READ THE LATEST Q&A with Genise Ruidiaz here.
MiCandy producer Nannette Barbera has enjoyed a long career both on and off the stage. Whether choreographing a dance number for a club or producing corporate events, she has learned the ins and outs of the business and has some key words of advice for making the transition from performer to producer. Nowadays, Nannette travels back and forth to Las Vegas from her home in Baja, Mexico, but she found time between travels to answer a few questions.
VEGAS REPORT: When did you first realize you had the skill set to be a producer?
NANNETTE: About 35 years ago, but it wasn’t me that recognized it. It was my fiance’s idea at the time. He watched me teach classes in Malibu. He said, “You should be choreographing and producing your own shows.” I made a demo tape of my choreography and sold the concept and production to various clubs in LA. I booked a daytime TV show called 330 and named our company and shows The High Steppin Dancers. I booked the dancers as an opening act for ABC’s the 330 TV show for a season. Some of the dancers from the show and I were cast in the competition talent show Star Search in 1985. The host was Ed McMahon. We lost to the $100,000 dollar winners but went on to book various showrooms in Lake Tahoe, Reno, Japan and Las Vegas. John Paul Reynolds was the backer and partner in my company. He launched my career.
VEGAS REPORT: Of all the shows you’ve produced, which was the most challenging and why?
NANNETTE: “Roar” – The Adventure of a Lifetime; not only was it the most challenging, it was my favorite! We had 9 to 12 exotic animals. Choreographing for animals to fit with the dancers, acts, and trainers was amazing. It was very well organized and every move precise. We had to make sure it was always safe for everyone. My brilliant partner “Doc” Antle, who is the number 1 animal trainer in the world, (myrtlebeachsafari.com) not only made it look effortless but used the utmost of care and safety for the entire cast. I love animals and working with these amazing animal actors from movies and television was such a joy. They were in such films as, Ace Ventura When Nature Calls, Doctor Doolittle, Mighty Joe Young; Janet Jackson and Aerosmith videos; their credits go on and on! It was a dream come true.
VEGAS REPORT: You mentioned that you are succeeding in a “man’s world.” Can you elaborate on this, and the challenges or benefits of being a female producer.
NANNETTE: In this business success can last, or be plucked in a nano second; ride the wave hard as it could be gone tomorrow. There seems to be no benefits of being a female producer. It can be very challenging at times. As a woman, you have to fight hard, fight longer, and prove yourself more times than not. In this day and age, it is still an uphill battle and you’ve got to be on top of your game if you want a fighting chance. The industry is still a male-dominated industry in terms of the business of Las Vegas entertainment. There are many strong, successful women in Las Vegas and we all have to continue to outdo ourselves in order to achieve success.
VEGAS REPORT: iCandy was a departure from the standard stage show. Tell us a bit about creating entertainment designed to increase F&B revenue.
NANNETTE: I have been with Caesars Entertainment for more than 14 years creating the iCandy brand and other signature shows. The concept was to build a custom stage (which I helped design) that would be in the middle of the casino, it was called the ibar – starring the iCandy dancers. I created the unique themed shows that were performed each hour from 8 p.m.–2 am. We changed the shows four times a year. Each show was different and with different costuming, sets and choreography. It was an ongoing project that kept me extremely busy! Having the iCandy brand on property also created other pockets of entertainment – a traveling float show through the casino, iCandy dealers, party pits and aerial entertainment. We had themed shows at Christmas, New Years, other holidays, special annual events, and so on. It was a huge success and ran for 5 years at various Caesars properties in St. Louis, Chicago, Kansas City, San Diego, Atlantic City and Las Vegas. The shows escalated foot traffic to bar revenues, and tripled revenue in surrounding slot machine!
NANNETTE: It was something we created together, they wanted something new, exciting and different but had limited ideas and were not sure what or how to execute it. That’s where I came in. I asked what they wanted to achieve and then my creativity went into fifth gear.
