RISE AND SHINE BRINGS THE SUN TO YOUR TABLE


Made-to-order meals served with a side of whimsy…

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One of the great things about visiting Sin City is the endless supply of new and exciting restaurants. Just when you think you’ve decided on a favorite, another pops up to demand your attention. And quite often, they’re off the beaten path.

 

Such is the case with Rise and Shine: A Steak and Egg Place. This wonderful little treasure features made-to-order meals served with a side of whimsy. You’ll know you’ve left the ordinary behind from the moment you walk in the door.

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Click here to continue reading…

Photos: Sam Novak

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Wynn’s LE REVE Makes New Waves With Major Revision


Detailing major updates to Wynn’s long-running signature production…

NOTE: This article previously appeared on another site in February 2017. There have been additional revisions to the show since then. I will be revisiting Le Reve very soon and will share those updates with you at a later time.

The aquatic show Le Reve – A Small Collection of Imperfect Dreams opened at Wynn Resort in May of 2005. It was an eerie tale told through acrobatics and a blend of water and aerial ballet. Sets were adorned with skulls and skeletons, while the ceiling was layered with actual casts of human bodies. The dream of an “everyman” protagonist caught both audiences and critics off-guard. It was surprisingly dark for a night out in Vegas and became a bit of a PR nightmare for the newly-opened resort.

Le Reve

Despite the fact that this writer was blown away (I saw it on my first Vegas trip), the production was quickly retooled. A lengthy process of reinvention took place over the next several years, much in keeping with the “fluid” nature of its setting. Le Reve was lightened and brightened, transformed from a sinister nightmare into a sweeping adventure filled with romance, dance….and lots of flowers.

The reinvention worked. Le Reve – The Dream (its second official name) became a must-see…and winner of Best Production Show for six consecutive years (Southern Nevada Hotel Concierge Association). Throughout its run, additional artistic and technological elements have been added to keep audiences returning. My personal tally is twenty-seven as of this writing (you can read all about my previous experiences by visiting an archived VegasChatter article here).

Le Reve

Perhaps it was a reflection of the times that a happy version of Le Reve soared while the economy was tanking. Failed projects continue to surround the Wynn/Encore property, reminders of a time when the future of Las Vegas growth suddenly seemed bleak. But for fans of Le Reve, all was sunny and bright.

Now that tourists are pouring back into Vegas in record numbers and money is flowing once more, the folks at Wynn Entertainment have once again retooled their namesake show (Wynn resort was originally to be called “Le Reve”). And surprise…the production has gone back to the beginning and restored a bit of the darkness.

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Why would an established show embrace an approach that didn’t work so well the first time around? Perhaps we can credit this to the current crop of Vegas enthusiasts. Younger crowds that make Sin City their go-to destination these days don’t generally attend this type of production. But they do indulge in imagination-based entertainment like gaming, martial artistry, sci-fi, and superheroes.

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Le Reve version 2017 has tapped into the burgeoning fantasy culture and brought heroes and villains to the center of Le Reve’s aqua-stage. A romantic triangle that forms the core of its storyline has been amped up, with characters and costumes having a new sense of familiarity to genre fans. Elements of AVATAR and Ridley Scott’s LEGEND, sword/sorcery visuals and graphic novel sensibilities have been woven into the plotline, along with a dashing prince-like hero (in a billowy romance-cover shirt) and a bald, muscular challenger in black leather pants.

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As you might expect, Le Reve is much less of a musical now. The live singing doesn’t kick in until the second third of the show. Most of the ballroom dancing has been jettisoned, along with three angels who served as comic relief. In their place are two impish sidekicks who serve a staff-wielding Dream Master. That ominous character sends the dreamer into her adventure and leads her from one experience to the next before returning her to our world.

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Certain acts remain relatively unchanged, like a wild sequence with giant fishing nets and another with three female acrobats inside of a sphere. Natural elements like rain, snow, and fire have been amped up. A new effect features globes made entirely of water that descend from an enormous domed ceiling….while flames swirl around inside of them. It’s hard to describe, but absolutely breathtaking.

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As you might expect, not all is perfect in the new Le Reve. The happy-ending finale is set to a horribly cheesy song that would be more at home in Disney’s Parade of Lights. The Piece Montee set, a multi-tiered fountain from which high-divers leap and spin, is now adorned with Day-Glo accents that resemble a child’s aquarium. In fact, the entire sequence feels like a deleted scene from The Little Mermaid or Finding Nemo.

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A source connected with the show told me (on condition of anonymity) that the current finale is a remnant from a different failed revision that Steve Wynn halted (Wynn has had a hands-on role since purchasing the rights from creator Franco Dragone in 2006 and provides a voice-over in the latest rollout).

