Q&A: Bryan Cheatham of ‘53X’
The man is sexy and talented. He’s been bringing sexy to Chippendales The Show at Rio for years. Now Bryan Cheatham brings his talents and his knowledge of what’s hot to 53X, the new adults-only show at Paris. As the show’s artistic director, Cheatham has created a show that speaks to both sexes, especially couples, he says, and the intimate venue only adds to the overall experience. He recently sat down with Las Vegas Magazine’s Kiko Miyasato to discuss the show in more detail.
First things first. How did you come up with the name 53X? What does it mean?
It’s code for “sex.” So, if you, back in the day, you wanted to send somebody a message, the code: the “5” stands for “S,” the 3 stands for “E” and the “X” is for “X.”
What makes 53X stand out from other adults-only shows in Las Vegas?
What set us apart is it’s for everybody. We don’t have a target audience. I want everyone to be able to come to the show.
Was it harder to create the new show ... than doing Chippendales The Show?
For me, it’s easier, because I have a lot more to play with. With Chippendales, I only have guys, and they have to pretend that possibly there’s a girl there (and) do a solo scene. But, with 53X, I have guys and girls. So, one of my favorite scenes is (where) we have this fantastic chaise lounge scene and it’s a scenario of a husband being out of town, gone for work, and he comes home to his wife laying on the chaise lounge and seducing him. So, because I have both male and female cast members, I’m able to act out these fantastic scenes and let the audience be a voyeur into their lives.
What was you role as artistic director—did you create every scene in the show?
Yes, I created every scene. I brought in a choreographer, Enrique (Lugo). He’s really good at technical dance. But every scene started in my head about eight months ago. I get inspired by music. I’ll hear the song and I’ll see the scenario in my head and I’ll jot it down and make notes. That’s how I come up with the numbers.
How long have you been in a creative, artistic role?
Of course, I’ve been entertaining for the past 20 years—my background is theatrical—Broadway, revues. But the creative side was five years ago when I started creating numbers for the European tour. That was successful. Then I went to redo the Chippendales show, and it’s been a hit. So, when Kevin Denburg (managing partner of Chippendales) came to me with this new project, I was ... like “Let’s do it, bring it on!”
Can you talk about the show a little more?
Here’s the thing that I want everybody to know: the show is focused on fun. And I’d also like to call it sexy fun. You’re going to come and have a good time; you’re going to laugh; you’re going to get turned on, and turned out (laughs)! We hope people leave with a few ideas to take back home to their special someone. We hope you come if you’re single to meet other singles. After the show, we all go out to the beer garden or the nightclub and talk about the show.
I heard there’s some audience participation in 53X. How far does that audience participation go?
It goes pretty far, it does (laughing). Some of the audience will be taken backstage if they’re bad and they will be dealt with appropriately. If anyone has anything to celebrate, we acknowledge that and celebrate. It’s a great place for a birthday; the birthday person gets up onstage. Like I said, it’s a party, it’s fun and it’s sexy. How can you not get turned on by the half-naked girls and guys (laughing)? They are stripping down, they reveal ... they are very free with their bodies. The cast is on a strict diet and workout; my girls and my guys look fantastic!
To enjoy the show, I’m assuming the audience has to lose their inhibitions?
I did go over that—how do I invite everybody and make everybody comfortable? Here’s how I did that. If you like girls, there’s gonna be girls onstage, stripping. However, there might be a guy next to her, so if you don’t want to look at the guy, where do you look? You look right at the girl. And, if the ladies want to come and see guys, he’s gonna be stripping down, showing a lil’ bit of ass. So, it’s just a matter of where you want to focus your eyes.
Is there a reason why this went into a nightclub setting versus an actual theater?
Absolutely. First of all, this location is a prime location. It’s right on the Strip. We have the Beer Park next to it, the restaurant underneath, the nightclub. We wanted to put the show in a place that is conducive to the show, which is fun. It starts your night off to go out and have a good time—what better place than a nightclub plus nontraditional theater? We want the people up and dancing and being a part of the show.
Do you think you can push the envelope more because it’s Vegas?
Yes, yes I do. People come to Vegas to let their inhibitions go. People want to come here and they want to be naughty. They do things that they wouldn’t do or see in their everyday life. And that’s the show I wanted to create. I wanted to create a show with scenes different from every other show. I’ve already had people say “This is a really good show! I never thought to put this and this together or never have seen that.” Of course, there are people who have seen different elements that are in the show, but to combine everything and put it all together—that’s what makes us unique.
Throw out some adjectives that describe the show.
Seductive. Fantasy. Over-the-top. Funny. Scandalous. Couple-centric.
If you could have people walk away with one thing from the show, what would it be?
A great time. I want them to say “I had a lot of fun, and that was a really great show.” And I want them to enjoy the music, performers; to be possibly inspired to go back home and try some of the stuff they saw onstage. Once you see the show you’ll see what I’m talking about—there’s a lot of role playing and hopefully it inspires people to spice up their love life.