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If you’re easily triggered by 30- to 40-foot props, dance routines with dozens of performers, childish wonder, juvenile humor, drug-trip simulations or just color, by all means avoid “Katy Perry: Play.” “You can come totally sober and still feel high,” Perry says of her phantasmagorical Resorts World Las Vegas residency, already famous for its talking face masks and poo, and dancing mushrooms, toothbrushes and tube socks.

Between the spectacle, glamour, literal bathroom humor and (not incidentally) breezy run-through of some of the indelible pop songs of the last 20 years, “Play” is a captivating, grin-inducing show that you may well wish you could mainline, repeatedly, or at least have captured in shroom form that could be put on sale in the gift shop. But, alas, its oversize pop-art pleasures can only be found in one location, so what happens in Vegas may demand a return trip to Vegas as the production returns to Resorts World March 2-19, May 27-29, June 3-11, July 29-30, Aug. 3-13 and some other future dates in 2022-23 yet to be announced.

When Perry spoke with Variety about the production, she was in a chair backstage getting a touchup on her new ‘do, saying: “I’m getting my hair dyed right now. What do they say? It smells like asking mama.”

Speaking of dye jobs, you’ve said people sometimes say they prefer you as a brunette rather than a blonde. Did that figure into which color you picked for Vegas?

It’s a journey. [Laughs] But everybody loves nostalgia. I was introduced to the world as a brunette, and … change is hard sometimes, but you gotta give ’em everything they want every once in a while, and that’s what I’m doing — at the moment.

Your show hits a lot of different sweet spot for those of us who love old Hollywood musicals and classic choreography. And then I’m also basically a child, so I think that that helps a little bit, too.

Me, too. You know, there are moments in the show where I do “WWLD” — “What Would Liza Do?” But I’m such a big kid. I’ve never grown up, and Walt Disney is my hero, and Mister Rogers and Pee Wee Herman are my favorite characters. I have my nieces in town, who are 5 and 6, and this morning  we woke up and we just went straight to Circus Circus, and I’m like, “Let’s go for it.” I think I just love fantasy lands. That’s because I probably lived in my head so much growing up. My mind is a child-like mind. I mean, I’m a Club 33 member from years ago. When I step foot in Disneyland, I’m going straight to Toontown, just because I love the textures.

You’ve mentioned “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” meets “Pee-wee’s Playhouse.” I was thinking “Toy Story” as an acid trip, or Busby Berkeley meets “Toy Story” meets “South Park”… with a healthy dose of actual old-school Las Vegas, with classic headdresses and tuxes toward the end.

I’ll take all of those references. There is a little Follies Bergiere moment. I’ve watched all of those old movies, and everything somehow seeps its way in at some point. I love the (old Vegas) glamour and the wit.

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Katy Perry performs onstage at Resorts World Las Vegas John Shearer for Katy Perry

How was it conceived?

Really it’s my team that allows me to make these dreams reality and let me push as far as I can possibly go. I created the show with some of my long-time directors and producers that have helped me imagine other big worldwide tours. I don’t think they’re very surprised by my requests anymore because we’ve been working together for so long. We were working on this over Thanksgiving and Christmas when you really can’t get any packages on time, so we were under the gun to make it all happen in a timely matter. And at our opening show (Dec. 29), it was by the grace of God that we had everything there. You know, we had a couple twisted ankles as people where trying to figure out how to maneuver different props, and there was a lot of blood, sweat, and tears that went on to get this show up.

I work with this group called Square Division, which did my last tour, “Witness: The Tour,” before COVID, in 2018. And my producer, Baz Halpin, is the guy that produces all the big-time shows, really. We just came up with this tagline, just the one little synopsis: I’m a doll. And then I was like: “Got it! Let’s go. I know how to steer this ship.” And our text thread just became more absurd as the weeks passed, with ideas where we were all like, “Oh my God, we can’t believe we’re pursuing this.” People are showing up really just to see the spectacle. At the Wednesday show, someone had a sign: “I’m just here to see the poo in real life.” And I was like, oh my God, what have I created? It’s like Left Shark, but worse.

You mentioned that you like animating inanimate objects as costumes. Watching the show, I think the moment that won me over toward the very beginning of the evening was… the dancing tube sock.

[Laughs.] In that first scene in the little boy’s bedroom, the dancing tube sock is one of the first big costumes, but it’s a dirty sock. It’s got a hole, along with the red and white lines. It takes you back to a certain time. And mind you, we are loosely setting this whole thing in a ‘60s-style motif — even down to the pre-show music being a mix of doo-wop and ‘60s psychedelic. But I’m glad that you noticed the sock, because I love that guy.

Was the giant talking face mask hard to pull off?

