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Hasselhoff gets
campy in Vegas version of The Producers

Hasselhoff gets
campy in Vegas version of The Producers

If you thought David Hasselhoff's YouTube video rendition of ''Hooked on a Feeling'' was kitschy, just wait until you see him in a dress.

The former Baywatch lifeguard takes on the role of flamboyant director Roger DeBris in the musical The Producers, which began preview performances Wednesday at the Paris casino-hotel on the Las Vegas Strip. The official opening is February 9.

It marks the latest quirky departure for ''The Hoff,'' who on YouTube dons a fur parka, flies through the air hanging onto a motorcycle, and sings on a boat in front of an iceberg.

In the chopped-down 90-minute version of the Tony award-winning Broadway musical, Hasselhoff sings, dances, and gets very campy, taking part in gay jokes that he insists are ''really tongue in cheek, and they're meant with a lot of respect.''

''When I put on the dress, it was very disconcerting. I said, 'There goes my audience,''' said Hasselhoff, 54. ''But I think it will be so funny and so over the top that people will enjoy it.''

Hasselhoff's pipes--he enjoys fame in Germany as a singer--and athleticism helped land him the role, said director and choreographer Susan Stroman. He has also played Billy Flynn in Chicago in London and made his Broadway debut in 2000 in the title role of Jekyll & Hyde, which opened in 1997.

''He does have the chops to get through it,'' Stroman said. The former Knight Rider actor also has his ''ego in check'' and doesn't take his Hollywood persona too seriously, she said. ''He has a fearless quality, and he's not afraid to try anything.''

Hasselhoff gets star billing for the show, even though it's mainly about a scheme by producer Max Bialystock, played by Brad Oscar, and his accountant Leo Bloom, played by Larry Raben, to over-finance a surefire Broadway flop and pocket the difference.

''It's still the story about Max and Leo,'' although their scenes are shortened, Stroman said. None of DeBris's appearances are abbreviated, she said.

''I have to say [David] has been very gracious about letting it be Max and Leo's show. Max and Leo have the last bow,'' she said.

But Hasselhoff is clearly the draw for the casino's show, said Michael Weaver, vice president of marketing for Paris Las Vegas, and will attract an international female audience that has seen him on TV.

Hasselhoff said he will be with the show at least three months, and afterward he'll resume taping of America's Got Talent on which he's a judge.

He may do both for a while and perhaps even migrate to another property on the Strip with a one-man singing show: ''Something very straight,'' he said. ''Something for the ladies.'' (Ryan Nakashima, AP)

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