“Donny and Marie” Turn It Up To Eleven


Famed duo hits new heights for final year of Flamingo residency….

Donny Osmond loves making jokes. Even when the gag seems to go over the audience’s head, he still keeps chuckling. “Did you get that one?” he asked, referencing This Is Spinal Tap‘s famous “up to eleven” quote. “I think you were one of the few who did” he laughed as we spoke after a recent performance of Donny and Marie Show at Flamingo Hotel Casino.

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The beloved brother and sister of the famed Osmond clan have indeed turned up the dial to maximum setting. Not only is their revamped show better than ever, but the Utah natives are about to wrap up an amazing eleven years on the Strip. “You know, we were only supposed to be here for six weeks. And now we’re in our eleventh year” Donny exclaimed. “Can you believe it?”

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While other nostalgia-based Vegas productions have had mixed success of late, Donny and Marie continue to pack the house, perhaps now more than ever. Derrick Boyce, one of the production’s award-winning dancers, is excited about their continued success. “I was in the casino before showtime and was stunned at the long line stretching around the corner. We’re sold out on a Tuesday night. It’s amazing!”.

“Amazing” is also the perfect word to describe the show itself. A perfect blend of their original hits and chart-toppers by other artists, Donny and Marie leave everyone wanting more. While their legacy is certainly the catalyst in attracting longtime fans, it’s the charisma of the two leads combined with their fantastic voices, dance skills and production numbers that lure in audiences of all ages.

Opening with a high-energy medley of Black Eyed Peas “I’ve Got A Feeling” and B-52’s “Love Shack”, the siblings thrill the crowd with non-stop banter and good-natured rivalry. Despite the passage of more than four decades, it feels like you’ve stepped into a live taping of their beloved 70’s TV variety show.

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After that raucous opener, the Osmonds stroll down memory lane with their successful individual careers. Marie makes a visit to Broadway, then slips on a pair of cowgirl boots for country favorites. Duo Des Fleurs (from the French opera Lakme) is a beautiful sequence in which Marie performs a duet with herself via special effects. The segment closes with Music Is Medicine (from the album of the same name). That release features a collaboration with Olivia Newton-John and benefits Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, which Marie helped to establish in 1983.

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There’s definitely no opera or country when brother Donny takes over the stage. He unleashes serious rock and roll amidst hardcore pyrotechnics for Crazy Horses and Soldier of Love. The former heartthrob boasts about his recent Dancing With the Stars and The Masked Singer successes, revisits those teen idol days with Puppy Love and reunites with the legendary Osmond Brothers (via video) for Love Me For A Reason.

Click HERE to continue reading.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hot Guys of Vegas: Tough Men and Bad Boys


The latest in my series on Sin City hunks visits the men who make looking naughty so damned nice…

Boys will be boys, bad boy, bad boy
Always gettin’ so restless, nothin’ but trouble
Boys will be boys, bad boy, bad boy
Get me feelin’ breathless, nothin’ but trouble

                                                   Gloria Estefan

Long before Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine were singing the praises of bad boys, James Dean and Elvis Presley were making rebels look both hot and cool. Today’s crop of Vegas hunks continues that legacy. Bad-ass, suave and still sophisticated, they know how to turn on the charm while driving your temperatures skyward.

 

Mike Thompson – Professional Bartender/biker dude

 

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                                                       Mike Thompson

Where you’ve seen him – EDGE Steakhouse at Westgate Las Vegas

Mike Thompson is like one of those mysterious characters you see in a spy movie. He’s all sophistication and a master of conversation when suited up for shifts at Edge Steakhouse. A master of social graces, Mike will remember your favorite cocktail and have you forgetting your troubles by the second sip.

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But when the tie comes off, so does the Bond-like persona that Thompson’s patrons know and love. On go the mirrored shades as he slips into his tough-guy gear…and the wild side of Mike is ready to tear down the desert highway on his favorite motorcycle.

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Mike’s background is as mysterious as where he goes when he takes off into the sunset. His personal life is closely guarded….much like that man who goes by the name “Bond. James Bond”. Is Mike a spy? Perhaps a vigilante hero? Nobody knows for sure.

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What I do know is that Mike’s got a globe-hopping past, having worked in New York City, Dubai and London. A little research uncovered the fact that he received top honors in the Sofitel International Bartending Competition in Venice, Italy, too.

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So perhaps this wild-child gentleman really IS some kind of undercover hero. If so, I don’t want to reveal his alter ego. What’s certain is that with several years of bartending experience right here in Las Vegas, Mike Thompson knows how to make one Hell of a cocktail. Visit him at the lounge inside EDGE Steakhouse soon. Tell him that Sam at Vegas Unfiltered sent you. And be sure to bring your friends.

