By Annie Barrett
July 07, 2012 at 12:00 PM EDT

Or if you’re already Carson Kressley: Come for the heavage, stay for the mandatory nipple-hardness exam. Welcome, DANCMSTRs one and all, to Dancing With the Stars: Live in Las Vegas! (You still have until August 5 to see it.) This sizzling hunk of well-done tenderloin — offset beautifully, I might add, by shimmery, rare beef medallion Kressley — is Vegas troupe member Ryan Di Lello. You may know him from So You Think You Can Dance or some of your better dreams. I now know him as “Shoulders.”

First and foremost: Host Carson Kressley is a marvel. The star stylist and official Planet Mirrorballus cheerleader, who has really been buffing up, is the perfect ringleader for DWTS‘ Las Vegas show — a campy, chardonnay-drenched spectacle he calls “Cirque du So Gay.” Having been awarded carte blanche to blatantly lust after the male dancers the whole time, he’s a projection of what millions of viewers (and plenty of women in our raucous Saturday night audience) have been thinking to themselves for years.

Plus, he’s Carson Kressley, who — much like TV host Tom Bergeron — is never not funny, even (and especially) when momentarily thrown off by the unpredictable nature of doing it liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiive! The Tom vs. Carson dynamic won’t strike you during the Vegas show because Carson truly does make it his own — but you may end up pondering it days later while digging deep into the box of wine Carson encouraged you to try (as if you needed a push). Basically, Carson is Dancing With the Stars‘ Id and Tom is its Ego. We watch Carson lazily push a sparkly-handled mop around the floor, seemingly as an excuse to get closer to the action (“I have to get all the drag droppings,” he complains gleefully while sweeping up bits of boa), volunteer to “massage the troupe,” and fly above the stage in a glamorous fabric sling that unfortunately gave him a “giant moose knuckle,” just because he felt like it. And then there’s Tom, with his censor-friendly tone of what I can only describe as “jovial gravitas,” as he valiantly makes sense of the on-air madness so that it can function in reality (television). They both make the most of it; they’re both extraordinary machines.

It’s safe to say that if you don’t like Carson Kressley, you probably won’t like the Vegas show. But that goes for DWTS the TV series as well, and why would you still be reading this unless you were super into both of these otherworldly absurdities? Have you lost your way on EW.com like Chynna Phillips in the Mission: Impossible tango or Maksim Chmerkovskiy in a hall of mirrors? Look alive! You never know what might pop up.

Toto…I don’t think we’re on broadcast television anymore.

“This is kind of hard,” complained Carson. “I feel like Lance Bass.”

NEXT PAGE: The standout dances and a barefoot Dmitry Chaplin

Michael Gibson/FX

The overall experience of watching this stage show is much different than being in the ballroom for the television production and slightly less different than watching it on TV. The Tropicana theater is nice and intimate, so no matter where you sit, the dancers will fill the frame. It’s quite stunning, especially during the many bombastic group numbers. And the lack of camera blocking — or cameras in general — frees up the dancers to use the entire stage and actually move. The whole thing felt more like a musical — with slow/sensual or fierce/emphatic movements instead of dialogue, or literally (if we want to get all Carrie Ann about it) “beautiful lines” instead of spoken lines.

If you watch DWTS for the competitive element, you’ll find something lacking in the Vegas show. I didn’t. They’re completely different things. This is pretty much an hour of sex jokes, giddy reminders that you’re in Las Vegas, and really exquisite dancers who are thrilled to be dancing, with no other agenda than that. I didn’t feel much connection to the TV series at all, to be honest — and when highlight reels from the series and brief talking points from judges Len Goodman and Bruno Tonioli appeared on the two big screens next to the stage, they almost felt like schoolmarm-y assaults. Like, Yes, yes, I remember you, okay great, keep in touch/have a great summer…now where’s the off button and what’s the next dance? It was nice to not be aware of so much icky technology associated with DWTS. When you get really sucked into the TV show, you can start to believe you’ve been transported back in time. That’s what the Vegas show felt like for me. I was pretty enthralled. No more screens! Zero filters! BALLROOM UNPLUGGED.

As I expected, the dancer who embodied that classic for-the-love-of-the-game performance quality the most for me was Our Pro Lacey Schwimmer. Girl knows how to command a stage — even if she had just slunk into a corner, she was all I could see. Also, uh oh: I just read that Lacey hurt her ankle during the week and didn’t dance last night. Noooooo. If she can’t return that’ll be a huge loss for the show. Lacey and her crazy hair extensions (currently pink and purple) are truly the life of the party.

Oh, speaking of Lacey’s hair, “It’s too hot in Vegas” is really no excuse to miss DWTS Live. Not only is it just as sweltering where you live (I’m guessing), but if you go to Vegas you’ll get the opportunity to be fanned by a fringe-fueled human wind machine.

And then there’s the our stable of seasoned Stars — season 4 runner-up Joey Fatone, season 5’s cut-too-soon Sabrina Bryan, season 11 runner-up Kyle Massey and, somewhat bizarrely, season 2’s Tia Carrere. I kept craning my neck to even find Tia, who looks a lot like a brunette troupe member, during the group numbers. She had a foxtrot solo with Dmitry that was lovely, but sort of ho-hum. I initially wanted her to say something, but I ended up respecting that she just blended in with the rest of the sparkaliens. It’s sort of delicious that Maks’ first-ever partner has returned, unscathed, to the franchise and has essentially  blended in as a pro. There’s Cassandra from Wayne’s World. On the DWTS stage show. In Vegas. In 2012. Sure, why not?

