Longest running Las Vegas show coming to MontBleu
LAS VEGAS — There is an amazing photo mounted on the wall outside the 24-hour cafe inside the Tropicana. A black-and-white image shows the casino under construction in 1956. The casino is the only structure in the photo. The landscape is nothing but desert. The contrast to today’s strip is dramatic.
Across the street from the Tropicana today is an actual-sized copy of the Statue of Liberty in front of New York, New York. Next door is the Excaliber which features a roller coaster and an elevated train which transports gamblers to the Luxor with its giant sphinx and pyramid with the King Tut Museum, and the showroom where Carrot Top performs and casino floors where there are Texas Hold’em tournaments. The train continues to the massive Mandalay Bay. Giant video screens – modern day gargoyles – peer down at pedestrians, and the swimming pools are surrounded by folks who nowadays aren’t there to show off their sun tans, it’s their tattoos.
Inside the Tropicana, there remains a link to the city’s history. Folies Bergere has been performed at the Tropicana since Dec. 24, 1959, the longest continuous show in the nation.
Lou Walters, who in addition to being the father of Barbara Walters was the casino’s entertainment director, brought the production from Paris to Vegas.
“The Tropicana was the tiffany,” said today’s Entertainment Coordinator Lorrie Mancini before a recent show. “It was the place to be. Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher performed here as well as stayed here. It was the tiffany of the strip and that’s how (Folies Bergere) came to be here.”
The show is presented 10 times a week, with the late show usually filling the 856-seat Tiffany Theatere.
For the 44 cast members, being in Folies Bergere is one of the better jobs in town.
“It’s the best,” said showgirl Sue White. “We have the coolest cast. It’s just a pleasure to come to work. These are people who love what they do. It’s a way of life for us. I’m 43 years old and I’ve been here since I was 18.”
The cast works on six-month contracts and members often leave but then return.
“I’ve seen so many people come and go but they come back,” said Karen Marentic, an acrobat and line coach who has been with the show 14 years. “That tells you people really enjoy their work. People want to get out there and experience other things but they always seem to come home.”
The production celebrates women and fashion and dance styles from Paris in 1860 to contemporary times in the United States. It is a topless show but is also famous for elaborate sets, high energy and acrobatics.
While the storyline moves chronologically, it returns to the cancan era of the 1860s for a spectacular finale. A closing number features the dancers leaping from a balcony and into the arms of the male dancers. Marentic does a complete flip.
Blair Chenoweth, who is Miss Alaska 2007 and has done cliff diving in Croatia, said feeling comfortable and confident is crucial to the show, especially in the cancan scene. “There is nothing worse than being nervous because there is a new boy standing down there to catch you,” she said. “It’s important that they feel that security and they fit in here.”
While the choreography on stage is well-coordinated, it must be just as tight back stage considering all the costume changes.
“It’s down to a science with the traffic back stage and the dressers waiting for you with your exact costumes,” Chenoweth said. “It’s definitely its own different world back stage.”
Previously Folies Bergere often hit the road, and the casino’s new ownership is planning a venture next week.
Folies Bergere, which was performed twice on April 28 at MontBleu Resort, Casino and Spa, returns Thursday, July 12 through Saturday, July 14.
Tahoe residents and visitors will be well served to check out Folies Bergere, the best show Las Vegas has to offer.