Beneath the stark house lights of Bally’s Jubilee Theater, 11 women stand chest out, chin up, beads of sweat rolling down their heavily made-up faces. Some are in leotards and tiaras; others in G-strings and lace bras.
“Kick high! And smile!” shouts Jubilee! company manager Diane Palm, as each of the girls attempts the choreography routine learned minutes before. A simple request, but for the more than 30 women who audition Monday afternoon, it means a job with the longest-running stage show in Las Vegas.
For more than six hours, Palm and a team of judges sit before dozens upon dozens of local performers as they audition for the handful of spots open in Donn Arden’s Jubilee!, which celebrates its 31st anniversary on July 30. In addition to showgirls and dancers, performers try out for the parts of principal dancers, singers and chorus line performers,
“It’s not just about being tall and pretty,” Palm says, noting the show’s strict height requirement of 5-feet-8 for women and 6-feet for men. “They’ve got to have technique down. And we need to see flair and personality—what makes them unique. That’s why we try to have a variety of dance styles in the audition choreography, so that they can show off their strengths and different aspects of their personality and experience.”
That’s particularly clear when each girl is asked to demonstrate Jubilee!’s quintessential “showgirl walk,” a writhing, shimmying shuffle across the stage that, while subtle, is a lot trickier than it looks. Some of the girls give it a sultry edge with an extra twist to their hips; others are more poised, with painstaking, if not somewhat mechanical, precision; still others struggle with the coordination, but manage to distract from their stumbles with million-dollar smiles and a twinkle in their eyes.
After two hours of running through an exhausting slate of routines, the girls line up onstage for callbacks. A few hold hands and exchange anxious glances; it’s hard not to feel nervous for them. Palm goes down the line, asking each which part she’d prefer—showgirl or dancer—to help narrow down the decision-making. For some, it’s a dream just to be there at all.
“I would do either, it doesn’t matter,” blurts out one of the younger girls, unable to conceal her excitement. “Just so I can be on this stage!”