For Miral Kotb, it’s always been about throwing a great party. But after the pandemic caused a year-long delay and relocation of her show iLuminate, its highly anticipated arrival on the Las Vegas Strip meant more than just having a great time.
“I think everybody’s state of mind is a little bit different right now,” says Kotb, a former dancer and software engineer. “We’ve been through so much individually and as a company, and there’s a lot of emotion backstage and onstage—and a lot of excitement about having the opportunity to do what we love again,”
Kotb’s innovative art-meets-technology production was originally slated to open at Planet Hollywood’s Sin City Theater in spring 2020, before COVID-19 pushed it back; then the closure of the venue forced Kotb to find a new home, which ended up being the revitalized Strat Theater. Finally, iLuminate opened on August 26 after some healthy tinkering, and now it’s a musical journey through different eras and styles aimed at a younger, club-ready audience.
“We’re trying a lot of things that haven’t been done before, both in our company and in general,” she says. “I had a billion ideas while in quarantine that I wanted to implement, and because of the theater, I had that opportunity to enhance the show. The theme is about celebrating life and getting lit together, which doesn’t just mean alcohol, but getting together and enjoying life and taking the audience on a journey.”
Getting lit also refers to the customized wireless LED lighting programs Kotb created from scratch, which provide dazzling visual effects and complement the choreography.
The lights and sounds are the hook, but dance is the foundation. When Kotb worked as an engineer and moonlighted as a dancer in New York, she’d invite co-workers to performances.
“They’d say, I don’t understand dance. I don’t get it,” she says. “Now that I’ve created iLuminate, I feel like I’ve found a way to sort of trick people into watching the beauty of a dance performance. The real talent in the show comes from the performers and the energy of all these different styles of dance, and the technology just enhances that.”
Nearby at the Sahara, another boundary-pushing show built on dance also hit the stage last week. Things were a lot different for Magic Mike Live when it first opened in Las Vegas at the Hard Rock Hotel in 2017. Four years later, Channing Tatum’s sleek, sexy take on a male revue has expanded with resident and touring shows in London, Berlin and Australia, while the Vegas flagship has moved into a new customized theater on the Strip.
“This venue is really exciting for us because … we really did have a blank slate to take all the best aspects of our venues around the world,” executive producer Vincent Marini says. “We’ve learned a lot since the first time and really figured out what is the perfect place to enjoy the experience.”
Magic Mike Las Vegas is bigger and packs more action around the room than before, plus it brings its own cocktail lounge for pre- and post-show partying and VIP meet-and-greets. The live production will eventually get a big boost from the TV series that has been filming at the Sahara as the cast and crew have been rehearsing: The Real Magic Mike, a reality competition with a positive spin set for HBO Max.
There are a few new cast members and plenty of new choreography to add extra spark to the new theater, but this is one show that has already separated itself from the pack.
“We are sort of in our own category,” Marini says. “There are elements of comedy and dance and singing and aerial acrobatics, so it’s much more akin to other kinds of shows in Las Vegas than it is to male revues in the traditional sense.
“And you really can’t see anything like it anywhere else, the kind of incredible lead dancer for a Beyoncé or a J.Lo performing 5 feet in front of you. It doesn’t matter who you are, it’s extraordinary.”
Note: Magic Mike Live requires attendees to show proof of full vaccination or a negative test result.
MAGIC MIKE LIVE Thursday-Saturday, 7:30 & 10 p.m.; Wednesday & Sunday, 7:30 p.m. $89+. Sahara, 702-761-7000, magicmikelivelasvegas.com.
ILUMINATE Wednesday-Monday, 10 p.m., $49+. Strat, 702-380-7777, iluminate.com.
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