SAUCY AUSSIES: Variety show benefits Opportunity Village
They will, they will, ROCK YOU.
And so they do. With a little — actually, much more than a little — help from their friends.
“Aussie-Aussie-Aussie-Oi-Oi-Oi!” yells Aussie Heat emcee Adam Barr, exhorting the crowd at the Opportunity Village Fine and Performing Arts hall in southwest Las Vegas to shout the traditional Australian sports-event chant to get this charitable party started.
“Aussie-Aussie-Aussie-Oi-Oi-Oi!” show-goers lustily roar back. And they’re off and rockin’ to that classic Queen anthem.
Five impossibly sculpted specimens in sleeveless T-shirts from Planet Hollywood’s male revue prowl the stage in a show they organized to benefit Opportunity Village in its mission to aid the intellectually disabled.
Shortly, they’ll be followed by a variety pack of performers, including the gals from the Westgate’s Sexxy, Tropicana magician David Goldrake, singer Emily Yates Blick of Tony N’ Tina’s Wedding at Bally’s, and tap dancer/body percussionist/Cirque du Soleil veteran Ryan Johnson.
Oh, and the Opportunity Village Hip Hop Dancers — young clients of the nonprofit organization strutting their oh-so-bad (as in great) stuff.
“You will be surprised,” says Sarah Quinn, manager of the fine and performing arts program, before show time. “They are fantastic performers.”
Partially credit their prowess to the Heat hip-hoppers, who have been teaching monthly classes in the dance genre for two years at Opportunity Village’s Engelstad Campus on South Buffalo Drive. “When we have them come in as guest instructors, (the clients) are hyper-focused,” Quinn says.
“They are learning faster than they ever have before, they know these guys do this professionally and that’s an inspiration to them, they really look up to them as performers.”
Tailored into a “PG version” of their sensual Planet Hollywood showcase (promotional tagline: “the most hands-on show in Vegas”) and enhanced with guest performers, the charity production is a distillation of the Aussie dudes’ ongoing humanitarian commitment.
“When we first came here we wanted to give back to the community and initially we were trying to donate money, but we’re a small business,” Barr says prior to curtain-up time. “I always find that if you can’t donate money, at least try to donate time and the resources you have. We have resources, which are dancers that are choreographers and they have a performing arts area here, so it’s a perfect match.”
Before the Opportunity Village dancers hit the stage, the crowd gets a revved-up warmup from the pros.
After gyrating (PG-style) to Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk” (catchy repetitive lyric: “Don’t believe me, just watch — HUH!”) the Heat hotties cede the stage to magic man Goldrake, star of Imaginarium. Preparing an escape bit, he asks a woman in the audience to ensure his hands are tightly bound with rope behind his back, and stands with his backside toward her — a setup to utter the suggestive line: “Is it tight? I meant the rope.”
Wriggle-thrust-swivel-and-strut — those are the moves as star Jennifer Romas and her Sexxy sirens, shimmering in blue-red-yellow-and-green-spangled outfits, give their revolving hips a workout to “Hey, Big Spender.” Transforming the mood from sensual to emotional, Emily Yates Blick and her soaring pipes stirringly wrap themselves around two tunes from the soundtrack of The Greatest Showman: “Never Enough” and the Oscar-nominated “This Is Me.”
True to the variety-show ideal, a caravan of acts rolls on:
Aussie hunk George Blick leads a line-dance demonstration to Shania Twain’s “No One Needs to Know”; dancer-aerialists Mariama Kouyate and Max Torandell (of Imaginarium) perform a lush ballet-style tango; and hoofer Ryan Johnson (clad in a shirt that reads, “I Welcome Your Differences”) deploys humor and his supple body to rhythmic effect, reeling off tap steps, handclaps, finger snaps, thigh slaps, foot stomps and chest thumps with charming insouciance. And then …
With spirit to spare, the six Opportunity Village dancers — identified as organization clients Lauren W., Chris P., Max R., Vanessa S., Kim D. and Reese M. — stride onstage to whoops and cheers. Which is exactly how they leave it, too, after an energy-fueled hip-hop showcase, including brief solo moments, alongside a couple of the Aussie crew.
Elation and pride beam off their grinning faces as they take their individual bows, summing up this day, this show — this moment.
As the stage empties, one thought lingers:
They did, they did, ROCK US.