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               Hotshot realtor Jeff Desruissseaux and myself with Mike (center)

Noteworthy traits – suave social skills, sophisticated shock of grey

 

Kris Davis – dancer/entrepreneur/VIP club host

 

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                                                              Kris Davis

Where you’ve seen him – Chippendales, Troy Liquor Bar, Fremont Street

Chances are that when Santa Claus comes across Kris Davis on his annual naughty-or-nice list, he takes a deep breath and reaches for a bottle of bourbon. That’s because Kris is trouble….and he knows it. Yet the former Chippendale dancer is so damned pleasant and lovable that you can’t help liking him. Even if you want to slap his head from time to time.

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Davis is one of those guys who just doesn’t care about conventional behavior. He’s going to do whatever he wants to do…so you’d better get out of the way. But while he’s a man on a mission, he’ll willing to bring you along for the ride. Kris is such a popular social media figure that he had to create a second Facebook page and identity….by reversing his first and last names.

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So what does this guy do in Sin City? Pretty much everything. From repping supplement outlets to dancing in male revues and posing for photos as a sexy fireman, Kris is all around town both day and night. Want to get into awesome clubs like Downtown’s new Troy Liquor Bar? Kris is your man. Looking to liven up a bachelorette party? That’s probably Kris, too.  Whatever enterprise he takes on, you know that Kris will be living the Sin City wild life…and having a great time doing it.

Noteworthy traits – outstanding traps, flair for the outrageous

 

Mikey Perez – dancer/bouncer/fighter/ businessman

 

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                                                                  Mikey Perez

Where you’ve seen him – massive billboards, full-size bus ads, tattoo parlors

Every bad boy has a partner in crime. Mikey Perez has two. Not only does Mikey cause hearts to throb wherever he goes. but this wild-child stud has partnered up with pals Kris Davis (above) and Kevin Cornell Dockter (below) for their new enterprise Men of Chip in Dipp. This irreverently-titled party-hosting service relies on their past stripping/dancing experience to enhance your group’s night on the town.

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Providing a limo and getting your tickets is just part of Mikey’s big package. He and the crew will entertain you on the way, then party with you and your guests well into the night. You will feel safe and secure with Mikey’s strong arms there to protect you, as this macho dude has a background in fighting at TuffNuff championships. Yes, Mikey is known as “Pretty Boy” in his MMA bio.

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Whether you find bulging arms and a canvas of tattoos to be “pretty”, you can’t help falling for Mikey’s amazing white smile and warm glint in his eyes. He might come across as the toughest of the tough, but Mikey’s just as likely to give you a bear hug as to knock you onto the canvas. He’s the kind of friend you want to have.

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Notable traits – electric smile, body of art

 

Kevin Cornell Dockter – bartender/performer/entrepreneur

 

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                                             Kevin Cornell Dockter

Where you’ve seen him – Chippendales, Johnny Fontane’s, Virtual 10’s

Our final wild child for this edition of Hot Guys of Vegas hails from St. Louis, but he’s a Sin City boy at heart. Once known for his Tarzan-like mane of hair, Kevin Cornell amassed a legion of fans around the world for his long-running stint with Chippendales.

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Another motorcycle fan (there’s definitely a pattern here), Kevin has been spending lots of time with buddies Kris and Mike for their new business. These days he’s sheared his locks, but Kevin is just as much a badass as his partners in crime and fun.

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Like Mike Thompson, Kevin keeps his personal life close to his vest. Fortunately that vest is usually hanging open to display a torso that’s years in the making. He may not share his buddy’s affection for tattoos, but Kevin has what it takes to look both tough and tender.

Notable traits – epic man-rack, Samson-like hair

 

 

 

 

SkinnyFATS – Fun, Hip and Healthy Dining


 Vegas-born restaurants will change your ideas of “Good-For-You” food…

The fitness culture of Sin City is big….and growing. Of course we’ve got hundreds (if not thousands) of models, athletes, acrobats, dancers and other performers who call Las Vegas “home”.  If you think these fine physical specimens get by on a boring diet of broccoli and smoothies, you’d be wrong. For exciting meals that fit their demanding lifestyle, the hip and health-conscious have embraced SkinnyFATS. Now this locally-born collection of exciting restaurants is going national.

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The slogan for SkinnyFATS is “Live healthy. Live happy”. That second phrase is what sets SkinnyFATS apart from stodgy “clean eating” establishments. You’ll know you’re in for fun the moment you walk in the door and are greeted with a chorus of “hello!” and “welcome!”. That positive attitude is enhanced with colorful decor, carefully-selected music and a relaxing, inviting design. The restaurants are counter-service style but you’ll still feel pampered from the ordering process to your final bite.

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Everything at SkinnyFATS represents their business philosophy….especially the very affordable menu. Certain choices are considered to be indulgent, so the menu is divided between a “Healthy Side”  (selections under 600 calories) and a “Happy Side”, i.e. those that aren’t. Yet even those supposedly naughty choices are whipped up with beneficial twists.