It was. How do you put a person in it and make the mouth look like it’s talking? But the mask may not be here forever. Let’s hope it’s not! We need some levity because this is just such a weird time to be alive, and to be doing a crazy show during a pandemic that keeps bubbling. I just thought, let’s take the piss out of this situation a little bit.

 

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Katy Perry performs onstage at Resorts World Las Vegas John Shearer for Katy Perry

There was an interview you did on “Good Morning America” where you were asked about why you were going into Resorts World Las Vegas, and you said, “I like shiny new things.” Surely lots of Vegas offers had come your way before, but what were you sort of holding out for something that would make it even more special, like the opening of a brand new hotel and venue? Or was it down to other reasons?

Resorts World is like the new hotel on the Strip in like 15 years, so that’s fantastic, and they treat me so well. And, you know, I followed some of my peers, like Gaga and Gwen Stefani, and it feels like the timing for high quality entertainment is really alive in Vegas again. So I’m glad to be here when that rebirth is happening and being a part of it. But I think it’s all been about timing.

I’ve been able to tour the world three times over, and so it felt like, okay, I’ve done that; I got to play the Super Bowl. I wanted to start my personal life and make a family, and then also be able to contribute as an artist at the same time and just find balance. Because when you’re single and in your 20s and full of foaming-at-the-mouth ambition, you’re just gonna zip-a-dee-doo-dah all over the world until you possibly can’t anymore. And that’s what I did do. And now I am finding balance, having a baby and being a mother and also doing Vegas and “American Idol” and all those things. Eventually I’ll go back into beast mode where we tour all over the world, but while she [her daughter, Daisy] is small and everything is just like a sparkle in her eye, I want to be there at every moment. So Vegas was always kind of a thing I wanted to do when I wanted to find a little bit more balance, strangely. No one ever says that concerning Vegas.

But I decided to have this show and make it larger than life and really invest in making a show you can really only see in Vegas, so it’s really a destination situation. Because  I literally wouldn’t be able to tour it because there’s not a semitruck that could fit the toilet.

You said this is a family-friendly show, and it is, although you are making some interspecies whoopie when you’re making out with the female frog during “I Kissed a Girl.” With a lot of your career, whether it’s the odd trademark bras or other things, it’s sort of somewhere in this realm between kids’ entertainment and burlesque. It’s childlike and it’s a little naughty, but it never lands completely in any one camp.

Yeah. We straddle the line. It’s a balancing act. I call it “deep winks.” We have lots of deep winks in there. But it goes back to me coming to Vegas with my family. We never went on vacation, but we did come to Vegas. My grandma lived here and we had family here, and we stayed with her sometimes and we got the cheapest room sometimes at the Excalibur,. So when I think o this show, I just think it’s fun for the whole family, and it’s stimulating and it’s exciting and it’s somewhat appropriate. I just love that a whole family can come. My nieces come every time they can, and they’re 5 and 7. I think that Las Vegas is turning into more of an experiential place, because Gen Z and millennials gamble less. They want the photo. They want the currency of the likes, and so that’s usually an experience or something to see, you know?

You and Luke Bryan are rotating with some others in Resort World’s theater, along with doing “American Idol.” Does that require kind of a scheduling committee for everyone to make sure different things happen at different times during the year?

Yeah, and there’s also Lionel (Richie) who’s at “Idol” and then in Vegas at the Wynn, and touring too. But we let the teams figure it out and fight, and everything lands, always. We always do our best, each camp, to make sure that we can show up for our work.

How long are you in Vegas for, ultimately?

I’m doing 40 shows this year and next year, and that’s pretty much it.  I’ve completed 10 and am excited to put some more on. It’s already passing kind of quickly — 10 shows, that’s one-fourth of my shows already. It’s exciting and I love it. This has kind of been a bucket-list moment for me.

You mention in the show that your grandma and aunt worked on this same property, decades ago, when it was the Stardust.

Well, I never really knew my aunt, and I only really knew her through the story that my cousin tells me. But it’s funny. I didn’t really put it together until after I decided to do the residency, but I guess it did feel very natural, coming here as a kid and having my family work in this business in some ways.

And then the other day when I was flying home, the other day when I was flying home, I was like, oh, my God, I’ve totally left my father out of this story. He was a Las Vegas chauffeur, and my mom met my dad during a church revival, when she was a reporter in Vegas for a minute. So I’m like, oh, no wonder this feels very “in the blood” in some ways. My aunt was a top showgirl, and she was pursued a lot by different characters around town. It’s serendipitous, and almost simulation-ist [laughs] — I know that’s not a word — that I would be here 35, 40 years later.

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Katy Perry performs onstage at Resorts World Las Vegas Getty Images for Katy Perry