Apparently, this jettisoned re-imagining was only performed twice for audiences before being packed up and tossed into the dead pool. For whatever reason, the “get-happy” conclusion from the discarded reworking remains. It could easily be excised until another one is created and the show would still feel complete.

The source went on to say that original composer Benoit Jutras has been working on a new score to balance the overall tone and that a lyricist will be adding songs back into the production soon. So Le Reve will continue to be fluid, at least in the weeks and months ahead.

Le Reve

As I stated in my review of the Beatles LOVE update, retooling a successful show can be a risky proposition. But like the artists of Cirque du Soleil, Wynn’s entertainment group has stayed true to the source material while making it feel brand new.

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Comparisons to Cirque du Soleil will most likely follow The Dream throughout its run, which in unfortunate. Le Reve – The Dream sets itself apart in ways too numerous to mention. Unlike Bellagio’s O, the show at Wynn manages to be both intimate and epic. It’s my personal favorite in the city.

Le Reve – The Dream is a spectacle on a massive scale. It’s incredible entertainment…and one hundred percent pure “Las Vegas.”

Le Reve – The Dream performs Friday through Tuesday at 7 pm and 9:30 pm. Tickets start at $115.00 plus taxes/fees and are available by clicking here. Our friend at VegasFool.com is running a special with Grandview seating for $99 plus taxes/fees (regular $145) by following this link.

Photos: Sam Novak

 

 

LOVE 2.0 Merges Tech, Heart…and Lots More Beatles


“The Beatles: LOVE” remains one of the most spectacular and satisfying shows in town…

When Cirque du Soleil unveiled “The Beatles: LOVE” twelve years ago at Mirage, it was a first in many ways. The custom-designed 360-degree theater had an immersive sound system with speakers built into the seats. Intricate stage platforms quickly transformed the set from one sequence into another. Hi-tech projections created the illusion of a unique concert experience that couldn’t be seen anywhere else.

And the biggie of them all…the Montreal-based acrobatic company had built their first-ever show around an existing musical property – the Fab Four. Dozens of works by the Beatles were intricately woven into a musical tapestry that defies explanation. It was lovingly created for LOVE by Sir George Martin (aka “the fifth Beatle”) and his son Giles with the blessings of Ringo StarrPaul McCartneyJohn Lennon‘s wife Yoko Ono and Olivia Harrison, widow of George.

A lot has changed in the ensuing years, especially in the relationship between Cirque and Las Vegas. Further collaborations resulted in productions featuring Michael Jackson (hit), Elvis Presley (fail) and Criss Angel (where do we start?). With the closure of Zarkana two years ago (the second of their shows to fail in the Aria theater), it’s fair to question whether CDS has over-extended their brand on the Strip. Still… LOVE started out…and remains…a critically-acclaimed crowd-pleasing hit.

The Beatles: LOVE

        May 5th, 2016 – Massive crowds lined up to see “Beatles: LOVE” at Mirage

For the tenth anniversary of LOVE, Cirque took on the challenge of revising, updating and fine-tuning what many already consider to be the best show in the city. A risky proposition, but with Giles and original artistic director Dominic Champagne at the helm, the updating was nearly flawless…and quite beautiful.

Those unfamiliar with the show…or who haven’t seen it multiple times (this writer clocks in at 14 and counting) will be oblivious to the more subtle tweaks. But the new sound system, updated video elements, and three-dimensional projections stand out as clearly state-of-the-art.

LOVE’s pacing is also much tighter in this new incarnation. What once began from an incredibly slow build to explosive action, then back to a more solemn World War II sequence now drives continuously forward, thanks to the addition of Twist and Shout.

There’s less focus on the Beatles as children (in fact, during the media event that I attended for the tenth anniversary, only three child actors were present, but their downplayed roles hardly made it noticeable). Another absence, seemingly permanent, was the “Eleanor Rigby” character (portrayed by beloved Brazilian actress Silvia Aderne since the beginning).

The Beatles: LOVE

It seems as though the re-sequenced songs and staging are now meant to represent an emotional interpretation of the Beatles’ cultural impact, more so than just a chronological depiction of their rise. LOVE has always been quite a bit on the dreamy side, with surreal visuals and characters.

Now the show is even more trippy, with wildly colorful costumes and props that are vivid and vibrant. Whimsical touches, like characters and sea creatures from Yellow Submarine and Octopus’s Garden, permeate every corner of the massive arena.

