Madeline Feldman didn’t always dream of being the young producer of a hot modern cabaret show.
“At my preschool graduation, I announced that I wanted to be a honeydew farmer,” said Feldman, 25. “I don’t know where that came from.”
Along with co-producer Dreu Murin and choreographer Nayte Tavcar, the Tahoe born-and-raised Feldman is the driving force behind “Decadence,” a variety cabaret show at Harrah’s Reno. It’s no agrarian utopia, but she’ll take it.
“I wouldn’t have imagined this life,” she said. “I know this is cliché, but you never work a day in your life if you’re doing what you love. And being able to create and give performers the opportunity to perform, which is all they want to do ... is definitely a dream.”
“Decadence” runs every Saturday through Feb. 25 at Sammy’s Showroom at Harrah’s Reno, with a special industry night Sunday, Jan. 8 and Valentine’s Day show Tuesday, Feb. 14. All performances are at 10 p.m.
The adults-only show is a grab-bag of dance styles and motifs, including hip-hop, ballroom, lift, aerial, as well as music and comedy.
“You never know what’s gonna come next,” Feldman said. “It really is just a huge mix. We’ve taken the allure of burlesque, and the tease, and we’ve created a new genre. I like to call it the new era of cabaret.”
The troupe was cast entirely from Reno-area talent.
“We pride ourselves on being local,” Feldman said. “We’re 100-percent locally made and locally born, proving that you don’t have to leave Reno to be successful.”
And word is spreading. Feldman’s production company, Prestige Productions, along with Murin’s Dreu Murin Productions and choreographer Tavcar, have recently mounted shows in Denver and will soon open in Austin, Texas. The model involves taking a core group of performers from the home base in Reno and casting the rest of the troupe from the host city.
“The vision is entertainment for all, and providing work for local performers at the high caliber of a Vegas-style show right in your town,” Feldman said.
The dancing bug
Feldman, after setting aside her melon-farming dream, grew up dancing and competing. The Zephyr Cove born-and-raised, University of Nevada, Reno graduate didn’t set out to become and entertainment producer. She began college with social work in mind, but quickly realized if she switched her focus to international business she could study abroad. While pursuing her business degree, she danced in several UNR productions, enjoying the process and the performances, but soon necessity once again become the mother of invention.
“It was during my senior year and I was dancing in shows, and I just kind of found myself thinking, ‘I would do this differently,’” Feldman said.
The timing — the U.S. economy was in turmoil in 2008 — turned out to be excellent. As casinos cut budgets, live shows with large casts and elaborate production values were among the first to go. Dancers in the Reno-Tahoe area were suddenly looking for work.
“I just thought, ‘I’m going to create an opportunity.’ It just started off as a bucket list sort of thing of ‘Let’s just do this for the fun of it,’ and I ended up falling in love and never looking back. It was kind of one of those things where you fall into your happy place.”
Decadence is both a throwback to the Las Vegas variety type shows of the 1950s and ’60s and a completely new hybrid.
“Our whole motto for this show is ‘Escape to the cabaret,’” Feldman said. “‘Come into our world and see what limitless looks like. Let go and enjoy yourself and be part of it.’”
Employing local talent while doing so is particularly gratifying, she said.
“Reno-Tahoe used to be a huge show destination,” she said. “There used to be shows running at every casino. A lot of the old showgirls still live in the area. And with the fall of the economy, it just never got back to the same place. Casinos just aren’t buying shows like they used to. So, there aren’t any other opportunities for locally cast dancers that I know of in the area right now.”
All of the dancers in “Decadence” have competitive backgrounds similar to Feldman’s, and each is technically trained.
“We’re a new generation,” she said. “We say burlesque-inspired, or that we have a hint of burlesque, because we really are so far from traditional burlesque that we’ve taken it and made it our own genre.”
Audiences seem to agree. The show’s current run (its first Harrah’s performances ran from October 2015 to March 2016) has been blowing people away, Feldman said.
“The response has been incredible,” she said. “I am so proud of our team and so grateful for the audiences we’ve had. The responses here have been overwhelming.”
The young entrepreneur is nothing if not fearlessly ambitious. She makes no bones about hoping to continue to build the “Decadence” brand and take it to new cities, and doesn’t rule out branching out into other areas of entertainment production.
But even as the show’s success opens new doors for her and her partners, Reno will always be home. And the crowd pleasing, boundary-pushing style she’s fashioned with “Decadence” will continue to be her calling card.
“If our audience is happy, we’re happy,” Feldman said. “As long as there’s a stage and an audience, that’s our place.”
If You Go
What: Decadence (21+ show)
When: 10 p.m. every Saturday through Feb. 25 with special shows Jan. 8 and Feb. 14
Where: Sammy’s Showroom at Harrah’s Reno, 219 N. Center St.
Details: caesars.com/harrahs-reno or 775-786-3232