What do you get when you combine a magic dragon, a showgirl and a Chihuahua? It’s not a set-up for a punchline; Dallas-Fort Worth denziens can discover the answer first-hand when Piff the Magic Dragon, Jade (The Showgirl) Simone and Mr. Piffles take to the Wyly Theatre stage at the AT&T Performing Arts Center for two shows, Oct. 26.
Piff the Magic Dragon (John Van der Put)—don’t call him John, he won’t answer—came into the limelight with a run on “America’s Got Talent” in 2015, and it was off to the races. Now, the trio plays 300 shows a year, including a residency at the Flamingo Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
Performing on the road has its place in the overall routine, and a trip to Dallas is extra-special.
“When we’re in Vegas, we’re just one of 10 different things; when we come to town it’s the big thing of the week to see Piff the Magic Dragon," says Piff. “We love Dallas, Jade (Simone) is from there, so we have a close relationship with it.”
“I’m a Dallas girl,” says Simone, who attended Arts Magnet High School for the Performing Arts. “I’m thrilled to go back to Dallas, play shows at the Wyly. I wish I had more time.”
The funny former Vegas showgirl and emcee, who gets comparisons to Carol Burnett for her facial expressions and style, likes to head to Deep Ellum, always asks if they can stay at Hotel Zaza, and loves driving through Highland Park and Cedar’s Creek. She also has has certain needs upon her return to the Metroplex.
“Tex-Mex food,” she says without hesitation. “I grew up running around the city and I like to go old school, like Blue Goose on Greenville Avenue, or go get my hands on Pappasito’s. Piff thinks it’s funny to say Chilis is Tex-Mex. He thinks it’s a funny argument."
The act shines with Piff’s deadpan manner playing against Simone’s shtick, where anything can happen.
“He’s got a dry sense of humor, but the light goes on when he walks onstage,” says Simone. “He’s so quick on his feet. I learn so much every day. It’s kind of mind-blowing at times. He allows me to improv[ise]. We have set pieces, but depending on who we pick from the audience determines what direction we go.”
Piff and Simone have been a couple since meeting backstage at a dance-variety show Lance Burton’s wife was doing.
“We met on that stage. He tried to charm me with a chocolate donut. We were waiting for the curtain call and he kept asking me, ‘Want a bite, want a bite?’ Why is he eating in a dragon outfit?” Simone says.
Or, the question could be, why is he in a dragon suit at all?
“I used to be a regular human, but I always was getting asked ‘Why are you so grumpy, what’s your problem?’" says Piff. "So, I had to get into the dragon suit to make it more socially acceptable.”
And his persistence paid off quickly after getting her phone number behind the curtain.
“That number called me through the night,” Simone says. “Went to dinner. He said he liked my comedic showgirl act—‘You have to do this for my act.’ Two days after AGT we hit the road and it’s been almost five years—and we still like each other …. There’s nothing like an over-the-top, glamorous showgirl and a sarcastic, grumpy dragon. I’m a boisterous Texas showgirl and he’s a sarcastic, grumpy dragon,” she humorously clarifies.