The Show Palace Dinner Theatre's new all-music, all-dancing show, Jackpot! is like a really good night at the roulette table — lots of wins with only a few disappointments.
The biggest wins are singer Larry Alexander, a former Broadway performer and opening act on Liza Minelli's World Concert Tour, and the eight-member dance team, whose steps go from silky smooth in Act 1 to daring, devilish and dangerous in Act 2. Although all the dancers are terrific, don't be surprised if you can't take your eyes off Taavon Gamble, who, like Cassie in A Chorus Line, is a total eye magnet, with lithe moves and a relaxed style that makes you think, "Cheezum, I want to get up there and dance with that guy."
Never mind that the moves by choreographers Eric Neilsen and Andi Sperduti would challenge an Olympic acrobat team — these dancers make it all look like nuthin' but fun.
The music list is 95 percent "songs made famous by" everyone from Sinatra to Elivs to Elton John and ZZ Top, but the four featured Show Palace performers put their own sound and style to each one.
The most successful is Alexander, whose What Kind of Fool Am I, My Way, Piano Man, and Don't Let The Sun Go Down on Me are near show-stoppers. What a voice — perfect pitch, power and passion, the likes of which are rarely heard in any venue in these parts.
Singers Janie Wallace, Jack Bartholet and Jennica McCleary shine when they do songs suited to their style, but sometimes seven out when tackling others.
Bartholet's biggest coup is the wailing I'm Feeling Good, covered by everyone from Adam Lambert to John Coltrane and Michael Buble. Batholet does vocal calisthenics with the torchy, feel-great lyrics. McCleary hits a high peak in her low register semi-dramatization of the Elvis favorite, Suspicious Minds, giving a glimpse at what she could do with a real dramatic role in a book show.
Wallace hits her high point with the Celine Dion favorite, Power of Love, as she stands in the spotlight in a simple white with black trim dress and just, well, sings.
The consistent stars, though, are those dancers — Bo Price, Megan Morgan, Jarvis Mardis, Kate O'Connell, Lacey Vazquez, David Tanciar, Maiza Ornelaz and Gamble — who risk life and limb for 95 minutes, adding spectacle to song with touches of Cirque during the second act opener Believe and the violent, reckless, early 20th-century Parisian street gang dance called Apache (pronounced ah-PAHSH) later on.
This style, where the male manhandles his female partner as though they're in some kind of back-alley combat, is most on display in Welcome to Burlesque, when McCleary gives a fine nod to the Cher anthem as the female dancers, clad in costume designer Scott Daniel's red and black bustiers, and the males in skimpy tops and tight trousers, do a scene straight out of the Apocalyptica video I Don't Care.
Tom Hansen's set and lighting serve the show just right, never overpowering either dancers or singers, but adding to the overall heft. Stan Collin's musical direction is spot on, though I suspect he cranks up the sound track volume when he senses that the singer isn't quite hitting the mark (Bartholet's Crocodile Rock, and Wallace's Yellow Brick Road, for example). Indeed, it's the unusual singer who can go from Rat Pack to Billy Joel to the vocal gymnastics of an Elton John song without a few warbles, so though that sound track is sometimes deafening, it can be welcome.
To put it in La Vegas lingo, director Scott Daniel's troupe riffles the cards, goes all in and plays the rush, and the big winners are the people in the audience who get to play laddermen as these high rollers deliver a nifty payout .