Sabrina had a “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” group number with just her and all the guys that was pretty fun, and Carson delighted with his “Moves Like Jagger” solo with partner Iveta Lukosiute and an even campier reprise of his “Vogue” boys club number from the season 13 finale (see next page). But I was ultimately more focused on the pro dancers than the returning favorites. So the biggest delight for me was Anya Garnis, yet another SYTYCD alum who has popped up on a few Tuesday night results shows in the recent past.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Anya as one of Our Pros at some point — though if there’s any intention of maintaining a DWTS Vegas run throughout the rest of the year instead of just in the summer, whoever’s in charge may want to shackle her (using prop police handcuffs) and Dmitry to a Tropicana slot machine right now. She’s on fire!

YES. Fave dance of the night: Dmitry and Anya’s rumba. It took 14 seasons and a trip to Vegas for me to realize this, but maybe there IS a place for barefoot men in the ballroom. They just have to look/play the guitar/open their shirts like Dmitry. Oh screw that, they just have to be Dmitry. NEW RULE: Only Mr. Chaplin can remove his shoes.

Anya can barely even process his hotness.

So she smushes him.

Let us prey.

Fun fact: Those two celebrated their non-American roots by going to see the Celine Dion show on the Fourth of July. Wait, where are they? The lack of sparkles is throwing me off.

HEATWAVE! LET’S GO BODYSURFING NOW

Oh, my. Who’s the tall drink of Vodkaitamin Water on the right?

After an exhausting Twitter search (oh no! I had to look at this!) I’ve determined that the mystery man on the right is none other than Alexander Andreev. He goes by “Sasha,” was a lead dancer in Ballroom With a Twist, and has only 72 followers. Guess who’s about to sign up for a private lesson?

Some other Southern California floozy, probably. I’m too lazy, and this HEAT.

Carson couldn’t resist sneaking a peek in Sasha’s direction DESPITE the strict confines of his Vogue hands.

NEXT PAGE: Glamour shots of Tristan’s bedhead

AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEBOYBANDER

Mitchell Haddad

Here’s Joey and Anya’s “Jailhouse Rock” jive. Just to remind you that I’m an equal-opportunity objectifier, can we all just take a mirrorballed moment to leer at Anya’s lovely lady lumps? It looks like a perfectly sculpted butt pad shifted mid-flight — but no, it’s real! That’s just her butt!

WHAT IS YOUR DAMAGE, TRISTAN’S KNEECAP?

Pro dancer, amateur leprechaun, and EW.com blogger Tristan MacManus had injured his knee a few nights before I got there, so I didn’t get to see him dance. He did join me, Lacey, Carson, and Joey Fatone for a pre-show backstage chat in Carson’s dressing room.

(Check back here tomorrow for those videos!)

Turned out Tristan’s busted knee was pretty serious and, as he informed his Facebook fans last week, he’ll have to sit out the rest of the show’s run.

A moment of silence, please, for our wounded special agent of sexy.

MacManus. Tristan MacManus.

There, that’s better. But something else might be best.

Indeed, this was officially the best: bringing new friends and old…fine, “professional acquaintances” together. To Tristan’s left are EW.com readers Julie and Jackie, who’d decided to make the trip from Minnesota after learning at the end of season 14 that their fave of Our Pros, Tristan, would be joining the cast. I’d been emailing back and forth with Julie — a longtime hidden gem hunter — over the years, and last month she sent me a note thanking me for getting her hopelessly addicted to Dancing With the Stars; otherwise, “never in a million years would we have planned a trip like this.” I’d been looking for an excuse to go stalk Our Pros in a different state anyway, so I threw down my fringed wand and said “Screw it! I’m gonna go meet some strangers from the internet in VEGAS.”

And it worked out! Maybe the world’s not such a scary place after all.

BONUS BEDHEAD

*

The bottom line: If you’ve never gone to an L.A. taping and don’t think you’ll ever make it, this is honestly almost as good. You get to see the dancing you love, there’s WAY more feathers, the host is allowed to swear while living out your fantasy of molesting the cast, and you are allowed — nay, encouraged — to drink. It’s like the Golden Globes of Dancing With the Stars!

Oh, and the most glaring difference between the two productions as far as we esteemed gem hunters could tell?

VISIBLE GEMS. They’re everywhere. Nowhere to run to, baby. Nowhere to hide.

Both have merit!

Dancing With the Stars LIVE runs through August 5 at the Tropicana Las Vegas.

They’ll see you soon.

All images courtesy of Julie “Jem Ho” Hurley.

XOXO,

Fringe Fairy on Summer Vacay

P.S. Just noticed this on Twitter: Book by Monday to get this crazy 3-night deal

Follow @EWAnnieBarrett

Read more:

‘Dancing With the Stars’ finale recap: Battle for the Miracle Ball

Tom Bergeron chats with Annie about season 14 — EXCLUSIVE VIDEO

‘Dancing With the Stars’: Your Hidden Gems of the season 14 finals!

‘Dancing With the Stars All-Stars’: Who should be cast for season 15?

All of EW.com’s ‘DWTS’ recaps

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