Gratuitously Bisexual – Rouge Makes a Great Date Night
By Jennifer Howe (they/them)
Rouge at the Strat Hotel bills itself as the “Sexiest show in Vegas”. However, I would call it the most bisexual show in Vegas. With a strong ensemble cast and raunchy solos that feature aerialists, contortionists, acrobatics, and even a little bit of dildo juggling, this show makes for a fun and arousing date night activity.
While Vegas is still playing catch up with its sex-positive entertainment offerings, Rouge offers a refreshing change of pace. I truly appreciated all of the deliberately queer choices made by Hanoch Rosènn, the producer and director (who had previously brought family-friendly variety spectaculars “WOW” to the Rio in 2017 and “Extravaganza” to Bally’s in 2020) and the rest of Rouge cast. Rouge, which opened in April 2022, fills a 650-seat cabaret theater on the 2nd floor of the Strat Hotel.
This nightly revue features topless femmes and masc performers. The curtain rises on the first act and depicts a man and woman in bed together. Suddenly a second male appears in the sheets with them, and then character after character appears from the sheets until the whole ensemble cast was present and accounted for wearing only lingerie. It’s an easy choice to imply the typical, boring, heteronormative fantasy of 1 male and 2 females in a ménage à trois. I applaud the choice of implying a two male and one female tryst. This small moment at the beginning of the show sets the tone for the rest of the bawdy revue.
If that small moment was lost on the average audience member, the next act featuring two ultra femme topless aerialist women with long ponytail headdresses and rhinestoned underbust leotards, confirmed the erotic nature the show was going to present; and it wasn’t going to be all straight. Performing on the aerial straps, these two circus artists straddled and swung with finesse and ease, exchanging positions with the familiarity of two sapphic lovers.
Other erotic highlights of the show include the contortist in the martini glass, splashing and hair flipping, dripping wet while wearing nothing more than a few pieces of lingerie. Additionally, there were two male acrobatic performers doing some of the most intense feats of strength and balance I have witnessed on stage. A pair of aerialists finished their dynamic silks act with the male performer doing a static hold while holding a kinky spreader bar outfitted to an iron jaw apparatus in which the other female-bodied performer hung on and inverted. She was only holding on by the tops of her ankles while spinning from the apparatus, which was held by her duo partner’s mouth. Another acrobatic duo finished their solo with the flier, who was wearing red pointe ballet shoes, doing a one-legged balance en pointe on the bases’s outstretched bicep.
The show had an energetic pony-play dance number. There was even a kinky BDSM ensemble dance number with dancers clad in fetish harnesses, leather gear and see-through mesh. During this number, dancers were touching and groping each other, and several exchanged passionate embraces and kisses. It was reminiscent of queer dance parties that I have been to in the past. I also appreciated that the male performers and soloists wore actual costumes. It has been a trend in recent years for male aerialists to wear jeans while they perform. That contradiction in gendered costuming is exasperating. All of the costumes throughout the production were appeasing. Some of the costumes evoked the aesthetic of that classic Las Vegas showgirl archetype.
While the show isn’t advertised specifically as queer, (it visually only included binary genders on stage), it was certainly notable that the emcee’s chants, who donned an anachronistic steampunk pirate look and carried a southern drawl, were meant for an assumed straight audience. “Ladies and Gentlemen” and “make some noise” were repeatedly uttered. At one point, the emcee tried interacting with the crowd and went around with a mic trying to get males to share a sexual fantasy they have. Las Vegas is known for its opulence, sexy showgirls, and a brand built on peccadillos, i.e. Sin City and what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. The real sin city, the one the local kinksters and queers know, is really quite different. Our kink scene is underground, and our burlesque shows still require pasties and merkins because producers and business owners are afraid of the Nevada state laws that prohibit nudity and the showing of underboob. While shows like this and many others in this town’s history can show nipples twice a night. There is a double standard that we should be talking about more.
While this production had a lot of energy and talent, a few things felt out of place. Many acts have a video introduction element that was odd, poorly produced, and written. These videos aren’t needed, and I think they cheapen the experience of the live show. Luckily the video snippets are brief. The writing and scripting of parts of this production did not deliver. Perhaps the jokes were just overused or perhaps too cheesy, but they failed to elicit much from the audience. A more improvised script template and more authentic audience interaction would have helped the emcees immensely as they bumbled for footing with an audience that came in cold. The audience when I attended felt especially quiet and took far too long, in my opinion, to appreciate the spectacle in front of them.
Rouge at the Strat would make a fun date night for any bisexuals or pansexuals out there. I think it’s important to support shows, movies, and any type of entertainment that represent queerness in a sexy and sex-positive way. My hope is that by supporting such entertainment, it will lead to more depictions of the human sexuality spectrum and the queer existence. Rouge is able to create a fun connection with everyone in the audience, no matter if they’re straight or LGBTQ+ because the show is about human sexuality and connection, and that is depicted as it is in real life, as a radiant spectrum.
This article was originally published in the second issue of PROUD & Kinky Magazine. You may read it in its original format here.