Harrah's Casino bills its flashy variety show as Paris-themed, but it's more Paris meets the parish. The Eiffel Tower is projected on a large screen as a backdrop for an opening number by a troupe of dancers wearing abbreviated rhinestone-covered outfits and long, frilly orange boa-like collars. But the host of the show is local comedian Jodi Borello, and there's no mistaking her yatty accent and local pride. The 75-minute show also features some crossbow shooting stunts and an illusionist.
Borello fans may recognize some of her material. On the night I attended, she joked about her daughter turning 17, which means she has to be introduced to things, like her father. And when her daughter asked if she was adopted, Borello said she was quick to say she wasn't: "No. We tried to adopt. But the agency said we weren't fit parents." Borello also offered a lot of shout-outs to local subjects and sometimes used local color to entertain tourists in the crowd. She explained that the West Bank and Northshore confound locals and keep them from being able to give normal compass-point directions. Jokes about Nash Roberts' uncanny hurricane-forecasting abilities were a total loss for a front-row couple from Baltimore.
Interspersed between more dance numbers and Borello's stand-up interludes were Ben Blaque and illusionist Rob Lake. Blaque is an America's Got Talent alum, and he performs feats of marksmanship with a crossbow. Dressed in black, he and his assistant struck a Goth look as industrial music pumped over the sound system. He took aim at various items (balloons, playing cards, roses) held by his assistant before moving on to trickier shots performed blindfolded and multiple-shot sequences.
With his soft voice and delivery and untucked plaid flannel shirt, Lake's slacker vibe seemed unconventional for an illusionist. One wondered if he was embarking on a parody of a magic act when he started off by making an egg, lemon and grapefruit disappear from under blue handkerchiefs, but he tied the series together and exceeded the expectations set up by his offbeat demeanor. He developed a humorous and solid rapport with the audience, however, and two of his more involved disappearing acts — himself into a cabinet and an assistant into an "origami" box folded ever smaller and run through with a samurai sword (pictured) — were very impressive.
The dance numbers were polished even if they didn't seem particularly adventurous in concept, like "Big Spender," which was performed in front of the word "casino" in big bright lights on the backdrop. The original version of "Lady Marmalade" is sexier and more sultry than the remixed version used in the show, and the piece didn't feel updated, suggesting that if you're going to focus on well-known and popular material, it's best to go with the original. Given the Parisian theme, it was no surprise the evening ended with a cancan finale, which is a fitting conclusion for a show full of familiar but fun entertainment. — Will Coviello