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SkinnyFATS starts each day with luscious breakfasts. The ScramBowl ($8.95) is an egg-white scramble made with turkey bacon, zucchini, mushrooms, carmelized onion and cherry tomatoes. Packed with flavor and protein, this hearty bowl has only 295 calories. Healthy Side choices include Cluck Moo, an egg white omelette with shaved NY steak, carmelized onion and avo pico ($11.95) and Berry Strong, a protein waffle topped with berries, strawberry chia jam, orange agave and turkey bacon ($8.95).

Happy Side breakfasts include S’motherload, a burrito filled with filet mignon, sausage, fajita peppers, potato and eggs, then smothered with cajun cheddar sauce and pico ($11.95). Perhaps the meat-lover in you catches a glimpse of Steak Eyes 2.0, an intriguing plate of country-fried filet medallions and two eggs served with jalapeno cornbread and gravy ($12.95).

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For lunch, you’ve gotta try TOMato Cruise ($3.95), an amazing soup that’s the freshest and richest you’ll ever slide your spoon into. This vegan delight is topped with 9-grain croutons and boasts a calorie count of only 230. You can add a Grilled Cheese Sandwich for $4.20 more.

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If you’d like to whet your appetite with crunch and heat, try CauliFIRE, a spicy vegan/gluten-free shareable of cauliflower, buffalo sauce, pico and cilantro ($5.95). Gobballs ($5.95) are turkey meatballs flavored with spicy arrabiata sauce, pesto and roasted tomatoes. Seafood lovers will adore Pimp Shrimp ($9.95) a cucumber boat filled with tempura shrimp, cilantro slaw and avo pico.

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Once you’re ready for the main course, dive into dozens of sandwiches, burgers, tacos and “Things In Bowls”. Remember….nothing here is ever ordinary. Turnip Tacos ($7.95) serve an insane combination of filet mignon, jicima, pico and habanero lime crema inside two wheat tortillas. Gluten-free Smoke In A Bowl ($9.95) piles agave barbecued chicken, peppers, onions, black bean salsa, pineapple and cilantro yo over a bowl of jasmine rice. T.A.T.S. ($9.95) reimagines the BLT as a low-cal winner with turkey bacon, avocado, tomato, spinach and spicy yo on 9-grain bread.

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If you’re on the way to the gym or just need a kick, fresh juices like Liquid Defense, Hangover Remedy and Green Mile will have you at your best in no time. Of course, naughty grab-and-go cookies like Chocolate Chunk, Salted Caramel and Lemon Blueberry (all $2.95) are also ready for your eager hands.

Click HERE to continue reading…

 

 

Immersive Experiences To Blow Your Mind


Why just watch entertainment when you can be a part of it?

With the drop in revenue from gambling and a huge reduction in the number of production shows in existence, it’s clear that Vegas visitors are seeking new ways to be excited. People want to be immersed in an experience…that’s why the Big Apple Coaster at New York NY now offers a virtual-reality headset option (for a $5 upcharge) to go with the traditional ride.

But in this age of higher/bigger/faster, that 22-year-old thrill ride is still just a new twist on something that’s been around awhile. So let’s take a look at some newer adventures to throw yourself into…and one or two that might actually require you to turn on your mind.

Go Faster

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Who doesn’t love the rush of adrenaline? Well you can get your share and a whole lot more at Police Chase LV. Buckle into a real Las Vegas cruiser and take off after skilled “getaway drivers” on a expertly-designed course at the LV Motor Speedway. Your highly-trained instructor will be strapped into the passenger seat and actually encouraging you to drive faster and be more daring. There are no limits except for the ones you put on yourself.

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SpeedVegas offers a real racetrack experience for the exotic car enthusiast. Pick your Ferrari, Lamborghini or Porsche and rip down an extra-long 1.5 mile racetrack designed by a team of international experts. Off-road racing and “drifting experiences” are available, too. The 35-million-dollar SpeedVegas private facility is only ten minutes away from the Welcome to Las Vegas sign and near the gorgeous M Resort and Casino.

Soar Higher

Things are looking up for those who long to reach new heights. There are plenty of immersive adventures to lift you to the clouds and return you safely back to earth. Skydiving enthusiasts are especially lucky, as there are a number of services to take you higher.

My personal nod goes to Sin City Skydiving, located south of the Strip on the way to Primm at the California State Line. A scenic 20-minute drive (transportation is offered) takes you to a small airport where you’ll receive instructions prior to a tandem jump with an expert. Click HERE to read about my jump and how you can arrange yours.

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If the idea of plunging towards the Earth seems a little severe, perhaps a graceful hot air balloon excursion? On mornings when the air is calm and clear, colorful balloons rise all around my neighborhood and fill the sky. Vegas Balloon Rides offers hour-long weekday morning rides with views of the Strip and Red Rock Mountains for only $169.

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Sail like a bird over the Hoover Dam and swoop like an eagle over the river and summits of the Grand Canyon with Serenity Helicopters. A five-star experience that sets it above other helicopter adventures, Serenity boasts a perfect safety record and a personalized experience to make that excursion the one you’ll remember for a lifetime. You can read all about my Sunset Grand Canyon Tour and Dinner with Serenity Helicopters by clicking HERE.

