“Sexxy” creator Jennifer Romas revived her signature bathtub scene on Friday night and cleaned house.
Romas polished off her third sold-out “Sexxy” performance at Dreamland Drive-In at FreshWata Studios. The entertainment annex at 3905 W. Diablo Drive has previously served as a platform for “The World’s First Drive-In Drag Show,” on May 30-31, and the “Tickle Me Comedy Club” lineup on June 19-20. Additional shows are in planned for the venue, though nothing is booked.
Romas is exploring the horizon after the process she calls “a whirlwind, an incredible journey,” during which she has barely slept. The show’s cast hadn’t worked together in four months.
“We’ve taken a very intimate show into a different area, and expanded it,” Romas says. “We have a lot of cool things in store, this is opening new doors in terms of my company having ‘Sexxy’ on tour. It’s kind of groundbreaking, and really exciting.”
As it is, “Sexxy” stands alone as the first resident Las Vegas headlining production to spin off from of its home venue to take the act outside. Westgate was down as the show’s co-sponsor, cementing the hotel’s support of the show that opened in January 2015. Romas also partnered with a series of charities, including Golden Rainbow, The Actors Fund and Pawtastic Friends.
Romas has proven an innate ability to develop a concept, assemble a team, and following through with that vision. In November 2014, when she was still a dancer in Jason Tenner’s “Purple Rain,” tribute, Romas approached Westgate Resorts owner David Siegel and COO Mark Waltrip with her ideas for “Sexxy. By January, the show was onstage.
Romas’s knack for generating support in the community was again evident as she staged a show that expanded what is performed at Westgate Theater.
“We had to bring in the sound system, the projector for the screen behind the stage, new graphics, we had to build a show for this new stage,” Romas says. “We had to establish a new website, a new ticket site, in a short amount of time. We didn’t just move the show to another stage and say, ‘Woo-hoo! We’ve got this!’”
There were some provisions, of course. The cast wasn’t permitted to perform totally topless at the FreshWata complex. To follow safety directives, the performers had been quarantined aside from rehearsals for two weeks prior to the show, and also tested negatively for COVID just before Wednesday’s opener.
The “Sexxy” acts were intact, and familiar to anyone who has caught the show at Westgate. The performance ran about 80 minutes. There was some augmentation, owing to the social-distancing directives.
Singer Gabriella Versace worked the crowd — meaning, vehicles — inviting a cast member to the steps only if she stayed 6 feet away. Agnes Roux’s French-maid scene was, in part, a tutorial in how to clean a mic. At Westgate, an audience member is seated midshow while the cast performs an ensemble lap-dance number. At the drive-in, production manager Doug Leferovich (“Lefty” in Murray Sawchuck’s show at Laugh Factory at Tropicana) was brought up and to sit down. Lefty was covered extensively in clear plastic, appropriately masked, and likely grinning.
The crowd was given red, white and blue glowsticks, along with “Sexxy”-branded hand sanitizer (Romas’s team misses nothing). The star’s ever-present parents, John and Judi Romas, brought their own little cowbells.
The crowd honked, too. This half of the room, that half of the room … and let’s see those wipers! The whole night was a lesson in adjustment.
About 30 vehicles filled the FreshWata lot, facing the elevated stage, LED screen and monitors flanking the show. Guests paid per-vehicle ticket prices starting at $90. Many milled outside the vehicles, required to wear face covers anywhere in the audience parking lot. A food truck delivered to cars with numbers taped to the windows for non-contact delivery.
At times, the scene was reminiscent of drive-in movie nights in such places as Durham, California, just to pull a random township out of the air. The couple next to me set up lawn chairs in the bed of a pickup truck. All that was missing was a pony keg of Hamm’s.
From this perch, the drive-in format is now a viable option for established productions to perform occasionally while maintaining their original residency. “Sexxy” showed it can bridge its partnership with Westgate by marketing the brand in a unique environment. And, shows can make money by livestreaming as pay-per-view events. “Sexxy” at the drive-in was available on that platform, too.
Post-COVID, we are certain to see pay-per-view explored as a revenue source for Strip production. Producers are investigating moving shows to remote stages, such as Dreamland; to dedicated studios (The Space and Notoriety among them), or presenting live streams in their home venues. SPI Entertainment CEO Adam Steck hit the mark with Thunder From Down Under’s closed show, live from The Space last month.
Steck is already talking about shifting that format — in front of a live audience — at Thunderland Showroom at Excalibur.
A documentary about the Dreamland/FreshWata studios efforts is in development. DreamlandXR CEO Chris Crescitelli is heading up the project. The doc is sure to capture a moment in time, when a flexible venue and a team Vegas entertainers figured it all out.
John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His PodKats! podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.
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