Has MGM Grand's Crazy Horse Paris jumped the shark? By semi-coincidence, yours truly, blogger Steve Friess and the Los Angeles Times' Richard Abowitz all descended upon the erstwhile La Femme during the same week (July 8-13). The consensus? A resounding 'meh.'
All of this semi-hullabaloo was occasioned by Carmen Electra's one-week guest engagement, performing two numbers and appearing briefly - but toplessly - in a third. In fact, the question of whether Electra would or would not go pasty-less was the cause for much spilling of ink both in newspapers and the blogosphere.
Well, she did and she didn't. More to the point, a temporarily Electra-fied Crazy Horse showed how otherwise moribund the show has become. It's as though somebody had the perverse concept of taking as much eroticism as possible out of a topless show. The 14 showgirls (by my count) evince little variety of physique or - with one exception - skin color. Even their modest, but not necessarily God-given, breast sizes are of unsettlingly perky uniformity.
The Fembots in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery were a whirlwind of personality compared to the Crazy Horse crew. Maybe this alienated quality is big in France, where the show originated. But if Crazy Horse ranks high in production values among Strip topless shows, it's also the chilliest of the bunch - the decadence of the Weimar Republic without any of the fun.
The opening tableau of 14 shako-wearing dancers stomping across the stage in cheerless uniformity set the tone. The female form is consistently de-eroticized, passively displayed, as in a five-girl chair routine that is more self-consciously artistic than sexy. The late-Mod aesthetics of the (semi-)costuming, wigs, sets and lighting suggest that the show's conception was hatched in the Seventies and not tweaked appreciably since.
Crazy Horse is big on shadow-box numbers and the "Vestal" one encapsulates the show's aesthetic aimlessness. Vestal virgins were Roman but the dancers' garb, such as it is, looks Egyptian, while the music track might be characterized as "Turkish klezmer."
Another shadow-box tableau, "Teasing" is the show's icon and nearly worth the price of admission. It's a bottom-less strip in the classic style (but don't get too excited; all the girls wear "modesty patches") and you won't see a more well-sculpted pair of legs in town. (The most personable of the dancers, by far, is the one who comes before the curtain to perform little olio bits that set up the next number.)
"Teasing" is the only vignette in which Crazy Horse's reduction of women to discrete body parts actually plays as eroticism. Seven pairs of gams in "Hot Legs" does not compute as seven times the sexiness, for instance. Nor does a peek-a-boo number involving bare breasts and French doors have a conceit that sustains the length of the pantomime.
Still, it was high heavens compared to the "comedy" bits. The Michael Jackson impersonator has done a speedy vanishing act. What remains are The Quidders, whose "Elfs" number involves a midget Elvis, which you will either find hilarious or stupefying (and not in a good way). There's also a lengthy - and I do mean "lengthy" - break-dancing segment featuring the Scott Brothers. They're smooth and likeable but, as with so much else in Crazy Horse, seem to have emerged from a time rift.
But what clearly pulled the audience in was Carmen Electra and the crowd ate her up with the proverbial spoon, and deservedly so. Neither her footwork nor the condition of her calves would make her a Dancing with the Stars finalist, but what she lacked in precision she more than compensated with animal magnetism.
Unlike the robotic ensemble dancers, Electra was out there to connect with the audience and brought a much-needed element of threat to the "No sex, please, we're MGM Mirage" proceedings. She gave her bump-and-grind all to "The Seduction Lesson," writhing up, down and across and a lip-shaped sofa.
Even with the handicap of a flimsy "cage," Electra managed to be even more down and dirty in a feral "Chain Gang" solo routine. Yes, she did wear pasties for both numbers - baseball-sized brown patches that were more of a distraction than a disguise.
While Crazy Horse has one of the best, most-classy music tracks among shows of its ilk, it's not beyond improvement. For instance, having a Caucasian woman lip-synch to an Eartha Kitt song is tactless at best. While the show pulls off its mimed vocals better than most (I'm looking at you, Crazy Girls), this is a false economy that needs to go. Sin City Bad Girls and Peepshow have proven how much better an experience can be had when the vocals are live and entrusted to real singers, freeing the dancers to concentrate on their moves.
Really, MGM ought to lure Electra back if possible and reboot the show around her particular star quality. But with the gaming giant on its uppers these days, one had best not hold out hope.
MGM Grand's Crazy Horse Paris
La Femme Theatre
3799 Las Vegas Blvd. S.
(702)891-7777 or (866) 740-7711