Cook With A Celebrity Chef

Local “Pampered Chefs” Bring the Excitement of Italy to Your Home

Cooking shows and celebrity chefs…two great tastes that taste great together. Why watch them passively from your television set when you can be a part of it? Pampered Chef is a clever concept in which chefs from some of the best restaurants in Las Vegas help you to host a cooking party.

Gather your family and friends into the kitchen of your home, timeshare or hotel suite and join Chef Piero Barbagallo as he and his fellow culinary experts teach you how to create a masterful dish from scratch. With simple ingredients, the right tools and a little flair, you’ll be on your way to bringing world famous dishes to your own table. Read more about Pampered Chef by following this LINK.

Discover Your Inner Wizard

The best way to figure out a mystery is to observe it very closely. So if you want to uncover the secrets of the dark arts (and channel your inner Harry Potter), enter The Magician’s Study. Once inside, you’ll discover a world of mystery and astonishment. An expert magician will sit down with you and a few other invited guests for an intimate evening of up-close illusions.

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                                     Is this The Magician’s Study? 

Your host must remain a secret, but he or she is an internationally-known and charismatic entertainer. The speakeasy-style events are also shared in a unique way:

I have crafted this to be a unique experience where guests feel special being able to attend something so secretive and highly exclusive that not just anyone can purchase tickets to. Guests pass along their code word like passing along a secret to others, allowing them to experience the evening.

This writer isn’t about to give away what I’ve learned, so if you’d like to peek behind the magic curtain, it’s yours to discover. You can also reach out by calling 702.934.2481 or emailing info@themagiciansstudy.com.

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There’s another way to see up-close magic here in Vegas. This one is more of a traditional show….yet you’ll still be mere feet away from the performers. Hollywood Stars of Magic has a rotating roster of top-of-their-game illusionists. Hosted by Vegas prestidigitator Tim Wise at the charming Royal Resort (near Las Vegas Convention Center) Hollywood Stars of Magic will baffle your mind. You’ll be so close that can reach out and touch. Showtimes are every Saturday at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. and it’s appropriate for all ages.

Escape With Your Life

FLO Advertising SAW Escape Experience

We know it’s hard to think clearly under pressure. But what if you’re trying to save your skin and the clock is running out? Escape rooms are the latest way to experience the thrill of suspense and mystery movies without actually perishing in a booby trap.

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           Creator Jason Egan and actor Tobin Bell, the iconic “Jigsaw” himself…

The most cleverly-crafted Las Vegas escape room recreates chilling and gory hazards of a wildly popular horror franchise. Saw Escape Room is brought to life by Jason Egan, the brilliant artist behind Circus Circus Fright Dome. Endorsed by Lionsgate Studio (makers of the SAW films) and star Tobin Bell (Jigsaw), Saw Escape Room was ranked #1 in the nation last year by readers of USA Today.

Search for Aliens

If none of those things strike your fancy, there are plenty of other “out there” options, from a Scavenger Hunt at Area 51 to Stripper 101 classes and even Blackout Dining In the Dark.

So the next time one of your friends says “Let’s do something different in Vegas” you can be the clever one with all the suggestions.

 

 

 

 

FANTASY Prepares to Celebrate Its 20th Anniversary In Style


The Strip’s biggest tease prepares to enter its third decade…

In most states, the legal age of consent is 18 years old. Using that guideline, FANTASY, the topless revue at Luxor, is barely an adult. Yet in the realm of Vegas production shows, twenty years definitely ranks as “senior status”. With expensive start-up costs and high overhead, new productions that aren’t instant hits often become forgotten in a matter of months. And yet, Fantasy continues to entice men, women and couples seven nights a week.

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Producer/Director/Creator Anita Mann is very proud of the longevity of her show. She proudly shares credit with the many who have contributed to FANTASY from its inception:

I own and produce FANTASY. When I created it the show was originally called  MIDNIGHT FANTASY as it started at midnight. When MGM took over the property we all agreed to drop the “Midnight” since we were no longer a midnight show. Beverly Jeanne has remained executive producer since its inception and Mariah Riviera has now joined the production team as Associate Producer.

We have been blessed to have several different choreographers over years. Tiger Martina was the very first, we have had Cris Judd and most recently Mandy Moore. I have also choreographed throughout the run along with several of our dancers including the most current, Yesi Burgess.

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Naturally the cast is the main reason that guests choose to explore their fantasies at Luxor’s Atrium Theater each evening. An alluring group that runs the gamut from girl-next-door Abby to sultry Mariah, the ladies of FANTASY appeal to just about every taste. Members hail from all over the world, like Geraldine of France, Isabella from South Africa and Alex from England. Of course there are plenty of all-American girls like Alabama’s Jennifer and California-born Soolin.