Two significant numbers have been re-imagined by replacing marionettes with projections. Lady Madonna has jettisoned the dancing yellow galoshes. The once-black floor now comes alive with moving multi-colored spots that turn the surface into a living Twister game board.

While My Guitar Gently Weeps has done away with the giant marionettes made of letters. In their place, a sole female character now dances with an animated sketch of a man that moves, morphs, and flies from one screen to another throughout the auditorium. The scene and staging are hard to describe, but their beauty brought tears to my eyes.

The Beatles: LOVE

The biggest sequence – and a fan favorite – is the enormous mushroom-cloud bedsheet that spreads over the audience during Within You Without You/Tomorrow Never Knows. That set piece remains, but it was unclear from my seating position whether anything going on above the canvas had been updated (that statement might only make sense if you’ve seen LOVE in the past).

Check out the YouTube video below for a brief look at this mind-blowing segment.

Speaking of the previous version, it’s worth noting that the four band members were once only shown in silhouette until the final moments. Now their faces are front and center, sometimes using archival footage that syncs with the soundtrack. That effect and a few others might need a little tweaking (the show was briefly interrupted on the night I attended, due to a glitch) in the weeks leading up to the official tenth-anniversary celebration.

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That gala on July 14th 2016, presented the return of Ringo, McCartney, and the widows of John and George for a formal event. It was truly an epic night and one for my personal Hall of Memories.

It’s terrific to know that one of my favorite Vegas shows is just as wonderful as ever. Whether you’re a fan of the Liverpool quartet, Cirque du Soleil or just great productions, The Beatles: LOVE remains one of the most spectacular and satisfying shows in town. Don’t miss it.

The Beatles LOVE performs Tuesday through Saturday at 7 pm and 9:30 pm. Tickets and information on behind-the-scenes tours and VIP  experiences are available through this link. Our friend at VegasFool.com has tickets starting at $75 (plus taxes/fees) by clicking here.

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared on another site. It has since been updated.

Photos: Sam Novak

Serenity Helicopters: the Ultimate Grand Canyon Experience


VIP service brings another dimension to Las Vegas dinner-and-a-show dates…

Sometimes the fates are determined to bring certain individuals into your life….not once, but many times. Such was the case two short months ago when I met a charismatic couple on a flight from Portland, Oregon to Las Vegas.

During my conversation with them, I stated that for a variety of reasons I’d never join them as residents of Sin City. Fast-forward to a few short weeks later. Now I’m buying a Vegas home…and ran into them again at the AFAN Black and White Party. It was clear that yet another encounter was ahead…one that would culminate in a return trip to the skies.

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The couple is pilot/company instructor Jim Gisclair and his wife Trina Larmony, Operations Manager at Serenity Helicopters. Just the mention of choppers pricks up my ears, as riding in a helicopter has been one of my longtime desires. I told Jim and Trina about my website and how I’d absolutely love to do an article on their service. After all, it would make a great companion piece to my one on Sin City Skydiving, which you can read here.

Serenity Helicopters

Jim and Trina are amazing people who are worthy of their own profile article. I could tell you about Jim’s experiences as an former UH-60 Blackhawk Pilot for the United States Army. I could go on endlessly about Trina’s tireless charitable work on behalf of children with special needs.

Perhaps they’ll end up in a future edition of SEXY POWER DUOS. Trina and Jim certainly are a stunning pair. But let’s focus on Serenity Helicopters for now…and what sets them apart from similar companies in the Valley.

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Much like in Hawaii, the Vegas area is perfect scenery to view from the sky. Spectacular sunsets, brilliantly-colored lights on the Strip and close proximity to the Grand Canyon make helicopter tours a must-do for thousands of visitors.

There are many helicopter tour agencies operating in and around Las Vegas. They offer various levels of service to fit most budgets. Naturally, you get what you pay for….and sometimes that includes the safety record that comes with cost-conscious services.

Serenity Helicopters is the ultimate in Grand Canyon tours. First and foremost, they carry a one hundred percent perfect safety record. This company has been operating for more than 25 years, first as Air Maui before expanding to Sin City. Their small exclusive fleet is meticulously maintained.

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At each day’s end, an entirely new crew takes charge of the aircraft. Our FAA-certified and factory-trained mechanics inspect and maintain our helicopters to ensure that every component and system meets the highest standards of safety and quality. Our standards are simple: “If it’s not perfect, it doesn’t fly.”

Jim explained to me that Serenity knows the ins and outs of each of their aircraft very well. He flies his route with confidence, much like you do when driving your own personal vehicle. And each of their pilots are the absolute best in their field, bar none.

Most of Serenity’s captains, like Jim, come from a military background…so you could say that they’re “battle tested and time tested”. They’re also skilled tour guides, giving you a bunch of intriguing insights during your journey…along with witty stories and plenty of laughs.

