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Review: 'Peepshow' at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas

April 20, 2009 |  1:00 pm

Peepshow Hey, you bons vivants and connoisseurs of the amatory life! Are you looking for a grown-up, erotically charged entertainment that will tickle your libido, stimulate your imagination, engage your sense of humor and chase away those ol’ recessionary blues for a couple hours?

Yeah, same here. Tweet me if you happen to find one.

Meanwhile, we’ll have to make do with “Peepshow,” an intermittently amusing but utterly predictable and cliche-besotted soft-core revue that opened Sunday night at Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino in Las Vegas.

With a creative team led by the accomplished Broadway choreographer Jerry Mitchell (“The Full Monty,” “Hairspray”) and a cast headed by Mel B., a.k.a. Scary Spice of the British pop group the Spice Girls, “Peepshow” aroused a certain degree of pre-opening curiosity.

Now that the Strip has abandoned the farcical marketing concept of Las Vegas as a kid-friendly town, a kind of desert Disneyland with slot machines, it has turned its full attention to the feeding and pampering of those of legal age. At least in theory, that opens the door to a more sophisticated type of sensual entertainment, the kind that Cirque du Soleil aspired to with its flawed but admirably ambitious “Zumanity” show.

But this is a town that, when it comes to sex, still prefers the commercially tried and tested to the truly innovative. Accordingly, “Peepshow” hauls out the familiar stag-show props and tropes — sequins, pasties, thongs, smirking double-entendres — and dresses them up with an itsy-bitsy story line about a blushing ingenue named Bo Peep (former Playboy Playmate and “Dancing With the Stars” winner Kelly Monaco) being introduced to forbidden pleasures by a saucy mistress of ceremonies (Mel B.).

Apart from the flashing bare breasts, not much that follows in the show’s naughty-fairy-tale scenarios would be at all new or shocking to the average U.S. teenager. Cheerleaders, vampy school girls, pole dancers and a gal with a breathy voice and a fake bearskin rug all parade across the theater’s circular thrust stages, evincing varying levels of singing and dancing talent.

The most engaging performer, by far, is Mel B., whose broad Northern England accent and teasingly bullying manner complement her character, a drill sergeant in the art of R-rated foreplay. Looking leaner and more muscly than she did when the Spice Girls were in their late-'90s heyday, she brings a raunchy charisma to the production. But her spiky presence isn’t sufficient to raise “Peepshow” above its calculated tameness and commercial juvenilia.

Musically, among the show’s more inspired numbers is a tribute to pink that involves a male stooge, some light bondage, a bucket of paint and a crunching rock ditty. Composer Andrew Lippa, who penned the book, music and lyrics for the Manhattan Theatre Club production of “The Wild Party,” here dabbles in pop, rock, hip-hop and cabaret, and manages to rhyme “pedigree” with “dead agree.” David Rockwell (scenic design) and Gregg Barnes (costumes) are able to manufacture a few pretty good sight gags but, as with Mitchell’s choreography, the overall effect is more of watching an aerobics workout than an erotic adventure.

Overall, “Peepshow” suggests not so much a journey into the realm of the senses as a rerun of “Oh! Calcutta!”

--Reed Johnson

Caption: A scene from "Peepshow" at Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. Credit: Darren Michaels

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