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California is also where host Lorena Peril hails from. Born in San Francisco, Ms. Peril is an electrifying singer with a solid history of Sin City entertainment. Formerly of Vegas! The Show and Sin City Bad Girls, Lorena stunned audiences at American Superstars with her impersonation of Christina Aguilera. She left FANTASY in 2013 after being cast as “Sandy” in the European tour of Grease. Now she’s back and entrancing audiences with her powerful voice and engaging style.

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FANTASY is much more than a sexy dance spectacular. There is plenty of singing, audience interaction and loads of fun. Comedic impersonator Sean E. Cooper has been with the show for most of its run. As the sole male cast member, Cooper can’t help boasting that he has the best job in the world.

Click HERE to continue reading via BestOfVegas.com. 

Hanging By A Thread – Sin City’s Huge Entertainment Dilemma


Fuerza Bruta’s shocking failure suggests a troubling future for large-scale productions….

Several years ago I penned a two-parter for Vegas Chatter entitled “Four Walls and a Dream”. In it I explored the difficulties involved in launching a new show in today’s corporation-run Vegas. Gone are the days when casinos supported their own entertainment. It’s up to productions themselves to “pay the rent” via an arrangement known as four-walling. And that quite simply is why most new shows are gone before you’ve ever even heard of them.

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That article was inspired by Jeff Civillico, a dynamic young entertainer whose star was already on the rise. His “Comedy In Action” afternoon show at Linq Hotel (then known somewhat absurdly as The Quad) was working hard to make a name for itself. Yet the resort where he rented showroom space had little interest in helping “Comedy In Action” to succeed.

Civillico was on the hook not only for the room and production costs, but also for supplying the advertising materials to display around the property. Yet Jeff had little control over where they’d be displayed….if at all. I’m not sure if he ever worked out his issues with parent company Caesars Entertainment, but Comedy in Action still performs once a week at Paris Hotel Casino.

I learned a lot about the current state of Vegas entertainment while researching that piece. There was plenty of response from performers, producers, directors and public relations people when it ran, too. But after the shocking announcement that Fuerza Bruta would be shuttering only four weeks into a six-month stint, I realized two valuable facts:

  1.  There is no magic formula to ensure that a show will be a hit.
  2.  The current state of Vegas entertainment is more volatile than ever before.

If you haven’t heard of Fuerza Bruta, then congratulations. I’ll pretend to make a check-mark in the air and we can continue on down the list. But first, allow me to say that less than one week ago in my rave review for Fuerza Bruta for BestOfVegas.com, I called it a “Sin City game changer”. I also inaccurately claimed that it was “poised to redefine entertainment on the Strip”. Oh, my… (click HERE to read the original review).

 

 

Just after I’d sent the piece off to the editor, I received an email from Fuerza Bruta’s public relations firm regarding the Vegas run.

FUERZA BRUTA will perform its final show at Excalibur Hotel & Casino on Sunday, April 7, 2019. The acclaimed production, which has been seen by more than six million spectators in more than 34 countries and 58 cities since its launch in 2003, will continue to impress audiences from around the world as it prepares to make the move from Las Vegas to MGM Cotai in Macau in June 2019.
Tickets for the remaining Las Vegas performances of FUERZA BRUTA are now on sale and available at any MGM Resorts International box office, online at Excalibur.com or by calling (702) 597-7600. Refunds for tickets purchased for shows at Excalibur after April 7 will be available at the point of purchase.

It took awhile for the shock of this announcement to subside. I could have been embarrassed that I’d been so far off in my predictions. Instead I was angry that the so-called “City of Entertainment” had chewed up and spit out yet another piece of great entertainment.

 

 

All but one of my friends who had seen the show were absolutely dazzled by the balls-to-the-walls audacity of it. During three separate viewings, I’d stood alongside (and chatted afterwards with) cast members from shows like Chippendales, Le Reve, Zumanity and Donny & Marie. They’d come as I had to see if the enthusiastic pre-opening buzz was deserved. And every one of them was delirious, if not downright envious, of the incredible visuals and creative sequences that Fuerza Bruta was able to pull off inside a tent erected on a parking lot.

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That positive word-of-mouth alone should have been enough to bolster tickets sales. If performers from some of the top shows in Vegas loved it, then it was a must-see, right? Not so fast. Depending on who you ask, it turns out that paid tickets for the show were averaging 50-80 sales per performance with the rest comped (freebies). But if all of those people love it, then they’ll recommend it to friends and attendance will build, right? Well, that would take time….which the powers that be weren’t about to grant.

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Fuerza Bruta was located just outside of Excalibur, which is owned by MGM Resorts. MGM runs nearly half of the major resorts on the Strip. So why weren’t they supplying the capital to help fund operations and allow for attendance of this remarkable show to grow? Four-walling, of course! If Fuerza Bruta failed, all Excalibur would have to do is pull down the advertisements and sweep away any remaining evidence of where the tent had been.

