The headlining concert residency shows of the Las Vegas Strip are all about star power, the biggest names performing their biggest hits. But each of these events has at least one moment that simply wows the audience with pure visual spectacle.
In Piece of Me at what is now Zappos Theater, Britney Spears would ride a giant guitar like it was a mechanical bull in a country saloon. In Enigma at what is now Dolby Live, Lady Gaga takes control of a two-story robot.
And in Play, which opened just before New Year’s Eve at the brand-new Resorts World Theatre, Katy Perry, after emerging from a 16-foot-tall, bright-orange toilet bowl, trades verses of “California Gurls” with a giant puppet.
It’s a poop. In the toilet. That sings. He actually has a name, and it’s Mr. Poo. When he rises from the bowl and starts singing, Perry exclaims, “Oh sh*t!”
On opening night of Play, that was just one of many moments that made audience justifiably explode with cheers, screams and laughter. Continuing the stunning evolution of the Las Vegas residency production, Perry’s show is wall-to-wall spectacle, densely packed with campy, colorful props and production effects. Visually overwhelming and stylistically suited to its star, it’s unlike any other residency show we’ve seen on the Strip, ever.
Similar praise fell upon the first residency to open at Resorts World, Carrie Underwood’s Reflection on December 1. Aerialists soar above the audience as the country music superstar rolls through a parade of elegant and glam-rock costume changes, and Underwood and her dancers literally take a Louisville to both headlights of a real Jeep onstage during the crowd-pleasing hit “Before He Cheats.” The finale showers the singer and the entire stage in rainfall and sparks, while acrobats work their way across a wall reminiscent of Cirque du Soleil’s epic stage show KÀ.
Reflection, which returns March 23-April 2, was designed by Nick Whitehouse and Fireplay, with costumes by Emma Trask.
Play, back onstage January 14 and 15 and again March 2-19, is produced by Baz Halpin with sets by his Silent House Productions, the same team that worked on Piece of Me and Gwen Stefani’s Just a Girl residency show. Perry is known for wild costumes as much as pop hits, and the epic outfits for her show—including a red latex jumpsuit with mushroom hat, a dress constructed of aluminum soda cans, and a showstopping yellow-and-orange rhinestone dress for the grand finale—were created by designers Zaldy, Heather Picchiottino and Johnny Wujek.
Perry, who was famously in the audience at the premiere of Gaga’s Enigma in 2019, has said the Vegas production is something that could never tour; it’s too big and complicated. That has been the objective of most Strip residency shows since Celine Dion started playing Caesars Palace—to give each artist the chance to construct their dream show without worrying how to actually pull it off.
And clearly, that creative spirit runs through the new shows at Resorts World Theatre. Play also features a running animated film following the journey of the Katy Doll character, who is purchased from an arcade vending machine and has to make her way through the bathroom, bedroom and backyard of her new owner. Perry embodies the character during the interspersed live performances, and the stunning set designs are even more vivid than their animated versions.
For her breakthrough hit “I Kissed a Girl,” she dances through a psychedelic garden landscape among giant mushrooms and snails before finally planting a smooch on a dancer performing in a bikini-clad female frog costume. It’s the most Katy Perry thing that’s ever happened.
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