Wizard
Posted by Wizard
Nov 09, 2009

To get the obvious joke out of the way, no, Bite at the Stratosphere doesn't bite. Nor is it toothless, bloodless or any other vampiric joke one might want to make at its expense. Not only does it have teeth, Bite's got legs (14 of them, to be precise), judging by its staying power on the Strip (five years last August). Goth + rock + toplessness have proven a winning equation for writer/producer Tim Molyneux's revue, which seems to have its cadaverous finger firmly on the pulse of what Vegas visitors want.

A few caveats first: You have to find women with fangs attractive. (I don't.) Also, the song list consists of over-familiar bombast, started with - you guessed it - "Welcome to the Jungle." Yes, there's "Maneater" and vampirettes Cat (Kristin Ratatori) and Ice (Michelle Diterlizzi) are played on with "Cat Scratch Fever" and "Cold as Ice." How original. The principal vampire (Russell Hines) - we'll call him "Blacula" - is introduced with "Sympathy for the Devil." At a time when an African-American U.S. President is regularly equated with the Antichrist, this song selection really had better be rethought.

(The rest of the bevy of beauties includes Koree Kurkowski [Tush], Kristel Nichols [Fire], Kim Langstaff [Pain] and Samantha Hunt [Shimmy]. If more than one of the ladies is "augmented," they conceal it well.)

Having a harem of six (usually) topless hotties isn't quite enough for Blacula, as Bite's premise is that he's on the hunt for a seventh (Jessica Delgado), to be queen of the vampirettes. (Does this set off a catfight? Is the Pope Catholic?) Aforementioned quest is rather desultory. At one point, Blacula sits down at the piano and you expect him to tickle the ivories with "Music of the Night" from Phantom of the Opera. (Sorry, wrong casino for that. Hang a left at Sheldon's place.) Later, he engages in clumsily staged combat with a rival, S&M vampire who's a late entrant into the storyline -- at which juncture, Bite's solo vocalist (Mark Giovachinni) emerges to warble a gonzo medley of "Nessun dorma" and "Stairway to Heaven." Seriously!

Yes, there's a vocalist. Plus three aerialists. They, like the queen-to-be, are cunningly concealed among a slew of audience "volunteers," at least a few of which are the real item. The near-naked male acrobat (Cees De Kok) provides at least some diversion for the ladies in the audience (which was quite robust on the night we attended).

The high-kicking choreography is quite athletic, if not of Sin City Bad Girls caliber, although it occasionally works in a soupçon of ballet: six topless dancers en pointe … that's different. But if the dance menu is eclectic, the musical bill of fare is bizarre. "Sail Away" is one of the evening's big numbers, for no apparent reason. Classical music fans will get a hoot out of the tunes plundered from the greats. Carmina Burana makes an inevitable appearance, but "Vesti la giubba" and "Di quella pira"? What do putting on clown makeup and rescuing one's Mom from the pyre, respectively, have to do with good old vampirism? For a Seventies flashback, Bite! even employs black light (remember that glow-in-the-dark stuff?) for one number.

This catchall spirit even embraces illusionism. Blacula performs a levitating trick that makes one realize that playing the lead role in Bite! is the true niche for Criss Angel's talents (and fanbase). The terpsichorean highlight is an airborne pas de deux between two of the aerialists (De Kok and Cathy Perquin), while the third (Kelly Jo Millaudon, aka "Silk") performs a heart-stopping tumbling number, nearly as perilous-looking as anything dreamt up by Cirque du Soleil.

After all, what is Bite but Cirque with less money and no fatuous irony whatsoever, culminating in a grand finale that unleashes all dancers, aerialists and breasts? While Bite is a mix of the truly good with the so-bad-it's-good, you will not be bored for a moment. Also, the A+ sightlines mean that (unlike V Theater or the Stage Door Theater at Town Square) there's not a bad seat in the house. It just might be hard to find an available one.

Bite
10:30 p.m., Fri.-Wed.
Stratosphere Tower Hotel & Casino
(702) 380-7711
$49.45