Magic Mike on stage feels a bit like dating in London in my thirties: all the young, hot people got it on while I sat on the sidelines. But as a voyeur at this expensive strip-meets-cabaret show, there was some serious titillation: pains are taken to remind you that it has very much been made with the female gaze in mind. The romp unfolds in a faux-club built in Leicester Square’s already-slightly-seedy (in a good way) Hippodrome Casino, based upon the Xquisite strip joint from Steven Soderbergh’s surprise 2012 cinematic smash.
The movie’s star Channing Tatum – whose IRL undressing escapades originally informed the film’s plot – is behind this theatrical reimagining, with London the second destination of ‘Magic Mike Live’ following a hugely successful run in Vegas. But it’s important to note that co-director Tatum (who, alas, merely lends his voice to the performance) has worked with a gender-balanced team and the sense that this is a safe space for women enshrouds the entire show, despite it being filled with semi-naked men.
The plot (in the loosest sense) centres on Michelangelo – Mike to you – a waiter plucked from the crowd and trained in showing a woman a (consensual) good time by our female emcee, played by actor Sophie Linder-Lee. She sounds a bit like Jane Horrocks and makes a lot of jokes about ‘jizz’ and the tightness of her own vagina. Most of the ladies pulled to the stage for some public gyration were mega hot (so hot, it almost felt like they’d been planted), but it seemed the emcee was symbolic of the more average woman, and she was shown the sort of time we all want and deserve. It’s a sweet message (sort of), but the combo of her banterous interjections and the narrowly focussed audience interaction left me feeling very unaroused (and a teensy bit unloved).
There was just one dance that got me a bit wet, and that involved a sort-of posh paddling pool suspended from the ceiling. In it, Mike and a professional female dancer writhed half-naked in the rain as if in a XXX version of ‘The Notebook’. Hot. A ripped male cast (with more collective abs than Brazil’s Olympic diving team) has been formed from a talented troupe of international dancers, singers and musicians who are very easy on the eye and have very shiny skin when the clothes come off.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to see them show off their… talents – especially in times when toxic masculinity is under the microscope. I mean, who knew tap dancing could be so sexy? But none of the performers (including one who was the spitting image of Tatum) had that roguish charm that the cast of the movies had, or their comedic timing. And, as it happens, there’s not a thong in sight. (But actually, maybe that’s a good thing.)
Rather than provide pure raunch, a thread runs throughout the night about how, as women, we deserve to feel empowered and appreciated. ‘You are enough, just as you are,’ declares our host just before the boys hump the floor to Ginuwine’s ‘Pony’. It was like we were in a Bridget Jones time-warp. Magic Mike’s London outing doesn’t feel remotely like it’s been written for a woke London audience, especially with jokes as in-your-face as those bulges. But they were lapped up by the audience like the whipped cream used in one of the acts (a reimagining of 50 Cent’s ‘Candy Shop’). Go in the right mood with a gang of girls and this could be some kind of magic. But instead of needing a cold shower, I just left Magic Mike feeling a little bit cold.