VEGAS REPORT: How important is merchandising for your company?
NANNETTE: Very. One day I hope to be coupled with Victoria’s Secret with the iCandy brand (currently in talks) about producing handbags. We have created handbags made from left-over materials from the dancers costumes, each bag is custom made and very unique and colorful! The bags are named after each iCandy girl. We also have created a bathing suit line, panties and bras as well. We currently have our own champagne called iCandy sassy, sultry, sexy, seductive, and sensuous, with a signature line on the bottle for our girls to sign for our VIP customers.
VEGAS REPORT: What type of performer characteristics do you look for when hiring talent?
NANNETTE: For dancers, I look for a triple threat; gorgeous body, beautiful face and fabulous athletic dancer. Singers – athletic and solo artists.
VEGAS REPORT: Who “works well” for your shows and why?
NANNETTE: Very well-trained athletic dancers. My choreography is very demanding and challenging. I will dig deep into their talent and pull out things they never thought they could or would do. It’s rewarding for both of us. My talent also checks their egos at the door and are well mannered and play well with others. They represent my brand on and off the stage.
VEGAS REPORT: You’ve taken the show overseas to many different countries. What are the challenges moving an entire production to a different market?
NANNETTE: Controlling and prioritizing the chaos that is inevitable; organization is the key. Teamwork and a sense of family I have with my casts. It’s very exciting to see the brand build into other cities and countries. The response from other countries – the audiences are all different, but all are very appreciative and we receive great responses.
VEGAS REPORT: What kinds of changes are necessary both creatively and logistically to make it happen?
NANNETTE: With visas or passport issues we start pre-production about 6 months from the opening of the show. When traveling, you always have to have great managers and I do. My closest manager and assistant is Chris Racine. He actually can read my mind. He takes tremendous pressure off me so I can concentrate on the creative. He executes tasks before I even communicate what needs to be done. He’s been with me for over 20 years. Hiring great people is a must!
VEGAS REPORT: How many different productions do you have “ready to go” in your portfolio.
NANNETTE: About 15. We currently have Solid Gold Soul running at Bally’s in Las Vegas and are opening a second company, Solid Gold Soul 2 with headliner and host Bobby Brooks Wilson (son of Jackie Wilson), at Harrah’s in Reno. Also iCandy The Show starring Angelica Bridges from Baywatch fame will be in residency, both opening on July 13th.
VEGAS REPORT: What type of show seems to get booked the most?
NANNETTE: You never know, but what seems to be hot right now are sexy shows such as iCandy. We have a different way of delivering erotic & sensual. We’re not a topless show, and only have a few g-strings in certain numbers that make sense. Everyone is doing topless shows, so we decided to tap into a different market delivery of shows. Our shows you can bring your kids to – nothing offensive for kids or teenagers.
VEGAS REPORT: What would be your dream show to produce?
NANNETTE: Resurrect Roar–The Adventure of a Lifetime coupled with a wild safari experience. I have a complete package of the show and the experience of a lifetime. There’s nothing in the world like it and it cannot be reproduced. It’s certainly a rare gem, we could even have V.I.P. African huts on the compound for guests to view the exotic animals from their balcony while sipping their favorite iCandy champagne. It would take a hotel/casino with class, vision and strength to tackle this project. It definitely would put Vegas on the map as the only place in the world to see this type of once-in-a-lifetime animal experience. Definitely an attraction for the out-of-the-ordinary tourists to visit Las Vegas.
VEGAS REPORT: What advice would you give to a performer looking to transfer from performer “in-the-spotlight” to “behind-the-curtain” as producer?
NANNETTE: Listen, watch, and ask questions, and tell your producer “I want to transfer at some point in my career, can you help me?” Learn the business behind the scenes. Be confident, respectful and fearless.
PHOTO GALLERY OF NANNETTE BARBERA PRODUCTIONS