SALT-N-PEPA SHAKEUP: Strip scene gets an electrifying injection of dance-party passion from ‘I Love the ’90s – The Vegas Show’
Remember when the president’s name was … Clinton? So does I Love the 90s — The Vegas Show. With a vengeance. We don’t mean a Macarena vengeance. We mean a rock/hip-hop vengeance — bordering on fury. Don’t expect to park your derriere in a chair at this musical typhoon that tears through Paris Las Vegas like a gale force-level dance opus.
Nominally structured in a standard-show format, with performers following each other on stage, this new Salt-N-Pepa-led Strip entry in the former Jersey Boys theater is really a nightclubber’s paradise. Audience members are aggressively drafted into the immersive experience by a DJ/host with a seemingly endless supply of get-yer-butt-up-and-move exhortations.
Touted as “the first-ever hip-hop residency in Las Vegas history,” the production will feature a rotating bill — the likes of En Vogue, Kid ’n Play and Mark McGrath will blow through in coming weeks. On opening night, though, the blast-from-the-past cast was Rob Base, All-4-One and the production’s top-liners: hip-hop/sexpot provocateurs Salt-N-Pepa, aka Cheryl James (“Salt”), Sandra Denton (“Pepa”) and Deidre Roper (“DJ Spinderella”), the latter commandeering the big boom box-style platform anchoring the urban-landscape set.
Launching like a rocket propelled by nostalgic jet fuel, I Love the ’90s — The Vegas Show goes throttle-up toward a party-hearty stratosphere, its energy level on a 1-to-10 scale pitched at about 15.
Headliners tore into their time-capsule hits (“Let’s Talk About Sex,” “Whatta Man” and “Push It” for Salt-N-Pepa; “I Swear” from All-4-One; and Base’s “It Takes Two”), with a platoon of dancers emulating the Fly Girls model of hip-hop moves from In Living Color, their choreography goosed with outbreaks of break dancing.
Amid the sound tsunami engulfing the theater were mini-waves of memories, including snatches of MC Hammer’s “U Can’t Touch This” and Will Smith’s theme to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. As the frenzy ratcheted skyward, women in the crowd were invited to leap onstage to dance (though if you lose yourself in the ’90s reverie, watching the revelers snapping selfies as they gyrate can boomerang you back to 2018 reality).
Sending the ’90s-era theme into overdrive is a whirlwind video voyage through the decade on overhead projection screens:
Hey, wasn’t that Step by Step, Boy Meets World, Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper — and URKEL from Family Matters hurtling by at supersonic speed? And isn’t that Michael smooching Lisa Marie (eww), Bill Clinton hugging Monica, then wagging his finger over “that woman,” Arsenio “Woof-Woof” Hall, Demi Moore sexually harassing Michael Douglas in Disclosure, folksy legal eagle Matlock, and commercials for Radio Shack and Blockbuster?
Ah, those were the quaint, pre-streaming, broadcast network-dominating days.
Yet those were mere garnishes to the musical feast. And so what if not every song was a bona fide ’90 melodic memory? (Say, Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean,” Bobby Brown’s “My Prerogative” and Cindi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.”) Thanks to oldies radio stations, they were still all over the airwaves in the ’90s.
As song after song sprays out like a nostalgia gusher, prepare to experience the rhythm more than just metaphorically in your soul, but physically in your gut. Thundering, reverb-heavy hip-hop tracks can rattle your spine and turn your innards into a quivering Jell-O mold. And that is the point of I Love the ’90s — The Vegas Show: Don’t just see it, hear it and dance to it — damn it, you’ve gotta feel it.
Outside of Vegas’ famed nightclubs, there is nowhere else to be if you crave that unshackled exuberance — consumed into an ecstatic mass of hip-wiggling, butt-wriggling, retro-embracing, dance-till-you-drop bodies. And not one of them doing the Macarena.