You might think you know what you’re going to get when you buy a ticket to see a headlining residency show on the Las Vegas Strip from a pop superstar like Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars, Janet Jackson or Mariah Carey. It’s the responsibility of the artist and the creative designers and directors to give you something else, to show you some surprises and to present your favorite music in a fresh new way.
When Gwen Stefani launched her Vegas show, Just a Girl, on June 27, 2018, at Planet Hollywood’s Zappos Theater, it was really big. She opened with “Hollaback Girl” and entered atop a grand staircase that called back to over-the-top Vegas production shows stacked with showgirls from bygone eras. Her dancers performed with giant bananas.
It’s just one of many vibrant visuals and elaborate sets that make up Just a Girl, and Stefani’s hands-on approach to her residency show made all the difference in its creation, according to her collaborators. “She was definitely the key player from start to finish, at those 7 a.m. meetings and at every single rehearsal, giving input and really driving the creative for the show,” says Melissa Garcia of LA-based Silent House Productions and one of the show’s creative directors. “You can see those personal aspects are such an integral part of the show.”
Indeed, Just a Girl is something of a career retrospective, with hits from Stefani’s days in No Doubt and her solo singing career; constant splashes of fun fashion that showcase her pop culture impact; and video content that allows her to tell her own evolution story as an artist.
“Every artist is a little different, and every team has a way of wanting to do things with their history and iconography and style,” says Cory FitzGerald, creative director, designer and partner at Silent House. “Gwen had a specific idea how she wanted to tell her story about her life and changing over the years. From there it was very much a conversation about the arrangement of music and grouping songs together to illustrate those parts of her life she wanted to focus on, and stringing those parts together to make a biography of sorts through music, her style and her looks. That got us where we wanted to go.”
Silent House has also worked on Cher’s residency at Park Theater and several concert events and tours that have touched down in Las Vegas in recent years. FitzGerald is hard at work on Shania Twain’s upcoming residency at Zappos Theater while also consulting on The Chainsmokers’ tour.
It seems to be a universal truth for artists, producers and directors that putting on a show in Las Vegas these days allows extra space for creativity, and they’re taking advantage of it. There’s no doubt that Stefani’s show is loaded with Vegas-style flourishes. “Vegas is unique. If you go there amped up knowing you’re going to see Gwen Stefani, you’re not going to be disappointed,” FitzGerald says. “But more importantly, it’s an environment that’s comfortable for her to tell the story she wants to tell, and you feel it the minute you walk in.”
GWEN STEFANI: JUST A GIRL October 11-30, days vary, 9 p.m., $40-$250. Zappos Theater, 702-785-5882.