Sexy Vegas revue shows—and their audiences—continue evolving

Thunder From Down Under and Fantasy

Many couples will celebrate Valentine’s Day in Las Vegas at a sexy, revue-style show where the entertainers wear very little and interact with the audience quite a bit. If that demographic comes as a surprise, you haven’t been to one of these shows. Couples often make up the majority of the audience at topless female revues, while male revues typically see several partners mixed among their primary audience—groups of women.

These shows thrive despite cyclical competition from strip clubs and bigger productions that incorporate elements of burlesque and comedic naughty content. Long-running revues like Fantasy and Thunder From Down Under deploy savvy branding, charismatic talent, well-designed staging and a willingness to change with the times.

Crazy Girls (10 p.m. nightly except Wednesdays at Planet Hollywood) is known as the longest-running burlesque production in the country, having recently celebrated 32 years in Las Vegas. Director and choreographer Jennifer Aleman started as a dancer in the show 14 years ago.

“Back when I did it, this was your show and that’s all you did,” she says. “Now this is just one job for the girls. We have one girl who teaches high school. We have a nurse. They do so many other things now.”

Crazy Girls famously ran for decades at the Riviera and has lived since 2015 at Planet Hollywood, where the clientele is a bit younger. “We cater to that,” Aleman says. “We change up the song choices, and the show is just a little more extreme for the younger crowd.” It’s a familiar production, but it consistently catches its audience off-guard.

“It used to be more about beautiful, statuesque women almost gliding across the stage. Now that people are more open to different things, nothing is going to shock them, so we can do more. We have girls that tumble and do pole tricks. We don’t just stand around and look pretty.”

Twenty years strong, Fantasy (10:30 p.m. nightly at Luxor) has always been focused on adjusting the iconography of the Vegas showgirl by presenting her individual identity. “I’ve been coming to Vegas with my family since I was 10. I snuck into every show that I could, and I loved looking at all the beautiful costumes and the extravagant, glorious, glamorous appeal of it all, but I didn’t get to meet the dancers,” says producer Anita Mann. “That was the main focus when I created the show in 1999, and to make it like an old-fashioned variety show [that wasn’t] too old-fashioned.”

Singer Lorena Peril and comedian Sean E. Cooper help deliver that variety, but the dancers also showcase their own style for an audience that’s getting younger and more female every year. “I always wanted to make it classy, but you still have to pay tribute to the fact that we are in Las Vegas,” Mann says.

The longest-running male revue in the history of Las Vegas was born in Australia, taking mostly naked dancers out of the club and building an entertaining stage production around them. Thunder From Down Under (nightly at 9 p.m., plus 11 p.m. shows Friday and Saturday at Excalibur) was the first of its kind in Las Vegas—opening in 2001 at the Frontier. Thunder remains one of most influential shows of any genre on the Strip.

“When it first started at Excalibur, they actually had a [kids] puppet show right outside the showroom, so the dichotomy of coming out of Thunder and seeing this puppet show was kind of crazy,” says Adam Steck, the producer who brought the brand to the Strip. “Vegas was always a place for men, to go to topless shows and strip clubs, and there was nothing for women at all back then.”

Now with nine packed shows per week in its recently renovated showroom—plus two touring shows circling the globe—Thunder has never been bigger. “Before, the guys were making it immersive by crawling on tables, and now the tables are built for that, because that’s what the audience wants,” Steck says. “You can’t be stagnate and expect the same results. With the [renovation] and the new Thunder Bar, we’ve made it a more full experience.”

Crazy Girls dancer-turned-producer Angela Stabile and her partner and husband Matt have taken those sorts of tweaks and adjustments and developed a stable of adult shows around them. They have X Burlesque (nightly at 10 p.m. at the Flamingo), X Rocks (10 p.m. Thursday through Sunday at Bally’s) and X Country (10 p.m. Thursday through Monday at Harrah’s), driven by varying music but mostly by some of the hottest performances on the Strip.

“We’re always trying to think outside the box—another new prop, another new idea for a different number. We’ll go see a movie and think, wouldn’t that be amazing?” Angela Stabile says. “Most of the inspiration comes from beyond Las Vegas, more from pop culture. Back when we opened, we were pushing the envelope with our bathtub scene, because it has two girls … kissing for two seconds. That’s really nothing today.”

She says her X Burlesque audience hasn’t changed much during the show’s 18 years. “It’s getting younger, but it’s always been couples, groups of girls and groups of guys. You’ll still get a 75-year-old couple who just wants to see a sexy revue when they come to Las Vegas, and they have the license to do that here.”

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An award-winning writer who has been living and working in Las Vegas for more than 20 years, Brock Radke covers ...

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