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My Gay Toronto - 416 Scene

Bryan Cheatham helps Chippendales Break The Rules and shred over a 100 shirts a night

by Drew Rowsome

Bryan Cheatham wears many hats, and often not much else, in his various roles with the Chippendales organization. While still performing - singing, hosting, and dancing - in the Chippendales show at the Rio in Las Vegas, he also has the job of creative director, overseeing the Rio crew and the opening of a new Vegas show 53X. And overseeing the touring show which is on its way to Toronto before heading to Europe. "We're in rehearsals right now," he says, breathless but laughing. "We're always in rehearsals it seems like."

This is the Break the Rules Tour and Cheatham hedges when asked what that means. "You have to come to the show to see. I can't give away the secrets, to see what rules we're breaking. We're always pushing the envelope. Each year we try to go a little bit further, just to see what things we can get away with." He will say, "The Toronto show will be even better than what you see in Vegas. Vegas does things big and I'm from Texas and we like to do things big too. So I bring that to the stage to make sure that the touring show is what you would see in Vegas tenfold."

The press release brags that in its history, Chippendales dancers have torn off over 1.2 million shirts. How much sartorial carnage will we witness in Break the Rules? "Let me see," says Cheatham. "There's 10 guys and we rip shirts off in at least four numbers, so I'm going to say over 100 shirts torn off and tossed out into the audience. A souvenir to take home."

Despite gay men being a prime market for the Chippendales' calendars, aren't those tossed souvenirs aimed mainly at women? "Here's the deal," says Cheatham. "When Chippendales first started out, it was definitely a show designed for women. But its 2016. As we're progressing its becoming more acceptable just to love everybody. The guys are comfortable performing for women, for men. When you come to the show it's an entertaining show, it's a good time. We have straight guys who come to the show with their girlfriends, their wives, and they're entertained. They think its going to be dudes in g-strings grinding up on girls - that's not what it is. It's theatrical. It's burlesque. It's artistic. There's a story. It's accessible to everybody."

Does it bother Cheatham that Chippendales has a reputation slightly above stripping? "Here's the deal. Once they come to the show, it works in our favour. People either don't know what to expect or expect something totally different. When they see that the guys are more than just good-looking dudes - these guys are talented, they're singing and dancing and playing instruments and flipping. It's not what they expected. I think it's better to under-promise and over-deliver and that's what tends to happen."

Cheatham thinks talent always trumps beefcake. He himself was voted "Vegas' Sexiest Performer" by the Las Vegas Review Journal but he laughs it off. "I don't try to be sexy, I don't think I'm sexy. I think they're crazy for even giving me that title. I'm just a goofball and I love performing. I love what I do. And I think that's what people might find sexy. I think girls and guys find just a normal guy sexy, a guy who smiles and isn't trying to be a stud but is just there and doing what he loves to do: to entertain and perform. And hopefully turn people on in the process . . ."

While Cheatham has been applauded, lusted over, and fantasized about by thousands, there is one experience that stands out. "Cher was here for VH1 Divas so I was able to dance for her, to dance alongside her in that epic performance she did. That was amazing. She's an icon and to be able to share a stage with her was the chance of a lifetime."

Much more Bryan Cheatham and Chippendales at drewrowsome.blogspot.ca

The Chippendales 2016 Break the Rules Tour is on Fri, August 19 at The Danforth Music Hall, 147 Danforth Ave. chippendales.com

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