Monday, May 16, 2011

Backstage Tour or Lara the Showgirl Makes A Dream Come True

Since I had such a wonderful time in Las Vegas I will continue to blather on and on about it.  Glad that you're on board, and that we see eye to eye on this subject.  One of the most amazing things about Vegas, besides my boyfriend taking the casino for more than $300 at Blackjack, was Jubilee!  I know I spoke about going to the show earlier, but now I must share with you the wonder that is The Backstage Tour. 

We never did make it to that buffet.

Let me set the scene for you guys.  Ryan and I landed in Las Vegas at 10am.  The back stage tour begins at 11am.  We had ONE HOUR to get off the plane, take a tram to baggage claim, meet my friend Kathleen at our luggage carosel (who was waiting for us there), get our luggage, grab a cab and high-tail it over to Bally's Casino, check our luggage at the bell desk and pick up the tickets at Will Call.  We all, walking as fast as possible, waltzed into the Jubilee Theater at Bally's at 11:02am.  That HAS to be some sort of record!

Notice how my Mackie shirt rides up on me... time to make a new one!

We met our guide, the statuesque Showgirl Lara.  She was sporting a sequined and rhinestudded jacket with a matching derby hat, dancers tap shorts and flesh tone fishnets.  All very Judy Garland a la "Come on Get Happy."  Luckily I wore my sequin Mackie t-shirt otherwise I would have been wearing the outfit.  That would have been SUPER awkward.

The tour began ominously enough with an injury wavier.  This was in case we fell down some stairs or had a brain aneurysm from all that sweet sweet Mackie goodness we were about to be relishing in.  

Lara told us in detail about the show's history and some background information on Don Arden, Jubilee's creator.  It was pretty interesting.  It was really nice to hear a performer speak about the show.  You could hear the respect for the show and it's history in her tone and the way she spoke.  You could also tell that she enjoyed her job and felt honored to be part of such a rich tradition.

When Lara brought us downstairs my face was in permanent smile mode.  The hairs on my arms were standing on end... the Mackies were close by.  I could feel it!  Every time she pulled a curtain or opened a door to reveal the costumes I gasped.  Which in turn caused the other patrons of the tour to giggle.  I couldn't contain myself I was so excited to see such amazing work up close and personal.

Lara explained that they couldn't allow photos to be taken backstage, down in the costume shop or the dressing rooms.  This was to ensure that their trade secrets wouldn't fall into the hands of the enemy who is hell bent on destroying all things glamorous.

At the beginning of the tour I causally mentioned to Lara that it was my 30th birthday and if she needed someone to try on a headdress that I was her man.  Near the end of the tour she took us into the Feather Room.  This room was like waking up in some sort of dream.  The Feather Room housed most of the finale costumes.  All 4 walls were covered in over-the-top Bob Mackie designs. 

Backstage photos from the Las Vegas Sun

These amazing costumes were more like wearable sculptures than clothing.  I doubt designs like these will ever be duplicated in any other way.  A Las Vegas showgirl revue would be the only setting where these mammoth creations can live and thrive for the 30 years that these have.  Lara told us about the finale and how it was referred to as a "Jewel Box" because each grouping of costumes represented a different gem.  She also presented a couple to us and told us about each costume or headdress' nickname.  Names like "Asparagus", "Water Fountain", and "Mohawk" which inspired Cher's infamous Oscar outfit.

And then Lara turned to me with the Mohawk in her hands.  "Would you like to try it on?"  Suddenly my heart began to race, my palms got clammy, and I blurted out a "Yes!" all the while trying not to soil myself.  I knelt down so Lara could place that work of art on my head and she warned me it would crush my coif.  I responded, "I don't care!  Crush my skull!"  I just wanted it to fit.  It wasn't a perfect fit but it definitely did the job.  

 Lara encouraged me to "stand like a showgirl" when we got that bad boy balanced on my skull

I felt so honored to be wearing such a masterwork.  Luckily we were allowed to take this picture.  After I took off my headdress (I'm claiming it as mine now) my heart was racing and I was giddy like a little kid seeing Santa.  It was amazing!  I am so jealous of the girls who get to wear these amazing costumes twice nightly!

The tour was awesome.  I was awestruck the entire time.  Seeing the costumes on stage was a treat but seeing them inches from your face was breathtaking.  My eyes were opened up to see how much effort was put into the costumes and how much work is still being done to keep them looking that good.  The backstage experience could only have have been enhanced if one of the costume staff was there to speak about their role.  I have a feeling that they share in Lara's joy for the show and respect for its legacy.

Lara was such a wonderful tour guide.  The next night when we watched the show an usher came up and dropped a souvenir program off at our table saying, "The ladies wanted to make sure you got this."  It was signed "Happy 30th Birthday.  Love Lara and the cast of Jubilee."  It was amazingly thoughtful!  My grin widened even more.  A classy lady.  They don't make them like that anymore.

This proves how awesome showgirls are, and how designing for showgirls has be one of the most exciting projects.  They are such wonderful dream-like goddesses.  I would love to be able to work on something so beautiful.  Jubilee! has changed my view on design and has inspired me to push all of my designing to that level.  Next up... HALLOWEEN!

-Philip Estrada

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