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Showgirls! Glitz! It's (still) 'Jubilee!'

July 4, 2009 |  3:00 pm


The sustaining lure of “Jubilee!,“ the 28-year-old production playing at Bally’s casino in Las Vegas, is a chance to see the gawk-worthy, classic Las Vegas look, a flashy swirl of sexy showgirls strutting about in their flashy costumes. Designed by Bob Mackie in 1980, the costumes cost about $3.5 million.

More than 1,000 different outfits are on display during the seven-act show, and while many are ultra-skimpy, the average cost of one of the ensembles in the glitzy finale sequence is $7,000. If there are unsung heroes keeping Mackie’s look alive after nearly three decades, it is the 18-member wardrobe staffers backstage who labor in an expansive costume shop constantly cleaning, repairing and sewing to keep the original designs fresh.

Jubilee galleryThe rhinestones alone are worthy of attention. They are silver-plated Austrian Swarovski crystals made from topaz, sapphire, emerald, ruby and amethyst.  A famous vignette from the lore of the period when the costumes were being assembled -- whether fact or fancy is a bit unclear nearly three decades later -- is that there was briefly a worldwide rhinestone shortage when the “Jubilee!“ people swept up all the Swarovskis on the market and had them shipped to Las Vegas.

To read about “Jubilee!“ -- the longest running show on a single stage in the U.S. -- read my story in the Sunday Arts & Books section. And to see an audio slidehow  -- a show within itself -- click here.

-- Christopher Smith

Photo: A showgirl in the finale of "Jubilee!" Credit: Brian Vander Brug / Los Angeles Times