World's Largest Stage Show

Dancing into the biggest show on Earth

MARGARET Heins never wanted to be anything but a ballet dancer, but fate - and her 1.7m (5ft 10) frame - had other ideas. And after a cabaret career that took her across the globe, dancing before more than one million people, meeting the likes of Frank Sinatra, Carey Grant, Sammy Davis Jr and Arnold Schwarzenegger - not to mention her photographer husband, Rick - she has absolutely no regrets.

"I was way too tall for a ballerina," the 61-year-old from Avoca Beach admits, looking back.

Disappointed after years training at the Royal Academy of Dance, what she didn't know was that her height made her ideal to become one of the Bluebell Girls, cabaret dancers under the management of Margaret Kelly, aka Miss Bluebell.

 

Dancer and choreographer for Paris's Folies Bergeres, who famously created cabaret troupes to dance in the Lido nightclub in Paris and then around the world, Miss Bluebell saw potential in the girl who auditioned for her in a Sydney lounge room.

Within a week, at 18 years old, never having travelled and never having done a cabaret dance or danced in high heels in her life, Margaret was on her way to Barcelona, Spain to dance at La Scala.

She performed for more than two years, learning the language - at least enough to have a couple of boyfriends and do the shopping - and loving the life and the fabulous costumes.

But that was just the start, with Margaret and a number of other dancers called into the office one night and offered positions dancing at the newly built MGM Grand Hotel in Reno, Nevada in the US.

"We had to decide yes or no then and there. So we all signed and then we went home and got out the atlas to find out where it was," she laughed.

It was 1978 and it was the biggest show in the world, with 150 dancers and an enormous stage (some say one acre), including elevators, a three-storey waterfall and a full-size DC9 plane on stage with girls standing on the wings.

The hotel itself boasted 1015 rooms, before an expansion three years later that took it to 2001 rooms and suites. Little wonder some of the biggest names in stardom wanted to see what it was all about.

"Reno then was just a very small town and it was such a huge hotel - everything was mega, it was all completely different to anything we'd ever seen before," Margaret said.

DANCING QUEEN: Margaret Heins at 61 still looks every inch the star.
DANCING QUEEN: Margaret Heins at 61 still looks every inch the star.

The girls, she said, couldn't stop "oogling" Frank Sinatra when he visited, while she still remembers exactly what Carey Grant was wearing and admits he looked very handsome.

Anne Margaret and Debbie Reynolds were among others to make their way backstage, while Sammy Davis Jr actually put on a show especially for the cast and crew.

But Arnold Schwarzenegger surprised in quite a different way - left looking relatively small by a group of girls all 1.8m or taller in the highest of high heels!

While the show closed in 1989, and Margaret hung up her professional heels for a family, she is back dancing, tapping her way through life with local group Betty's Show tappers, and looking forward to a reunion next year in Nevada, almost 30 years on.

"I think I was meant to be a showgirl," Margaret said.

"I wouldn't change a thing."


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