ADVENTURES IN VEGAS from Andrea Bell Wolff to Don’t Tell Mama puts it all in plain sight
“How many people can say they worked as a showgirl in Las Vegas?” That’s what Andrea Bell Wolff asks as she nears the end of her new show ADVENTURES IN VEGAS. The production began performances at Don’t Tell Mama in November under the title Showgirl by Andrea Bell Wolff, a title that was quickly overwritten by another entity with the same name, necessitating a change to the current title, better and more. appropriate because the story told by Bell Wolff is one hell of an adventure. And to answer his question: many women can say that they worked as a showgirl in Las Vegas. Throughout Sin City’s history, there have been loads of scantily clad women working the stages of The Strip. Each of these women has a story to tell and this is that of Andrea Bell Wolff, and audiences have had three chances to hear the story live so far.
Now, ADVENTURES IN VEGAS is preserved as a professionally shot, performance-based film.
The original Adventures in Las Vegas performances took place at Don’t Tell Mama in late 2021 when Omicron’s recent resurgence caused shows to be canceled or postponed across the city, when audience members ( and cabaret journalists) gave up spending time in crowded nightclubs, and when establishments made the difficult choice to close their doors. ABW’s performance of Adventures in Las Vegas did not suffer – everyone was sold out, and Andrea decided to schedule two more shows in January. Little did she know that the variant would continue to rage and audiences would become increasingly embarrassed to attend cabaret productions. The Broadway actress is therefore taking advantage of her two evenings at Don’t Tell Mama to rehearse and film Adventures in Vegas for posterity. Last night I was a happy guest at the dress rehearsal, and although it is not my custom to see a rehearsal again, I can certainly report what I saw there so that, when the time comes, the audience fills up clubs again, club goers can keep an eye out for the encore performances, as well as the movie airing.
Adventures in Vegas is a musical memoir of the time when nineteen-year-old Andrea Bell escaped the wholesome world of Thornton Wilder and Jerry Herman and was seduced by the sexiness and seediness of show business. A little tired of Ermengarde Vandergelder (and repeated disappointments with Minnie Faye), the young ingenue accepts a gig in a Las Vegas production called The Bottoms Up Revue, and when she hits the Las Vegas Strip, an Andrea Bell sometimes wide-eyed throws her arms outstretched and embraced, fully, the salacious and lascivious lifestyle of a showgirl. Telling the story of his year as a broad, Bell Wolff uses a smart device (his actual diary of that year), a sketch-comedy actor, three stellar musicians, vintage video footage and props (there are has LOTS of accessories). As a result, its storytelling is rendered a musical with a full arc from start to finish, and a successful club act to be enjoyed by anyone with a sense of fantasy, a sense of humor, and a sense of that what it’s like to be a young person on the adventure of a lifetime.
Andrea Bell Wolff is a woman with a big personality and a big voice, both present in every moment of this piece with music that varies in genre from Shaiman & Whitman to Matt Alber, from Frank Wildhorn to Tom Waits. The versatility ABW displays with her song choices is well-suited to the acting skills that turn her brassy moments into surprisingly tender musical monologues that touch the heart; while specialty numbers like “Sex Education” and “Hot Dog Song” are more than authentic in Andrea’s bold aesthetic, there’s a certain unexpected fun in her renditions of Emeli Sande ballads (“Clown “) and Whitney Houston (“Dance With Somebody”). Wolff clearly worked to the finest detail with director Jimmy Larkin to give the program the same highs and lows one would find in the story arc of a play, and the duo achieved their goal, working particularly well with musical director Jude Obermuller. arrangements that capture the moods to perfection. In the play, Andrea is able to recreate the innocence she embodied, both in life and in Hello, Dolly! As well as the budding sexuality that was accelerated by a life in Vegas. She’s not shy about being candid with her audience, indeed embracing the vulgarity found in the life of a Bottoms Up showgirl, and while the storytelling is sexual, cheeky and breathless, it’s entirely appropriate. There’s no way to tell this story without the daring of every (pardon me, mom) dick joke and boob gag, especially since Andrea has an entire segment dedicated to this racy, raunchy legend. and Las Vegas icon, Rusty Warren, she from Knockers Up! Notoriety. Even Frank Wildhorn’s tasteless “Big Time” fits perfectly into this show. It’s a song that disempowers anyone who sings it, a song that people should have stopped playing once the MeToo movement kicked off, and a song that this writer has heard performed on four shows by people of different genders since the reopening of clubs. Andrea Bell Wolff’s use of the song on this show is the only time it wasn’t awkward, as the lyrics are completely tied to the story being told.
And it’s so well told.
Alongside her wonderful fellow actor, Elliott Litherland, Andrea creates true burlesque on the Don’t Tell Mama stage. It’s like an episode of Laugh-In without network censorship: it’s funny, it’s musical, it’s sexy, and it’s human, as Andrea brings the story of her Las Vegas adventure home, to the heart, at the end of the show, which is precisely what a good cabaret does. It offers audiences an end-to-end journey, and although Andrea and co. could use a few more choreography rehearsals in order to deal with the overwhelming props situation, there’s no reason the show shouldn’t reopen when the public is fully ready to be in the clubs again, for a nice long lasting. In the meantime, hopefully the ABW team can find a way to use their new film (shot tonight in front of an intimate guest audience) to bring the property to the world so people can enjoy it.
And enjoy it, they will.
ADVENTURES IN VEGAS is made up of Sam Zerna on bass, Doug Hinrichs on percussion and Jude Obermuller on musical direction on piano.
Find great shows to watch on the Don’t Tell Mama website HERE. Please note that Don’t Tell Mama is very good at marking, on their calendar, which shows have been postponed or cancelled.
Visit Andrea Bell Wolff’s website HERE.
These photos of Stephen Mosher have been curated to avoid sight gags and spoilers for future audiences.