While Americans and international visitors alike are in the process of being vaccinated, one show on the Las Vegas Strip is busy giving a shot in the arm to the city’s pandemic-impacted entertainment.
Though on March 15th, exactly one year from when the city was shut down, Nevada’s Governor Sisolak gave the green light to allow 250 people in showroom audiences. FANTASY at the Luxor has been a booster to the industry by continuing to persevere under the strict regulations of the pandemic. That included the allowance of only 100 socially distanced audience members when the show reopened on February 19th in the 1,400-seat Luxor Theater where normally large-scale major productions are presented.
“We’ve had to open and close again when shows were shut down all over Vegas,” explains Emmy Award-winning choreographer Anita Mann, FANTASY’s producer (pictured above). “On November 6, 2020, we were moved from the intimate Atrium Theater to the Luxor Theater. We were allowed 250 people in the audience at that time and there had to be 25 feet between the stage and the first row of seats and every group in the audience had to be 6 feet from each other, front, back, and sides. But that number was cut to 50 people in late November and then we had to close once more. It’s great that we’re now allowed 250 people again.”
While, admittedly, 100 people in a 1,400- seat theater couldn’t make any money, Mann considered it an investment in the future of Las Vegas. She had even kept the cast on salary for quite a while and busy on social media during the times that the show was dark. She notes that the 100 tickets sold out consistently every night and that the audiences were very enthusiastic, even standing up and screaming their applause at their seats.
“Our job is to make people happy,” she maintains about the beloved adult revue. “Granted, live entertainment is difficult right now. It’s a whole different energy performing to so few people. But the entire cast is back – they all wanted to get back on stage. The most important thing is safety so you have to bite the bullet as a producer. We want to get people working and people coming.”
FANTASY, which consists of eight talented and sensuous female dancers, powerhouse songstress Lorena Peril, and guest star comedy magician Murray Sawchuck, is currently performing seven nights a week at 10:30 p.m. and on Sundays at 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. since Carrot Top, who also performs in the Luxor Theater, is off on Sundays. Masks are required for audience members as well as the dancers, who have to be 6 feet apart while performing on stage. They also wear masks during rehearsals.
Backstage, the cast has to wear masks as well even though they are separated by partitions. But they can take off the masks to put on makeup but are not allowed to talk to one another while the masks are off. They are also tested for COVID every Monday and if someone tests positive, she is not allowed to rejoin the cast until she has two subsequent negative tests. There are 10 fulltime dancers who have 5- and 6-day a week contracts, allowing for rotation.
Despite the recent challenges for Vegas shows, FANTASY has remained on top, honored with multiple accolades within the past year, including “Best All-Time Female Revue” by Las Vegas Weekly, and “Best Production Show,” “Best Female Revue” and “Best Bachelor Party” by Las Vegas Review-Journal’s “Best of Las Vegas” Awards. Most recently, FANTASY was inducted into Las Vegas Magazine’s Hall of Fame. Dazzling audiences on the Las Vegas Strip for 21 years and counting, the always-evolving, sensuous show features high-energy numbers set to contemporary hits, breathtaking aerial acrobatics and more.
As to what has made the topless revue so successful, Mann states that it is the fact that every night is opening night – neither the show nor the cast ever rests on its laurels.
“We work every night on maintaining the quality of the show and the performances,” she adds. “We change the show constantly to keep the motivation of the cast; change is exciting for me because I love to watch the growth. For the current situation, we are readjusting and redoing some numbers for the Luxor Theater since it is so much larger than the Atrium Showroom. And Lorena Peril has a new song in the show and I’ve added dancers to it”.
“Every night, we strive to get better,” she continues. “It’s also about the cast having the right attitude of gratitude. They are very grateful when they are able to work and are pleasing audiences. A dancer can stay in the show as long as she wants as long as she can perform up to standard and maintain the quality of performance. We also have a beautiful aerialist. We offer variety you can’t get in a lot of shows.”
Criteria for being in FANTASY, according to Mann, comes down to three main things – 1) dancing ability and strength as a dancer 2) dancers come to work passionate and eager with no diva attitude; no one is better than anyone else 3) they have to be willing to do philanthropic events. Their giving back to others is critical to Mann.
Although Mann is not always on property, she lauds the work of Company Manager Beverly Jeanne, Associate Producer Mariah Rivera, and Dance Captain Yesi Burgess, who is also the in-house choreographer, If Burgess sees something that isn’t right, she will film it and send it to Mann, who will come in and work on it in person. The show has also used the talents of some renowned choreographers such as Mandy Moore, Chris Judd, and Tiger Martina, but Mann has choreographed a lot of the numbers herself.
As for the show’s topless aspect, Mann explains that the most important thing is that the show doesn’t exploit women but rather celebrates their beauty.
“We’re not trying to be sexy,” Mann asserts. “We want a woman to look womanly. For five years, I choreographed “Solid Gold” on TV. That show pushed the envelope but we never made it about being sexy. FANTASY is Vegassy; it is Vegas friendly. It is a production show not with all the bells and whistles but with variety of production. Here, you’ll see dancers who can really dance. They exemplify the contemporary, modern showgirl.”