Sunday, July 22, 2012 | 9:54 p.m.
While Robin Leach takes his traditional summer vacation under the Tuscan sun in Italy, many of our Strip and Las Vegas personalities have stepped forward in his absence to pen their own words of wisdom. Our thanks to them all. We continue with Diane Palm, company manager of “Jubilee!,” the longest-running Las Vegas stage spectacular now in its 30th year and stronger than ever.
Before stepping into the position of company manager, Diane performed in “Jubilee!” as one of the original dance captains at its opening July 30, 1981. She has served as the assistant company manager for the past 17 years and also performed in “Lido de Paris,” “Casino de Paris” and “Hallelujah Hollywood Strip” as a dancer and a showgirl.
Six nights a week, 52 weeks a year, the red velvet main curtain rises promptly at 7:30 and 10:30 p.m. to present the longest-running Las Vegas stage spectacular, “Donn Arden’s Jubilee!,” which is noted for its over-the-top costumes, enormous sets and special effects.
“Jubilee!” also is noted as the only show that still presents the showgirl in her iconic form, decked out in fabulous costumes, wearing hundreds of dollars of rhinestones and balancing those huge headdresses down endless flights of stairs with the poise and grace that many a supermodel would envy.
So where do all the showgirls come from? Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at the audition process.
First of all, it should be noted that not everyone in the show is a “showgirl.” “Jubilee!” has a cast of 85 performers: 7 principal dancers, 12 principal/chorus singers, 18 male dancers, 23 female dancers and 25 showgirls.
Back to the question of where do we find all of our talented performers. Contrary to the movies, the audition process can be very demanding, with height being the first and biggest hurdle to overcome.
A Las Vegas showgirl is noted for having certain attributes, long legs and height being essential. In “Jubilee!,” all the female performers must be a minimum height of 5’8.” And we measure everybody -- without shoes!
At every audition, there is usually someone who says she is 5’8” but measures at 5’3” because she had to take off her shoes. So, if you are interested in joining “Jubilee!,” you should know that we’ve seen all the tricks -- from standing on your toes, wearing lifts inside your tights to showing up with really big hair.
Once you pass the height requirement, then the real work begins. New dancers and showgirls are given various dance combinations to learn and perform. We start with a series of basic ballet turns, and dancers who can’t stay on beat or don’t have basic technique are quickly eliminated.
Dancers are expected to learn many complicated routines quickly during the audition, showing their ability in all forms of dance. We’re looking for dancers who have strong training in ballet, jazz and contemporary dance -- that gives them balance and line when wearing as much as 20 pounds of costume.
All the female dancers and showgirls in the show must have very high kicks. Our girls have such high kicks that they have to be careful not to kick their hats off their head.
In addition to height, dance technique and high kicks, we’re also looking for performers who have something that makes them stand out, whether that’s a great smile or a terrific personality.
Finally, after all the dance combinations and all the eliminations, those who are left are asked to come back and line up with the current cast for a callback to see how everybody fits together.
We hold auditions twice a year -- in July and January -- in Las Vegas, New York, L.A. and other locations. Once everyone is hired, it takes one month of rehearsals to train the new hires, but that’s another story for another column.
The July auditions in Las Vegas are on Monday, so if you think you have what it takes to be a part of “Jubilee!,” I hope to see you tomorrow.
Our thanks to Diane for her look behind the curtain at “Jubilee!” Be sure to check out our other guest columns today from “Pawn Stars” hero Corey Harrison and Joel Robuchon’s top Las Vegas chef Steve Benjamin. Join us again Monday when our guests are comedian George Wallace, “Chopped” winner chef Christina Olivarez and hospitality hero Jonathan Fine.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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