By Nick Pilgrim
In my decade of reviewing shows and events for Theatre People, this week marked my first media call. By the sheer good fortune of having vacation time away from my primary job, I was amongst a handful of network television, newspaper, magazine, and social media press representatives at the official launch of “Magic Mike Live”.
The brainchild of pin-up idol and movie star, Channing Tatum, “Magic Mike Live” is the indirect outcome of two successful motion pictures, “Magic Mike” (made in 2012 and directed by Stephen Soderbergh), and its sequel, “Magic Mike XXL” (released three years later in 2015). Loosely based on Tatum’s own start in the entertainment industry as a male exotic dancer, the films have grossed an impressive, combined box office total in excess of $280 million (U.S. dollars) worldwide.
Veteran productions such as ‘The Chippendales’ or ‘Man Power’ continue to prove there is a strong market for grown-up entertainment with a female-focussed audience in mind. What separates “Magic Mike Live” from the two above examples, is its emphasis on the total package. No pun intended, of course.
Helping bring a live variation of the film’s dance numbers to fruition in the flesh, Tatum employed such respected talent as Alison Faulk (Co-direction and Choreography), Teresa Espinosa (Choreography), Luke Broadlick (Associate Direction / Choreography), Jack Rayner (Music Supervision and Composition), Rachel O’Toole (Production Design), Rob Bissinger & Anita La Scala (Scenic Design), Marina Toybina (Costume Design), Dreya Weber (Aerial Choreography), and Philip Gladwell (Lighting Design).
To paraphrase the man in question, Tatum said the morning after the first ‘Magic Mike Live’ production opened in Vegas, he and his team pondered the idea of someday putting the show in a tent and travelling around Australia. The fact it is happening at this very moment, he finds mind blowing.
For anyone wondering how they will get the most bang for their buck, that thought is immediately answered upon entry to the venue. A dazzling and purpose-build spiegeltent has been constructed to house this multi-city Australian tour. Assembled a short walk from Flinders Street Station at Birrarung Marr, this bespoke big top is nothing short of spectacular.
Decked out like an upscale southern comfort bar or plush Las Vegas cocktail lounge, café-style table settings and tiered divan seating allow every patron an unobstructed view of the raised central platform. For some, I am sure this space will be worth the price of admission alone.
The media launch itself consisted of three short excerpts from the show. Backed by pumping rap music designed to engage and excite patrons, the first routine, “Be Faithful” introduced the entire male cast.
Listed for the Melbourne season, they are:
- Aaron Theodore Cooke;
- Anthony Bartley;
- Blake Varga;
- Brian Siregar;
- Charles Bartley;
- Chris Van Doren;
- Dayton Tavares;
- Jake Paul Green;
- Joshua Williams;
- Kitwana Clark;
- Nathan Kara;
- Ned Zaina;
- Nick Phillips;
- Petr Fedorovskii;
- Sam Marks; and,
- Rik Brown.
Each, with an impressive list of professional credits to their names, this sixteen-strong international cast of dancers / singers / musicians quickly stormed the stage. Strutting with bold machismo, these lads know they are eye candy, and how to work that fact – hard. Sexy is the name of the game here.
The second number, “Serenade”, opted for a touch of risqué audience interaction. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of this routine, details the versatility of “Magic Mike Live’s” central lighting grid and fly tower. Without giving too much away, the lead cast member in this segment appeared from the most unexpected of places.
Saving the best until last, “Closer” showcased an aerial ballet that takes place on a round, oversized padded bed. The two featured male and female performers were immediately joined by further quartet of acrobats. Spinning and twirling above viewers at all four corners of the stage, this became Cirque Du Soleil with a distinctly adult edge.
It should be noted that four featured female artists round out the event. They are Alexia Brinsley, Amy Ingram, Clare Billson, and Max Francisco.
Playing until September 19 by the Yarra, “Magic Mike Live” is more than determined to melt away our Melbourne Winter Blues.