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Jabbawockeez are Vegas’ NFT pioneers

Updated April 8, 2022 - 2:34 pm

The Jabbawockeez are the Strip’s resident dance production. They are also the Strip’s resident ground-breakers.

The white-masked groove troupe originally bounded into at MGM Grand’s Hollywood Theater in 2010. They have since beaten the odds by turning a wordless, gyrating production into a long-running show at three Las Vegas Strip venues. Most recently, the Jabbas have returned to MGM Grand in their own theater. They are about to formally relaunch the latest version of the act, “Timeless,” this weekend.

But as is the case with the Jabbawockeez, there is more going on behind the masks. The team is offering Vegas’ NFT-enabled live performance experience. The show and host resort company MGM Resorts International are in partnership with NFT company YellowHeart.

The White Glove NFT Collection, named for the Jabbas’ hand attire, is comparatively simple to set up for anyone who has downloaded ticket-purchasing apps. But YellowHeart also offers the option adds value to a regular ticket transactions. When the NFT holders check in with their tickets at the show, the digital ticket converts to a Jabawockeez video clip. That piece of video is a permanent memento, and a digital key to unlock more exclusive benefits.

The money for these transactions would be deducted fro the card the customer connects to the YellowHeart app. A total of 1,100 White Glove NFT Tickets were made available for purchase for select Jabbawockeez performances from Thursday through Saturday. The NFT VIP ticket packages are priced at $155 and $340. The immersive experience live on after the curtain closes on the performances.

MGM Resorts picked the Jabbas to move this idea to the public. It was a clear choice. The troupe has shown it is uniquely popular, and successful, for better than a decade.

“I feel like right now our experience is kind of box-office and digital tickets, right now, so the guest experience is already kind of there, ” Joe “Punkee” Larot said in a phone chat along co-star Kevin “KB” Brewer. “We’re just adding a more immersive engagement, and something you can actually walk away with. You buy the ticket, and now you have this art piece with it.”

The concept might be a new trend in ticket-buying, and even in merchandise and art collecting. But the strategy is as old as paid entertainment.

“It’s just giving another platform for people to purchase tickets,” Brewer said. “This whole NFT and web 3.0 knowledge has been around for a while, but it’s starting to really surface in pop culture. People who want to get into that space are going to purchase their tickets that way … And you will have access to this digital piece of art that will live on in web 3.0.”

The Jabbawockeez are the industry leaders in Las Vegas in providing this service, but they will not be alone for long. Expect Cirque shows, resident headliners and other productions to investigate and embrace NFT experiences.

“That is the goal, that’s what we all kind of want for the future of the Las Vegas ticket culture,” Larot said. “We’re kind of like an agile little test pilot for MGM. I’m glad that they view us that way, to say, ‘Hey, let’s try something new with the Jabbawockeez!’ We’re grateful, and it ends up putting us in this unique space of being pioneers.”

‘iLuminate’ expands

We finally caught a full run of “iLuminate” at The Strat Theater. The production is a classic example of a show working to reach its audience. The show has been retooled to focus almost entirely on the dancing, with scant verbal communication between the cast and audience. Good. Dancing is the show’s strength.

Creator Miral Kotb has taken advantage of a new 8 p.m. showtime (with a 2 p.m. matinee added Sundays) to show off the dancers’ wild, flashing suits and crisp choreography. The room’s video panels enhance the experience around the room. The quick changes in number, and the buoyant song list, including “Smooth Criminal,” “Lady Marmalade,” “Whoomp! (There It Is),” “Without You” by David Guetta featuring Usher, “I’m So Excited” by the Pointer Sisters, and “Say So” by Doja Cat.

We see at least one illuminated fedora, a swift DJ set, dancers cutting into the audience, and even a scene where a giant, illuminated snake toys with a dancer. So, we endorse.

Cool Hang Alert

“Faaabulous Drag Brunch” opens at 12:30 (brunch) and 1 p.m. (performance) Easter Sunday at Notoriety Live’s Chandelier Room. This is the expansion of “Faabulous The Show, created by Christopher Kenney (Edie of “Zumanity” fame) and partner Jamie Morris (also co-star of “Puppetry of the Penis” at Erotic Heritage Museum).

The team has also added Thursday performances to its Friday-night rotation beginning April 21 . So the “Faaabulous” ensemble is running 9 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, and adding with the brunch show Sundays. It is also the only

drag show where the singing is live. Go to www.notorietylive.com for details.

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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