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April 20, 2014

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‘Peepshow’ in his past, Josh Strickland is ready to take on Sinatra and Elvis in ‘Vegas! The Show’

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Denise Truscello/WireImage/DeniseTruscello.net

Cheaza, Coco Austin, Josh Strickland and Nick Kenkel after the final performance of “Peepshow” at Planet Hollywood on Sunday, Sept. 1, 2013.

Final ‘Peepshow’ at Planet Hollywood

Cheaza, Coco Austin, Josh Strickland and Nick Kenkel after the final performance of Launch slideshow »

Josh Strickland is staying in Vegas, the city, thanks to “Vegas! The Show.”

The male lead for the entire 4 ½-year run of “Peepshow” at Planet Hollywood, Strickland is moving into the cast of David Saxe’s signature production at Saxe Theater in Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood this month. He is expected to be onstage for a couple of shows beginning Tuesday before fulfilling a commitment on a Disney cruise through Oct. 10 before returning to the show full time.

Strickland earlier had talked of moving to L.A., singing with Disney stars on the cruise-ship circuit and ramping up his recording career. That changed in the days leading to the Labor Day Weekend closing of “Peepshow” when producer David Saxe sought Strickland to add additional star power to an already robust cast.

“As soon as ‘Peepshow’ closed, already having to think of what next, my partner, Todd (DuBail), and I thought of L.A. and giving that a try, then David called and expressed interest,” Strickland said by phone today. “When you know a show is closing, you look at all your options. I love this show. I love the people in it, the singers and the band are incredible, and I will be singing in a different way, and that will be really fun to explore.”

Strickland is taking the role originated by Tom Lowe and more recently inhabited by the departing Lou Gazzara, paying tribute to Frank Sinatra, Elvis, Elton John and Tom Jones. He’ll also be a member of the ensemble of singers, joining a superlative group of holdovers Reva Rice, Savannah Smith, Chelsea Phillips Reid, Janine Ayn Romano, Eric Jordan Young, Gabriel Burrafato, David Villella and Tezz Yancy.

The schedule for “Vegas! The Show” calls for Strickland to perform 10 shows per week, and Saxe is notoriously demanding of his singers.

Good, says Strickland.

“I went to school for vocal performance, and I’ve been on Broadway, so I know what hard work is all about,” said Strickland, who wowed audiences with his all-inhabiting performance as the lead in “Tarzan” before being cast in “Peepshow.” “I am just really excited to be in a different place, to be singing with a live band again. There is a huge difference between being in a tracked show and having that live-band feeling. It’s an amazing experience.”

Saxe says Strickland was “underutilized” in “Peepshow.”

“We’re not going gentle,” Saxe said today in a phone interview. “I told him, ‘I know you were screaming in ‘Pink,’ but this is a whole different style of singing, and we can’t hire you if you can’t do it. We want 100 percent a night. Our intent is to blow your voice out.’ ”

When asked if he was serious about wanting to blow out the voice of one of the Strip’s top vocalists, Saxe qualified that comment by saying: “I don’t want to sound like a jerk, but the reason to put this show together is because I can’t take all this crap around town anymore. We want people who love the art and the crowd goes nuts for because of the art. This is not cruise-ship (B.S.). That is our premise. So when I said to Josh, ‘I’m not going easy on you,’ he went, ‘Yes!’ He’s a total star.”

Having signed a six-month contact with a strong likelihood of extending incrementally, Strickland is glad to be staying in Vegas.

“This really is an entertainment Mecca,” he said. “There is a great pool of talent and an incredible nightlife that marries itself to the people who work here. It’s a great embrace. I’m really happy. I really didn’t want to leave.”

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at Twitter.com/JohnnyKats. Also, follow “Kats With the Dish” at Twitter.com/KatsWiththeDish.

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