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Realizing that readers and friends who’d planned on seeing the show would never get that opportunity to do so made me angry. I took to social media to vent my frustrations. “What the Hell is wrong with Vegas? Nothing worthwhile stands a chance anymore!”

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Well, thank goodness for the reach of Facebook and Twitter, because my steam-valve post brought out lots of sensible responses from performers in and around the Strip. Mike Hammer of Mike Hammer Comedy Magic at Four Queens was the first to chime in:

You can blame it on this city all you want but they didn’t understand the fundamentals of running a show in this town. It comes down to poor marketing strategy. First of all the show has a name that is not memorable. I live here and can’t even pronounce the name. No way most people from the Midwest are even going to know what the show is. Also, it’s pretty hard to sell a show when you can’t even describe it. Everyone I know that has seen it, including has never described it in one sentence. They didn’t even leave enough time to build up a buzz.

Bad timing of when they opened too. Slower time of the year with March madness and spring break. Again, this a producers decision. They weren’t even selling 50 tickets so how can you blame it on this city?

Again, people that don’t get the VEGAS market. If they didn’t plan enough money to survive six months of marketing, they just were not ready. I wish the best of luck elsewhere where they know what they’re doing. I love VEGAS and it’s been a home to me for 16 years. I’ve seen shows come and go and most of the time it’s the producers or management fault.

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Enoch Augustus Scott, host of long-running hit Zombie Burlesque at Planet Hollywood’s V Theater also took exception to my finger-pointing at Vegas:

There are a million possible reasons besides fat Americans to account for this. Injury. Bad accounting. Or it could be the standing up. People stand and walk around Las Vegas all day along. Sometimes the only chance they get to sit is dinner or a show. Also the Las Vegas show demo skews older. Also people from all over the world come to Vegas. Cirque has been able to grow as big as they are by catering to and attracting an international market base. So you really can’t blame fat Americans on a show not running. Clearly the producers did not understand the landscape or have enough capital to go the 6 months. Happens all the time. Producers come here with a hope and dream and without a business plan or the necessary investment to run a show long enough for it to become a success. It is poor craftsman who blames his tools and even poorer performer who blames his audience. Literally.

While I agree on much of what Enoch says, he also had added “It was always meant to be a limited run. Calm down everybody.” Correct, but that limited run was for six months with the hope of an extension. Four weeks was clearly a failure with deeper implications.

 

See, that’s the problem with having so many choices in one city. Without brand recognition, a famous headliner or a simple-to-explain concept, your middle-American Vegas visitors just won’t make the time for it. Hence we’re inundated with magic shows, impersonators, topless revues and lots of “Circus Day Solay”.

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It’s interesting to note that Fuerza Bruta played in New York City from 2007 through 2016. That’s over 3,000 performances! But we’re talking about an entirely different demographic over there. Visitors to NYC book their tickets to Broadway hits months…and sometimes a year or more…in advance. They’re also a more sophisticated crowd that makes Broadway entertainment part of an elegant evening that includes fine dining while wearing tasteful and carefully-selected outfits.

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But in Las Vegas we’ve got 1) no backing from the host hotels, 2) no opportunity to build brand awareness….and 3) a group of visitors not exactly looking for high art to go along with their yard-long daiquiris.

I went poking around other social media outlets to see how people were reacting to the news of Fuerza Bruta’s sudden shuttering. Always-reliable VitalVegas.com had quickly published an article announcing the closure, and it was a comment from reader ExVegasLocal that caught my eye:

I was “this close” to buying tickets to see Fuerza Bruta for an upcoming trip. It looked like a really cool show, but I was on the fence because I wasn’t sure I wanted to be jostled in a crowd from one side of the room to the other for an hour. In the end, I decided not to bite.

No matter what Vegas thinks about itself, it’s not really that forward thinking/avant garde. Neither are its visitors. Hence the constant replication of one thing that works until it’s completely overdone. Another Cirque show/night club with one syllable name/shopping arcade in front of a hotel/pool party/CVS pharmacy anyone? Now that’s more like it.

Vin A., one of The Bronx Wanderers, had a humorous reaction to my post…one that was also deeply insightful:

Well THAT was obnoxiously fast 😢 i didn’t even get to see the freaking thing! Wtf? Need a low low overhead to survive out here. Why all the one man shows live on forever and a few small cast things barely squeak by. It’s tough as hell out here. You play here for the prestige, and you tour for the money that carries you through your losses out here. That’s the future.

Raja Rahman of the musical magic duo Jarrett and Raja added his own thoughts to the situation:

It’s never about the quality of the show. It’s the $$$ behind it. Ugh. The cycle continues. After our experience, I’m convinced this business model is crap. Any business needs time to ramp up.

“Our experience” no doubt refers to the troubles Jarrett and Raja encountered at various showrooms throughout the city. They’ve had to deal with four-wall scenarios and abrupt closures at downtown’s Plaza Hotel, Hooters Casino and Stratosphere. Even though these gentlemen are residents of Las Vegas, they often find it sensible and more lucrative just to take their talents on the road.

