'Magic Mike Live:' The new ladies' night

'Magic Mike Live' puts a feminist twist on the male revue.
'Magic Mike Live' puts a feminist twist on the male revue. Photo Credit: Erik Kabik

They come in droves. A squadron of women wearing neon wigs cut into blunt, perky bobs. A gaggle of ladies in sashes and pink headbands that read "hen party." A parade of cocktail dresses and high heels with the occasional sash or tiara sprinkled in. It's Sunday night in Las Vegas, but at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino it is definitely ladies' night.

In fact, since "Magic Mike Live" opened inside the off-Strip casino in April, it's been ladies' night every night, except Mondays and Tuesdays when the male revue is dark. Created by actor Channing Tatum and co-directed by choreographer Alison Faulk,
"Magic Mike Live" loosely follows the storylines of the original film (which itself was loosely based on Tatum's experiences as a stripper). This time, Mike's a server, taken under the wing of the show's host and cast to be transformed into the slick, chiseled, male dancer ideal. As you might imagine, much body rolling and screaming ensues.

However, if the fundamental pillars of "Magic Mike Live" — muscle-bound dancers, sexual references, ample audience participation — seem like standard male revue fare, the rest of the show is not.

As the women find their seats and order flutes of Champagne and cocktails, available in standard or goblet size, a handful of dancers take the stage costumed as the stripper cliche while a loud man in a bedazzled blazer works the room making vulgar jokes. It's an odd start to a new show, and it keeps escalating until an "audience member" ends up in the spotlight, stuck between the host and a firefighter wielding a hose of silly string as the women in the seats just sort of cringe. But right as the show reaches peak filth, we hear her yell: "Unicorn!"

Turns out the lady is a plant, and Unicorn is her Channing Tatum-voiced invisible friend, here to rescue us from the excruciating awkwardness of male revues past.

"How is this anyone's version of sexy?" asks master of ceremonies Lyndsay Hailey. "Why can't we have a guy in jeans and a white T-shirt right now?"

And, poof! One appears. She rifles off a series of other requests — chocolate, 90% cacao, Nutella, a guy with a puppy, a guy with a really good job — and poof by poof, men matching her descriptions appear.

Now the real "Magic Mike Live" can begin, and this male revue is a decidedly modern take on the staple Strip genre. With Hailey serving as the audience's guide, the show continues from a feminine, even feminist, perspective, and thanks to Faulk's choreography and casting, the performance is less pelvic thrusting than actual impressive dancing. The appropriately studly staff show off their moves — heavy on the backflips — while Hailey exhorts the crowd to go after what they want, in life as in Magic Mike Live.

Within the theater, that girl-power, seize-the-day philosophy takes the form of letting loose, showering the dancers in faux unicorn bucks and enjoying the many lap dances performed during the 90-minute show. There are synchronized lap dances, lap dances on top of the bar, lap dances in the crowd and lap dances on top of a piano. There's even a percussive lap dance, during which an audience member crawls atop a dancer as he sits at the drums, trying to create a rhythm while she writhes.

When the opening act firefighter makes a surprise appearance later on, Hailey isn't having it. "Ladies, misogyny is back, and it's trying to take over the show!"

After a light-hearted dance fight, our victorious emcee thanks stripper-in-training Mike for his help: "Thank you for supporting me while I very much saved myself."

If a Vegas male revue isn't the place you'd expect to find a feminist message, it works, giving the crowd permission to feel comfortable, cut loose and enjoy themselves. And they do, screaming, laughing, making it rain Magic Mike money and embracing whichever dancer stops by for a little one-on-one action.

By the time the shirtless cast bow their goodbyes and Hailey mounts a giant unicorn (really), the mood in the room is festive, like we're all friends at the same (very elaborate) bachelorette party. As the women climb the stairs and return to the casino floor, there's a new sort of buzz about them. Because it's ladies' night, and Las Vegas is all theirs.

Magic Mike Live plays at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Wednesday-Sunday at 7:30 and 10 p.m. Tickets start at $45.


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