The FANTASY Cast with Lorena Peril. Photo by Bryan Steffy
They put the “strip” in striptease, the temptress in titillation, and the bubbly in burlesque. They are the topless showgirls in FANTASY, the hit Vegas revue now in its nineteenth year at the Luxor Hotel and Casino’s Atrium Showroom.
When not enticing diverse audiences through playful, seductive reverie, the otherwise sexy glamour girls are raising families, working out to maintain their stock in trade, and volunteering their time to give back to the community.
In 1998, Anita Mann, the show’s producer and choreographer, was approached by the Luxor to produce “a family-rated topless show.” An oxymoron thought Mann. “I spent an entire career choreographing commercial hits for middle America. Could I even do this?”
She rose to the challenge, designing a show incorporating the classic Vegas showgirl extravaganzas of the 50s and 60s with today’s contemporary expressions, always keeping one thing in mind: sexual arousal was not the goal. “The show is very couple friendly,” says Mann. “Most nights more than half the audience are couples. We don’t try to be sexy. We entertain. We’re motivated by being great performers.”
Each year in October, the show releases a themed calendar featuring FANTASY’s gorgeous gals in tantalizing poses. Fans rush to buy the calendars (which can be signed in person by the ladies following each show) either online or throughout the Luxor. A portion of the proceeds are donated to a different charity each year.
In recent years, donations have been made to the Nevada Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA), the Nevada Cancer Institute, Shade Tree, Opportunity Village, Heaven Can Wait, the Girl Scouts, Vegas Strong, and the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, among others.
Proceeds from the 2018-2019 calendar will be donated to Keep Memory Alive – an organization exclusively supporting the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health – in honor of Las Vegas resident and Life Styles of the Rich and Famous TV host Robin Leach, who sadly passed away on August 24 this year following complications from a stroke
“Robin has been the show’s greatest champion and supporter,” says Mann. “It’s the very least we can do. We’re devastated by his passing. He will be deeply missed.”
Mann is quick to point out that the FANTASY gals not only donate yearly to countless charities, but the dancers never fail to show up for community appearances.
“Whether it be participating in a Christmas toy drive for Toys for Tots; performing songs for a crowd of Magical Forest-goers at Opportunity Village; or donating school supplies to the students of Clark County – the ladies never turn down an opportunity to give back,” says Mann.
The cast is especially supportive of those who serve. In addition to appearances at Nellis Air Force Base events, the show reserves 150 seats for the military and their families each May in honor of Military Appreciation Week.
“They love the show! Even the wives. And we pay special tribute by adding patriotic song and dance to the performances,” Mann explains.
Mann acknowledges that the modern-day showgirl revue has evolved. “I have so much respect and admiration for these ladies. They are not only gorgeous, talented, trained, consummate performers…they are hard-working, responsible, strong, and independent women… always striving to do their best. They are the secret to the show’s success,” Mann proudly boasts. “It’s a joy and an honor to work with and to know them.”
Thirty-two-year-old Yesi Burgess has been a dancer with the show for 9 years. Born and raised in Havana, Cuba, she trained in synchronized swimming, graduated from a school of performing arts, and danced on television variety shows. She moved to Las Vegas to join the FANTASY cast.
“Being part of the FANTASY family and working for Anita is a dream come true,” says Burgess, who is married with two young children. She is grateful to Mann for what she calls an opportunity of a lifetime. “Anita is such an inspiration and a role model to all of us. Not only is she a strong, successful woman, she is also very kind and generous. She genuinely cares about giving back to the community and those in need. We are proud we get to play a small role in all the great work that she does. We have learned so much from her.”
Burgess says that this job, like any other job, is about professionalism. “You have to respect yourself and those you work with. And you have to show gratitude for the blessings and the abundance. Giving back is a part of that.”
Twenty-nine-year-old Ashton Bray has been with the show for six years. Dancing since she was a young girl, Bray graduated from college with a BA in Performing Arts. She moved to Las Vegas for opportunities to dance in shows.
Bray credits Mann with inspiring and empowering cast members to achieve their goals and strive to be women with rich lives, which includes community and service.
“Anita leads by example, and I can’t think of a better role model. Being in FANTASY is more than just a job. It’s truly a family where you can learn, grow, and thrive,” she adds, although she admits that, to begin with, it wasn’t that easy to go topless.
“Thinking of how the audience was going to perceive me made me want to be sick,” she says now. “But, I realized after the first number, the nervousness of being topless goes away when you see how much the audience is enjoying your performance.”
Enjoy it they do.
Each night, FANTASY audiences are invited to experience 15 high energy and provocative dance numbers which Mann, a multiple Emmy winner who has choreographed for superstars like Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson, has set to a variety of top contemporary music genres. The powerhouse vocals of singer/host Lorena Peril take center stage throughout the show, while comic relief is provided by comedian Sean E. Cooper.
The art of the strip and the tease is certainly not new. Men have sought its titillating allure for centuries. But FANTASY is unique – perhaps even socially acceptable. Besides talent, social conscience and elevated communal and personal responsibility help set it apart from the rest of the revue shows in town.
Stripping sure has come a long way, baby!