MAGIC MIKE LIVE: A REVIEW OF A REVUE
It is true that when Adrienne, Kim, and I purchased tickets to fly to Las Vegas, booked a hotel room, and said screw it to our already tight budgets to see Magic Mike Live, I thought we were going to see an old school strip show. I expected greasy bodies, oily long hair, and all the fake cops and floppy Ds a woman's eyes could handle, adding this circus to a list of regrets about men that we’ve long been accumulating as women who live on the planet. I was wrong.
Walking out of Magic Mike Live, I was surprised that I was moved by the Goddess of Female Fantasy. I am now a worshipper of shirtless men dangling from leather straps. I bow down to prancing men on stairs in tailored colorful suits. Happily, I will donate 10% of my earnings to each and every gel-lit hairless ab-filled laden body with a head that smiles and bounces me on their lap while climbing a ladder. TAKE MY MONEY MAGIC MIKE LIVE. I’M YOURS.
To be honest, those types of doods are not even my kind. Sure, I like thighs that make it look like a man could toss me like a javelin across state lines or biceps that could lift me up like cotton candy. Who doesn’t? In real life though, I’d be too insecure, like would this beefcake take up with someone like me - a person who looks like a melting stick of butter? But, then again, WHY NOT ME? This is the Magic to the Mike. The producers of the movie and live stage show have figured out how to include everyone to be part of their world.
Since returning from Vegas, the three of us have been abuzz thinking about the show and following the dancers (and their dogs) on instagram. Every time, I see a man wearing Timberlands, it takes all my strength not to climb on top of him screaming, “I’M A LAWBREAKER!! I’M A LAWBREAKER!!!” What was expected to be a cheesy Vegas laugh ended up being an event that turned three somewhat middle aged gals into screaming fangirls, who sploosh in their undies every time the song “Pony” comes on the radio.
The show opens with a female host saying, “I don’t want to see firemen, cops, and construction workers. I want to see a nice guy who is kind, respectful, and can dance in jeans and shirt.” While it is on the nose, it is jarring to be reminded that the universal female fantasy is DECENT PERSON.
We gots to talk about it more! Kim, what did you think MML was gonna be like?
KIM: Going into the show, I actually did have the expectation that this would be something different than the usual Thunder From Down Under type of stripper show. After seeing both Magic Mike movies, especially the sequel Magic Mike XXL, I came away pleasantly surprised by the way the films celebrate women, are sex positive, and nonjudgmental. When I first heard that Channing Tatum was planning a live show in Vegas, I read his mission statement (yes, I am a Hermione Granger who always does my homework) and knew that his intention was to create a space for women that would be positive, celebratory, sexually empowering, and entertaining.
My previous (and only) earlier experience with male strippers was a 21st birthday party for a friend in a room at the Paris Hotel in Vegas. A shaved, spray-tanned dude with a fake Australian accent gave lap dances to the birthday girl while a crowd of young women laughed, screamed, and threw singles at him. At one point, he said that all “brave” women who agreed to be touched should sit on the bed; I hid in the bathroom. Nothing about that experience was sexy to me (though it was sorta hilarious). The thing with the typical strip club experience--the oiled bodies, bleached hair, g-strings, the soundtrack of “It’s Raining Men”--is that none of that stuff is actually hot. What the Magic Mike Live show does differently is consider the reality of what turns women on. Sure, all the dancers are attractive and show off their rippling abs and tattooed triceps. But they also treat their audience with respect, skipping all the gimmicks, and making every person in the crowd feel beautiful and worthy of attention and admiration. And I think it’s important to mention that a woman, Alison Faulk, choreographed the show, so it was literally created with and for the female gaze. Beforehand, I said I’d rather die than get pulled up onstage. But once the show started and we saw how it was, I was all ‘I volunteer as tribute’. Even with the premise that this show would be different from Chippendales, did any of us really expect ahead of time for it to be as feminist as it is?? About halfway through, I leaned to Elizabeth and said “This is the best thing I’ve ever done to fight against Trump’s America.”
ELIZABETH: I want to dissect this a little bit. We agree that the tropes are pretty much the same: tight abs, dancing, and waving floppy Ds. There’s even moments when men are in costumes - rock star, waiter, etc. I hear you saying (and agree) with the fact that it’s from the female gaze but what does that mean exactly? How does it stand out in this show and makes us feel so good?
KIM: I think it’s the removal of most of those tropes that is key. Early on in the show, they have a whole bit about ditching the firefighter and construction worker costumes because they know that women find that stuff cheesy and overdone. They replace it with things that are actually appealing--sexily rumpled t-shirts, well-fitted suits, a seductive dance between a couple in a pool filled with falling water, an emphasis on body rolls and breakdancing over gyrating and aggressive pelvic thrusts. I mean, there’s even a prom dance sequence! And circling back to the floppy Ds--they’re actually kept under wraps throughout the show. By revealing less, they leave you wanting more.
ELIZABETH: Admittedly, I wanted more, which is why I’m now following all the baes on social media. It has pierced the veil a bit, like when I found out my favorite dancer likes Carrot Top. It's still a panty warming surprise, though, when some of the dancers pop up on my feed.
Walking into the room at Magic Mike Live felt different than the boring ol' strip show. Ladies (and a few dudes) squeezing into tight little table tops, sipping oversized drinks, and beaming in excitement rather than fear. I think it's the greatest show ever.
KIM: There’s a high caliber of performance and showmanship in this revue; some of the dancers could walk down the Strip and fit right in at a Cirque du Soleil show. What I think truly sets this show apart from the the adult bars you mention is the level of joy in it. The performers convincingly make every person in the audience feel like a KWEEN and we are all there for it. With a female emcee guiding the action, it feels truly celebratory. She ends the show by saying “We hope you leave here tonight feeling loved,” and judging by the women I overheard in the bathroom after the show who were ready to immediately buy tickets to the late show, I would say they have a 100% success rate. There’s also strong boundaries and the dancers are careful to not push anyone past their limits. At one point, a dancer came around our section giving lap dances, and when he saw that my legs and arms were crossed, he discreetly skipped past me to the next girl. Respect is sexy!
ELIZABETH: YES! It’s hard to write about this because I don’t want to give up a ton of spoilers, but I have to mention my favorite parts. When you talk about sexy from a female gaze, there were a number of acts that I thought nailed it, like when the guys are dancing on the stairs in full suits, but never take them off. The message of the male gaze is take off more, show more, and up close. This particular number struck me as more foreplay, starting with a man singing with a woman on the piano. The woman he chose looked like a lumberjack rather than a girl in da club and that made an impression on me. Also because she was an older lady and I’m an older lady and I want someone to put me on a piano.
I love the way the show plays with different ideas of sexy. Jackson Williams falls from the ceiling bound in leather straps, aerial dancing above a lady in a round leather bed, instructing her to remove his shirt as “Closer” rings into the audience. Then, there was Kyo Dominick’s “Candy Shop” number, which got a little dirtier and the moves feel slightly dirtier because there’s whip cream involved and that gives me anxiety.
KIM: The acrobatic act with the ropes was amazing, and the aforementioned water dance was super hot. But my favorite has gotta be the dance-off between the Magic Mike dancers and the cheesy, YMCA-dressed strippers. I’m a sucker for a dance-off. #BritneyvsJustinNeverForget
So Elizabeth, would you recommend this show? (like I even need to ask)
ADRIENNE: Hey guys? Just FYI, it's a play.