A few years ago when the Jabbawockeez were booked into Hollywood Theater at MGM Grand, I was asked, “What are the Jabbawockeez?”
Having no walk-around knowledge of a Jabbawockee, I checked out a clip of the dance troupe online. I came up with, “A Jabbawockee is a masked, possibly over-caffeinated mime.”
It has been a process warming up to this crew. There has never been a doubt of their collective artistic aptitude. The Jabbawockeez are a tightly choreographed dance ensemble, a real team of friends, that has worked very hard to develop a show fit for the Vegas stage.
At first blush, the skepticism about the Jabbawockeez’s production shows, first at MGM Grand and later at Monte Carlo, was that it could be a case of the crew still finding its niche. If you were to see the Jabbas doing what they do on the street, the response is, “They belong on a big stage!” But when you see them on that big stage, the tendency is to say, “This would work better as street performance!”
At least, that’s how I viewed the Jabbawockeez until catching their show in full at the temporary tent at Monte Carlo, built for them after renovations for Blue Man Group began at the hotel’s old Lance Burton Theater. They were fun and funny, sly and smart. I could feel there were people and not some sort of dancing androids concealed by those white, hockey-goalie masks.
The Jabbawockeez just opened “Prism” at the Luxor. The hotel has built what seems an extravagant theater for them, more than 800 seats in a staging fortress that rivals the Mirage’s Terry Fator Theater, among others on the Strip, for its acoustic and visual qualities. This room was designed and assembled to the Jabbawockeez’s specs. It is a theater by the Jabbas, for the Jabbas.
The design is dazzling, awash in neon effects and a high platform with extended ramps leading to the stage. The lighting is bright, explosive and pulsating in a prism of color. They form a human helicopter and dance as the characters in Super Mario Bros..
The lead character summons Willie Wonka and the song “Pure Imagination.” The guys hop into the audience and interact, nonverbally as always, with the audience. One move made by the Wonka character was a slick little spin from the ramp to the stage. It was hardly noticed but a delicate and difficult move. Those who deride the art of pantomime or breakdancing need to check this show out. It will change your mind.
At the end, they pull off their masks. The Jabbawockeez are real guys who have designed a sophisticated and stylish production at the Luxor. They’ve grown up. The cast is in their 30s now, but they are in good shape. Similar to their friend, performance artist David Garibaldi, they continue to heap color onto their canvas.
Someday the Jabbawockeez will hand over the masks to a new order, but that day isn’t today. The Jabbas still have a lot of dancing to do.