Actually, it’s a pretty common thing for Vegas shows to go on tours. And often they never return. A few years ago I shadowed a production as it searched for a suitable venue on the Strip. After months of meetings and hassles, they decided on a major casino with a troubled showroom history. Sadly, their production would just be another casualty in a long list at the historic south-Strip hotel.

An opening date was chosen, tickets were sold, sets were constructed and advertisements went up throughout the casino and outside. But after being frustrated by resistance and lack of support from the hotel’s regime, the producers abruptly decided to throw up their hands, walk out the door and take the show on the road without doing a Vegas residency.

It makes no sense. It’s like they don’t want you here. Why should I put up money and then fight with the people who I’m paying rent to? After all that, if I’m lucky I’ll sell two hundred tickets a night in Las Vegas. We could take this show to other places where entertainment like this isn’t available and sell out two THOUSAND seats a night. And those places roll out the red carpet for us.

And that’s exactly what he did. A show designed for the Vegas Strip had to leave the city in order to survive. And the showroom they walked away from still remains empty two years later.

It doesn’t have to be that way, but greed always puts short-term profit ahead of long-term goals. Let’s use BAZ as an example. That innovative musical was brought to Mandalay Bay from Los Angeles by none other than Cirque du Soleil. The launch occurred during an awkward time frame in which ownership and business models at Cirque were being radically altered. Cirque abandoned BAZ in no time and without their support it closed after only six weeks.

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      BAZ was the perfect blend of sass, class and contemporary pop culture…

That’s when the Sands Corporation stepped in. Recognizing the many benefits of having a fantastic and unusual show on their property, they forked over the money to retro-fit the Palazzo Theater and supported BAZ’s run for two years. BAZ was never going to be a huge hit, but it was a prestigious project that brought a great deal of class and pride to the Venetian/Palazzo family.

So on one side we’ve got performers stating from personal experience that the four-wall business model doesn’t work. And on the other we’ve got these huge corporations that just don’t care. Working within the confines of the current system, what can be done to help a show succeed?

Well, if there was an answer to that, then at least a few of the dozens of shows that died in 2017 and 2018 might still be around. And that theoretical answer still wouldn’t apply to an existing property like Fuerza Bruta. So should it have been the responsibility of the PR firm to suggest “Hey, your show isn’t going to work here without a bit of overhaul”? Unlikely….they’re a third-party agency being hired by the show to spread awareness and buzz….nothing more. And who tells their boss on the first day that people might not even want their product?

Besides, public relations firms work mostly within the industry, reaching out to people like yours truly and much larger outlets such as TV networks, magazines and newspapers. They can tailor an existing ad campaign to make it Vegas-centric, but a risky top-to-bottom re-do for one stop of a tour? Not gonna happen…and we’ve already decided that there’s no magic formula for success, so why even try to change what’s worked everywhere else on the planet?

Should the PR firm have at least suggested a name revision for the show? Again, that would have understandably been met with resistance from a product that’s already a worldwide brand. And yet, a temporary re-naming to “Fuerza Bruta – Brute Force” might have eliminated some confusion and put a few more arses in those non-existent seats. Even the wise folks at Wynn eventually decided after several years to officially change the name of  Le Reve to “Le Reve – The Dream”. Because, you know, French is hard!

So just how much is in a name? Maybe the folks at the Strat should be asking that question right about now. No doubt they are sweating, because their delayed-delayed-delayed tent show Celestia, which was supposed to open on January 30th, is suddenly looking at an even more troubled future.

Celestia, now set for a May 1st debut (even though tickets are still not up for sale), may have an edge over Fuerza Bruta simply because it’s a show created specifically for Vegas. But we can justifiably counteract that advantage with the simple fact that it’s way at the troubled north end of the Strip and not the heavily-traveled Excalibur/MGM Grand/Tropicana/New York NY intersection where F.B. failed.

Celestia can also boast having some Cirque du Soleil DNA in its genes….and a few years ago that might have mattered. But now it’s time to recognize something really scary: Cirque du Soleil is facing genuine trouble here in Las Vegas. I’ve been told by people behind the scenes that MGM Resorts is quietly preparing to shut down all of their Cirque shows by the end of 2020.

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                             It’s my blog, I’ll be dramatic if I want to be…

While that might sound like absurd conjecture, there is plenty of evidence to back this rumor up. For one, huge productions like KA, ZUMANITY and Beatles LOVE are now advertising on Groupon. Yes, Groupon…the place where you go to buy discount Botox treatments and personalized make-up bags.

 

 

In my Vegas Chatter days, Groupon was a clear indicator that a Vegas attraction was struggling badly and would soon be gone. If you don’t believe me try to visit Eli Roth’s GORETORIUM. That’s not always the case anymore, but with must-see shows like LOVE, it’s an embarrassing way to put butts in seats.

