Holly Madison and I arrived in Vegas at roughly the same time, in the summer of 2009, and while I have quietly been studying Shakespeare and teaching English at UNLV, Madison has, in that short time, waged an all-out campaign to displace Wayne Newton as the town’s signature cheesy celebrity. In addition to starring in the Planet Hollywood striptease revue Peepshow, Madison has featured Vegas in her reality show and a book and has even, in an only-in-Vegas moment, gotten her own bobblehead at a 51s game. It’s probably a safe bet that next year’s The Hangover Part III, which takes place partially back in Vegas, will feature a Madison cameo, hopefully getting into a fight with Bradley Cooper the way Wayne did in the first one.
But now, Holly’s primary claim to Vegas fame is coming to an end. She had already announced she was leaving Peepshow at the end of the year and then just last week announced that she was 12 weeks pregnant, meaning she will probably be leaving sooner than that. I had already bought tickets for my wife’s birthday when Holly announced she was pregnant, so we got lucky and were able to see what will probably be one of her last shows.
Peepshow is a fun, well-produced update on the classic Vegas burlesque show. The loose narrative follows Holly as the innocent Bo Peep, who learns to embrace her sexuality with the help of various dancers based on fairy tale characters. The musical numbers mix classic burlesque, Broadway-style dance numbers, and even a little Cirque-inspired acrobatics. The show manages to be sexy without being tacky or crass and hits the perfect Vegas sweet spot of seeming edgy but appealing to a wide audience. Among the routines that stand out are a very sexy and gravity-defying pole dance, a naked dance in a tub of milk set to, appropriately, Kelis’ “Milkshake,” and an acrobatic swing routine set to Guniwine’s “Pony.”
While Madison is the ostensible star, she doesn’t actually do that much, probably owing to the fact that the part of Bo Peep was originally conceived to rotate B-list celebrities in and out before Madison decided to make it her own. She’s virtually absent for the first half of the show and does some charmingly amateurish singing and dancing in the second half while building to her climactic striptease, but the show is dominated by the professional, and very talented, dancers and singers in the company, including former American Idol contestant Josh Strickland and the single-named Cheaza as Peep Diva, the show’s M.C.
However, despite her relatively minor role, it will be interesting to see how the show fares without Madison. With her sexy-but-sweet image, she is the perfect match for the show. Meanwhile, the two rumored candidates to replace her, fellow Playboy stalwarts Carmen Electra and Jenny McCarthy, are both distinctly unappealing. Electra’s trashy Pussycat Dolls aesthetic is a poor fit with the show’s old-school style and it would be hard to watch McCarthy without thinking of the kids dying of whooping cough because of her.
So, if you can see the show in the next few weeks with Madison, I highly recommend it. If not, it’s still worth seeing for the many talented performers in it, though it will definitely lose some of its charm.
ArtsVegas: Covering Las Vegas Art and culture since 2009.