to like from the premiere…and indeed there still is. The show has vastly improved, with weaker sequences having been excised, new numbers added and a more confident energy overall as the show and cast have found their footing.
That being said, a production whose name coyly spells out SEX could benefit by taking much larger risks. Still, in it’s current incarnation, 53X is fun, invigorating, stimulating and satisfying. Best of all, with tickets starting at $39.95 (plus taxes/fees), it’s one of the hottest bargains on the Strip.
53X performs Wednesday through Sunday at 8:30 pm inside Chateau Nightclub, Paris Hotel Casino. Audience members must be 18+. Tickets are available by visiting this link. I highly recommend the VIP section, which provides more comfortable seating and clear sight lines. Groupon.com is offering this deal on VIP seating for $55.58 inclusive, good through July 31, 2016.
Disclaimer: I attended 53X as a guest of the production, but my opinions, as always, remain my own.
Photos: [Sammasseur, 53X via Facebook]