Although the gambling tables and slot machines at the Riviera stand increasingly empty, the venerable hotel proves itself able to cram more and yet more entertainment into its showrooms. Earlier this summer, it replaced its defunct La Cage drag show with Charo. Now it adds a new late-night draw in the form of Abra-Ca-Sexy.
Scarlett, late of the V Theater, is introduced as "the world's premier female magician." That's leading with your chin but Scarlett's opening night was readier for prime time than was Nathan Burton's at the Flamingo and she has more panache for playing to a big room than does smarmy Steve Wyrick (at Planet Hollywood).
Despite possessing an appealingly husky voice, Scarlett seems ill at ease with her pre-routine patter. A trained dancer, she is better off relying upon stylized movement than the spoken word, which tends to emerge sounding rote. Lithe and limber, Scarlett decisively out-twirls her two backup dancers.
A word about the "Seductive Ladies." Yes, Scarlett is now doing a topless show. That is to say, Scarlett herself is not topless. (Sorry, guys.) However, two of her female backup dancers are, apparently just for the heck of it. They seem like charming gals but their choreography is instantly forgettable and not erotic in the slightest. There is also a pair of male dancers, in a gesture to the ladies, but one of them is rather seedy-looking.
If you saw Scarlett's family-friendly V Theater show, many of the routines are the same - showgirls are sawed in half, water is suspended in a glass upside down - but performed with fewer clothes and on a much larger stage. Late-night patrons are unlikely to complain about seeing skimpier outfits on Scarlett's curvaceous figure, especially when she strips down to a "barely there" red bikini for the climax. A tastefully seminude Scarlett, after all, proves sexier than any number of topless terpsichoreans.
A Betty Boop routine in which Scarlett produced bottles of whiskey from empty cylinders went off without a hitch, but a "flying handkerchief" gag was undercut by backlighting that exposed much of the wire work. And though Scarlett finally has a tank of proper size for her Houdini-inspired finale - an immersion number in which she's tied up and dunked - performing so much of it in concealment dampens the excitement, if you'll pardon the pun. Then again, the sight of a bikini-clad Scarlett being bound and rendered soaking wet may be the whole point of the show.
Scarlett blazes through the show at whirling-dervish pace, so one probably shouldn't begrudge her a bit of mid-performance relief. But the Max Clever trained-animal routine that serves as the middle act saps all the momentum from Abra-Ca-Sexy. For one thing, Clever's animal cohort seems inattentive and only moderately well trained. For another, much of his stage time is occupied with razzing audience members who have the misfortune to sit in the front two rows. (VIP seating has its pitfalls.) His neatest trick is to produce a bottle of beer from an empty shoe. Who wouldn't like to be able to do that, especially on a midsummer day in Vegas?
Scarlett and her Seductive Ladies of Magic
10 p.m., Sat.-Thurs.
Riviera Hotel Casino
2901 Las Vegas Blvd. South
$57 & $67