STILETTO Entertainment, a long time contributor to the Las Vegas entertainment scene, having produced Barry Manilow’s long running shows at the Las Vegas Hilton and Paris Las Vegas, his Emmy Award winning TV special MANILOW: Music and Passion Live From Las Vegas, and MANILOW: Live from Paris Las Vegas, celebrates 20 years of producing first-class entertainment in still another venue: the showrooms of cruise ships around the world.
From Could It Be Magic on Holland America Line’s Statendam to the recent openings of award-winning Theatre At Sea shows, STILETTO has produced over 100 shows from concept to curtain-up for cruise ship audiences. From intimate song and dance revues to multi-media cirque-style spectacles at sea, STILETTO has done it all!
“As the result of creating the production show version of Barry Manilow’s “Copacabana” for Caesars Atlantic City, we were given the opportunity to produce new shows for just one ship,” remembers Douglas Senecal, General Manager and a former cruise ship performer himself. “After successfully creating shows for this first ship, we were asked to continue to produce shows, as well as audition, hire and rehearse the casts, for more and more vessels, until eventually we managed 15 ships with casts of 7 to 14 singers and dancers.”
STILETTO also produced the shows on world cruise voyages for Holland America Line’s Prinsendam, Rotterdam and Amsterdam, as well as Cunard’s legendary HMS Queen Elizabeth II and the Seabourn Quest, and produced the first original book musical performed on a cruise ship, the award winning Barry Manilow’s Copacabana. Artistic Director John Charron, whose next project is the Broadway revival of Can Can, laughingly quips, “On any night, one of our shows is being performed on a ship somewhere in the world!”
“Our amazing creative staff of Emmy, Tony and Oscar nominees and recipients has created some of the best entertainment on the high seas,” says Garry Kief, President and CEO of STILETTO Entertainment.
“And,” adds Senecal, “with music produced by Ron Walters Jr., who is also the Musical Director for Barry Manilow’s concert tours, the shows hit a sweet spot for the eclectic range of guests on any given ship. We may open with a current hit from Coldplay or a hard-driving song from Queen, but we’ll follow it with a great standard. Everyone gets a taste of something they like, but the music still supports the theme or storyline of the show.”
STILETTO specifically tailors shows for each ship and uses multiple languages to appeal to the many international guests that sail each year. “To accomplish this,” says Jubel Obien, Vocal Arranger and herself a musical theater director, “we created one set of shows that featured seven different languages. On top of the English lyrics, the singers had to learn French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Chinese, and even Swahili!”
Traveling constantly to studios from Las Vegas to New York to London to audition singers and dancers, Casting Directors James Nadeau, who performed at sea prior to joining STILETTO, and Jodie Dorner, who rehearsed shows on land and sea, assemble casts to embark on a journey that, for some, changes their lives. “We’ve seen families formed in front of our eyes,” says Dorner. “As cast members go out to sea to perform in our shows, they meet officers and fellow crew members and return for several more contracts before settling down to raise the next generation of singers and dancers.” “Our Facebook wall is filled with photos of what we lovingly call our little sea urchins,” adds Nadeau.
“It seems like yesterday,” says Rob Kief, Executive Vice President and a veteran of the first ten years of cast changes at sea, “that I was taking our first cast to the ship that would be their home for the next six months. Some of those wonderful kids have stayed in touch with us ever since.”
FROM THE SEA TO THE STRIP: LAS VEGAS TRANSITIONS
Many of the over 5,000 performers who have gone through the STILETTO rehearsal studios have gone on to earn some very impressive credits, including appearances in the showrooms of Las Vegas. Erika Tomlinson, who went from the Broadway National Tour of Peter Pan with Cathy Rigby to dancing the lead role in Le Reve at the Wynn, says, “STILETTO allowed me to grow into the professional dancer and teacher I am today”. Others include Jubilee singers Allison Suddarth, Chris Hodgson, Christian Nielson and Ryan Ralph, Vegas The Show performers Aaron Neely and Savannah Smith, dancers Drew Reese in Steve Wynn’s Showstoppers, Karl Hendrickson, Ivy Williams and Jacob Leatherman in Donny & Marie, Michelle Di Terlizzi, Taylor Huggins, Kelsey Kramer, Jared Inman and Peter Gill in Vegas The Show, Lisa Plank in Jubilee and Chris Pedersen, Joe Rivera and Torrell Ervin in Le Reve, comic Jesse Highley in Zombie Burlesque, and back up dancer Cory Heaps in Frank Marino’s Divas Las Vegas, who thanks STILETTO “for giving me the opportunity to travel the world and make great connections before getting to Vegas.”
Of course, there are some who have moved away from performing. Alex Cheney is a Talent Acquisition Coordinator for Caesars Entertainment in Las Vegas and Michael Vojvodich is a Musical Theatre Teacher at the Summerland Dance Academy. And JR White, now Assistant General Manager at STILETTO, says, “I was in the first cast of Could It Be Magic, Remote Control, and On Broadway, and could still perform them today…the only difference is the velocity at which my leg comes down!” Adds current Las Vegas resident and former STILETTO dancer Michon Suyama, “For five years my husband and I got to see some amazing and beautiful places while building new shows with choreographers John Charron and Jill Hillier, and we walked away from the experience with lifetime friends. Happy 20th STILETTO!”.
In addition to cruise ship production shows and cast management, more than 100 live concerts and special events are produced and presented by STILETTO each year. From major theatrical stage presentations to world tours and festivals…from the management of internationally renowned artists to the production of charity events and Emmy award-winning television specials…STILETTO Entertainment is expert in taking a show from concept to stage.