Disappearing act: Revue is robbed

Performers' tour van, costumes stolen after show in Annapolis

June 03, 2008|By Justin Fenton | Justin Fenton,Sun Reporter

Friday night began like others on the Thunder From Down Under tour, with six beefcake Aussies gyrating and flexing in front of two sold-out shows' worth of screaming women. But it ended with the performers' scouring the streets of Annapolis in search of a stolen tour van - and thousands of dollars worth of breakaway pants, thongs and cowboy costumes.

Bummer, mate.

"It's just very, very disconcerting that this is happening. Our whole philosophy is about having fun, female empowerment, ladies coming in and leaving their troubles at the door," said Adam Steck, a co-owner of SPI Entertainment, which produces the show. "This is the most damaging thing we've ever had happen on the road."

Timing is everything. Just a few moments earlier and whoever took the van from behind Rams Head On Stage might have been confronted by a bunch of muscle-bound dudes who can do flips, one-handed handstands and that weird pectoral-flexing thing.

The show is a fixture in Las Vegas, and promoters boast that 6.5 million women have been "seduced" by its performers since its debut 16 years ago. YouTube videos show plenty of shirts and pants being ripped off like candy wrappers, and someone's fiancee running her hands down a performer's oiled torso.

The traveling version of the show had stopped in Annapolis as part of a swing through the East Coast. The theft forced the group to cancel a Saturday night performance in Rhode Island, and a seamstress is working overtime in Vegas trying to whip up some new costumes, which the show orders from Australia.

You can't just buy a custom-made Spartan costume at the corner store.

"We just updated the show - there's a Jack Sparrow pirate theme, a military theme. We have a Motown theme, with bow ties and suit jackets. We have different costumes for each of the different acts," said Kristin Flannery, a publicist.

Bradford Singh, Rams Head On Stage's manager, said Thunder's booking was all about the ladies.

"We're a music venue, so it's not something we do on a regular basis, but it brings out the 'girls' night out' crowd and bachelorette parties," Singh said. "It's a nice change of pace that's not normally in Annapolis."

Items had gone missing before from past performances, perhaps from a female admirer or a jealous boyfriend, Steck said. Sprinkler systems have gone off, damaging materials. "But nobody's ever stolen a van completely full with every prop and costume that we have," he said.

The keys had been left inside the rental van after the props had been packed up so that a staff member could charge his phone, Singh said. He said the performers were hanging out at the bar and that the theft was discovered about 12:30 a.m. Saturday.

On the road 40 weeks a year, "Thunder" is a show that travels light, with about a half-dozen performers and two staff members. So the blokes fanned out into the night to try to locate the van. Steck said that included checking impound lots and pawnshops - in street clothes, of course.

"We had them call radio stations, we put fliers out," Steck said. "There are some dodgy neighborhoods, but they were determined to find it."

Organizers said they were less concerned about the van, a tan, rented 2008 Toyota Sienna with Georgia plates, than the costumes and merchandise inside, which Steck valued at $50,000. In addition to the custom costumes, Flannery said that dozens of calendars were taken, along with props for various performances, such as real swords for the 300-inspired Spartan number.

A reward of up to $5,000 is being offered for information leading to the recovery of the van and its contents.

Officer Hal Dalton, a spokesman with the Annapolis Police Department, said that vehicle thefts have been a problem in the area.

"Usually, these kind of things are done by joy riders, and [the vehicles] are found in relatively short periods of time," Dalton said. Event organizers "mentioned that the pants are the tearaway type. I'm not sure how much use that may be to someone else."

justin.fenton@baltsun.com

Anyone with information about the theft is asked to call Annapolis police at 410-268-4141.

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