'Shag With a Twist' sexier for the Strip

Candy colors and cocktails, cat's-eye make-up, beehive hair, skinny ties and tiki kitsch: The art of Josh Agle, better known as Shag, is unmistakable.

His 1950s-'60s retro-hipster work sprang to three-dimensional life last year at the Los Angeles Theatre Center in "Shag With a Twist," a musical murder-mystery created as a collaborative effort between the artist and choreographer-director Cindy Bradley, co-founder of San Pedro City Ballet.

Its hero: a police detective who arrives at the crime scene -- a 1960s penthouse Tupperware party -- with his fez-wearing pet monkey, Mr. Cuddles. The murder weapon: a giant corkscrew.

Reviews were mixed, though the visual pop of the offbeat show -- mimed and danced action, songs but no dialogue -- received high marks.

Now this low-profile Jetsetter Productions presentation follows in the footsteps of high-profile Broadway blockbusters such as "Avenue Q" and "Hairspray." It's migrated to Las Vegas, where it opens Thursday at the Aladdin Hotel & Casino's Krave theater.

"I think Vegas is a really appropriate place for the show," Shag said, "because a lot of what it deals with, and a lot of what my artwork deals with, is sort of an extreme form of hedonism, and Las Vegas is sort of the ultimate hedonistic experience."

Changes to the production include the elimination of an intermission, cabaret seating for 300, a midnight curtain and a 21-and-older age requirement.

"We're just a little bit freer with some of the things that were innuendo before," Bradley said. "It still has that modest Shag essence that is of a time before the sexual revolution, but it's still very sexy."

The major difference in the Vegas production, however, comes courtesy of Shag, who redesigned the sets and created a video wall to represent set shifts with animation, still scenery and graphics.

Seeing his work come to life is "kind of surreal," the Southern California-based artist said. "I still have a hard time believing it when I see it."

His favorite characters?

"The Siamese twins." Joined at the hair.

-- Lynne Heffley

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