Last week we told you about some pretty cool and uniquely Vegas cinemas. But did you know that Sin City is also has a thriving community of filmmakers? In addition to major titles like The Hangover, Casino, Vegas Vacation, Sharknado 4, and Showgirls, many low-budget films are shot in and around Las Vegas valley. Titles like Ring of Desire, Stealing Chaplin, Bus Party To Hell, and Immortal Wars employ dozens of local actors, directors, and technical crew. These independent films might not feature superstars, but they’re often a lot more fun than many overblown blockbusters.
Meanwhile on stage, ‘Slammer – The Prison Girl Musical’ had a sneak preview performance this past May at downtown’s THE CENTER. The immersive experience played out like visitation day at an actual prison. Attendees submitted to body checks by “prison guards”, lined up at the cafeteria for their dinner rations, then assembled in an orderly fashion for the show to begin. Packed with outrageous moments, belly laughs and a few shocking plot twists, “Slammer – The Prison Girl Musical” was praised by Vegas Unfiltered as a “Nonstop bawdy giggle-fest”.
Created by Jay Nagle (Smith Center for the Performing Arts) and the late Dwayne Parks, “Slammer” was inspired by exploitation films of the ’40s and ’50s. Although they might be largely forgotten now, uproarious titles like “Chained Heat”, “Girls In Chains”, “Girls of the Big House” and “Cellblock Sisters” once blazed across American drive-in theater screens. If there was ever a genre ripe for skewering, it was those “Babes Behind Bars” films. Mix in some song and dance a la Bob Fosse’s CHICAGO, and “Slammer” was destined to be a hit.
While the comedic prison romp is new to Vegas stages, “Slammer” has been around for quite a while. It made its first appearance in 1996 at a workshop for Totally New Theater in Evansville, Indiana. As the T.N.T. moved from city to city, so did “Slammer”, eventually winning First Place at Indianapolis ComedySportz Theater. A three-weekend run in 2000 was extended to eleven months, then it traveled to Chicago, where “Slammer” played to sold-out crowds for a year.
Charles Busch’s “DIE, MOMMY, DIE!”
This spring’s teaser performance of “Slammer – The Prison Girl Musical” had the added advantage of channeling a newer genre of big-screen and stage-bound comedies. Cult favorites like Charles Busch‘s “Die, Mommy, Die!”, “Psycho Beach Party”, and “Girls Will Be Girls” all made the mind-boggling choice to cast men as their female leads, with predictably uproarious results. Nagle followed suit, and beloved Vegas celebrity Jim McCoy aka “Auntie Norma” was cast as nefarious lesbian prison warden “Ima De Zell”. Many of the female inmates were played by men, too. Hey, why not? It’s 2021, where everyone seems to be hopping genders and swapping pronouns.
Right now, the Vegas production is looking towards an early 2022 debut. Nagle had originally planned on opening in the fall of this year, but our current wave of COVID concerns persuaded him to focus on a feature version in the meantime. As with the play, roles will be gender-bending. A casting call was released on August 13th, but a number of roles have already been filled. Vegas entertainers Sean Stuart (Dixie Crupp) Lorenzo Gabaldon, and The Lion King’s Edward Jackson have signed onto the project. Choreography will be by Cirque du Soleil’s Rommel Pacson, with costumes by Heather Roark.
In what may be considered a bit of dream casting (and perhaps a bit of friendly nepotism), Jay signed actress Beverly Washburn for the key role of “Sister Phillus George”. Ms. Washburn began acting at the age of three, rising to fame in the Disney classic “Old Yeller”. She then shared the screen with horror icon Lon Chaney in the 1967 horror film “Spider Baby”. Beverly has over 500 screen and television roles to her credit. Star Trek fans will remember her as Lieutenant Arlene Galway in the original series.
Nagle is especially excited to be working with Ms. Washburn. “Beverly and I do an ‘Actors Studio’ type of show. She also writes for The Vegas Voice. She’s a very fascinating woman, and the people she has worked with would blow your mind…from Jack Benny to director Cecil B Demille. I call her a vintage Wikipedia in heels.”
SLAMMER THE PRISON GIRL MUSICAL
Much like The 35 Cinema‘s efforts to expand, “Slammer – The Prison Girl Musical” has launched an IndieGoGo campaign to gather sponsors. Says Nagle: “I’m very excited to bring this hysterical musical to the screen. We plan to start out with a trailer introducing all the characters in a music video/documentary style of filming. Next, musical numbers from the show will be filmed as a concept video. Then finally “Slammer – The Prison Girl Movie” music videos will be entered in LGBTQ film Festivals and contests.” You can listen to the cast recording of “Slammer” right here.
With the current state of live entertainment in flux (thanks to COVID and the Delta variant), it’s no surprise that Vegas performers are turning to moviemakers to keep their skills honed. And with unique SIn City venues like The 35 Cinema able to host cast appearances and red-carpet screenings, we might just have to add a world premiere of “Slammer – The Prison Girl Musical” to our Vegas 411 coverage sometime soon. Good luck guys! (er……”girls”…).