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The aircraft interiors are relatively spacious, comfortable and super-clean. Windscreens provide panoramic 180-degree views of the scenery. Your flight will be smooth as glass with a minimum of noise and vibration. You’re provided with noise-reduction headsets to keep you in touch with your guide as you enjoy atmospheric music personally chosen by your pilot to enhance the visuals.

Serenity Helicopters offers a number of daytime and sunset tours, with or without meals. You can even request a personalized flight plan for custom charters. My pal Danny and I were lucky enough to be welcomed aboard for their best offering – the Sunset Grand Canyon Tour and Dinner. This VIP experience is a two-hour trip over Lake Mead and Hoover Dam, continuing into the Grand Canyon for a gourmet evening meal.

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For our excursion, we were picked up at a Strip hotel by one of Serenity’s luxurious vans. It was plush and spacious, offering leather seats, a high-end sound/video system, bottled drinks and internet tablets at every seat. The 20-minute drive to Serenity’s base of operations concluded with a brief video safety presentation before were escorted inside.

Serenity Helicopters

Serenity Helicopters

Serenity Helicopters

Our parties checked in with the gracious staff, then we relaxed in the lounge-like office before receiving final safety instructions. Soon we were heading through the hangar and onto the tarmac to board our flight. (A final visit to the restroom is highly suggested as there are no facilities from this point until your return.)

Liftoff was a breeze and in no time our group was sailing over Hoover Dam and Lake Mead. The visuals were absolutely stunning and had me feeling like Christopher Reeve flying over the same spot in 1978’s SUPERMAN THE MOVIE.

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Serenity Helicopters

After passing Memorial Bridge and the lake we crossed into Arizona, over an extinct volcano and deep into the desert. It wasn’t long before our flight brought us right to the edge of the Grand Canyon…then into the heart of one of the world’s greatest wonders.

Gorgeous vistas, sun-drenched rocks, stunning colors and amazing unspoiled nature. What passed around and under us was almost too much to drink in. I found myself with tears in my eyes and my heart pounding. Yet in retrospect, the simultaneous peacefulness (dare I say “serenity”?) of the experience was remarkable.

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As the journey into the canyon continued, we flew past the Grand Canyon Skywalk and over the Colorado River before arriving at Serenity’s own private landing area. There we took in a flawless panoramic view of the valley. While we explored the terrain, pilots from both aircraft set up their tables for a piping hot gourmet meal…complete with china, table cloths and champagne.

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Serenity Helicopters

Serenity Helicopters

As our pilot topped off our glasses of bubbly, he described to me how Serenity devised a way to transport their dinners to such a far-off locale while keeping them hot, flavorful and satisfying. I won’t give away trade secrets, but layers of custom-shaped pizza stones inside the insulated totes might have been mentioned.

 

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Soon the sun was dipping towards the horizon, so our pilots gathered passengers for the return trip. I was able to catch this cool video (above) of our tour-mates lifting off. Then our own chopper headed for the horizon. The most awe-inspiring moments lie ahead. Words can’t describe them, so I won’t even bother to try.

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Serenity Helicopters

Serenity Helicopters

If you only watch a single clip, make it the one below. Be sure to click “HD” and expand it to full screen:

After a smooth and glorious landing, Jim and Trina allowed us to stay behind a little while as our copter was brought into the hangar for meticulous safety checks and maintenance. Then it was back to the van for our return trip to the Strip.

 

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Much like my skydiving adventure, the Grand Canyon helicopter tour was one of those unforgettable moments that you have to do at least once. And if you’re ready to do something this monumental, why not go with the best in the industry?

Serenity Helicopters not only sets the standard for aerial tours, but they surpass it each and every time.

Serenity Helicopters

Serenity Helicopters operates daily. The company is a TripAdvisor Hall of Fame recipient, having been awarded their Certificate of Excellence for eight consecutive years.

Check the Serenity Helicopters website for flight options, pricing and more. Insider tip: single fliers can get special pricing on unsold seats when available. Call for information on this offer at 702.589.7700. 

Photos and video: Sammasseur, Danny Angel, Jim Gisclair, Trina Larmony, Serenity Helicopters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Going “Down South” on the Vegas Strip


My latest article spotlights the far southern end of the Las Vegas Strip…

Continuing with my series of freelance articles published via BestOfVegas.com, here’s an exploration into the far reaches of Las Vegas Boulevard….once you venture past the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” landmark sign.

It’s a trip worth taking.

www.bestofvegas.com/articles/down-south-vegas-strip/