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Hundreds of empty seats during a Friday performance of Cirque’s “Beatles LOVE” 

I recently attended a Friday-night performance of LOVE and was shocked that the massive auditorium was perhaps 40 percent filled. Hundreds upon hundreds of empty seats. And that’s apparently been the case for most of the Cirque shows for awhile now.

Vital Vegas stated in May of last year that Cirque’s 2017 capacity had been running at around 50 percent. With the removal of free parking to Nevada residents and a continued drop in tourism, that number would look even bleaker in the first quarter of 2019.

MGM Resorts numbers bear out rumors Cirque shows running at 50-60% capacity in Vegas: 3.6 million Cirque tickets sold in 2017, 9,890/week avg. per show. At 10 shows per week, that’s 989 sold with avg. capacity of 1,700.

Vital Vegas was also one of the first to report that Cirque Vegas was undergoing huge layoffs behind the scenes as part of a massive cost-cutting measure:

As they say in show business, “Holy crap!” Cirque du Soleil has reportedly informed all their Las Vegas shows (excluding “Mystere”) all department heads (lighting, sound, wardrobe, etc.) will be let go Apr. 17.

7:19 PM – 23 Mar 2019

He followed that up with an even more troubling tweet:

Hearing at least one well-known Cirque variety act was spotted auditioning at another (non-Cirque) show in town, presumably due to safety concerns related to Cirque layoffs.

12:48 PM – 31 Mar 2019

So, department heads have been axed, individual shows are being consolidated under one umbrella and performers are supposedly jumping ship to save their own skins. Does that sound like Cirque du Soleil will be around much longer to you?

In November I visited the Vegas Cirque du Soleil headquarters for a profile on Kim Scott, their Senior Manager of Sourcing and Partnerships. In her twelve years with the company, Scott had spearheaded shows like KA, Beatles LOVE and Criss Angel Believe.

During the interview, Kim had proudly spoken about being “responsible for maintaining our position in the industry as a leader in live entertainment safety standards, and position(ing) Cirque du Soleil as an employer of choice.” Yet one week after the article was published, Ms. Scott notified me that she was leaving Cirque to start her own consulting firm. I was astonished…and a little concerned.

Scott had also mentioned at the time that Cirque was busy creating a new show for Luxor in the theater vacated by Criss Angel’s Mindfreak. Raise your hand if you’ve heard anything about that one….I certainly haven’t.

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          Wanna go gaga over Gaga? It’ll set you back about a grand….

If a major brand like Cirque is struggling, new shows can’t afford to open and dozens of existing productions have disappeared, what will the future of Las Vegas entertainment look like? I have three answers: pricey headliner residencies, sports teams and celebrity DJ’s.

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       This….person…was just hired by Palms Resort to the tune of $60 million…

I don’t think anyone’s unaware of the Golden Knights or the new Raiders stadium. And who isn’t buzzing about Lady Gaga‘s two new shows at Park MGM Theater? Katy Perry, Janet Jackson, Christina Aguilera, Aerosmith and more are settling in for extended gigs. Throw in Marshmello/Calvin Harris and their ilk for the club kids and that’ll probably cover nearly every major kind of entertainment in the city.

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           1.8 billion dollars is the projected cost of the new Raiders stadium…

Oh, those little one-man shows will probably survive. And the strippers most likely will never run out of poles to swing from. But for productions shows, you’ll just have to head Downtown to the Smith Center. That venue for the performing arts will continue to host nationwide touring productions for short-term runs. Las Vegas will just be another stop on the schedule…no longer unique.

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               “Closed. Refunds will be available at the point of purchase.”

Clips and photos by Sam Novak. Except for a few from…wherever….

 

 

 

 

 

Fuerza Bruta Is a Sin City Game Changer



Spectacular production poised to redefine entertainment on the Strip….

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Every decade or so, a show comes along that changes the face of Las Vegas entertainment. First Mystere brought Montreal’s Cirque du Soleil to the desert. Then Celine Dion’s record-breaking Coliseum residency paved the way for other top-tier headliners. The last truly innovative production we’ve seen is Absinthe, the bawdy acrobatic tribute to burlesque. That is until Fuerza Bruta arrived on the scene. And this high-energy production is one phantasmagorical thrill you won’t want to miss.

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Like Absinthe, Fuerza Bruta is located in a tent outside of a major casino (in this case, Excalibur). That’s about the only thing these two productions have in common. You’ll know you’re in for something unusual when you step inside the entrance and receive a short briefing by a staffer. He or she will explain that you’ll be required to stand during the entire performance and follow crew instructions to move as set pieces and cast members move through and around the performance space.

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Once inside, you’ll notice that the cavernous area is entirely black and dimly-lit, except for a neon sign displaying the show’s title. The anticipation will be palpable as you try to decide where to congregate and which direction to focus your attention. But don’t waste your time wondering, as you and the rest of the audience literally ARE the stage 360-degree, 3-dimensional.

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Once the lights go down and the cast appears, you’ll be swept away into the most immersive production the city has going. Wind, rain, sound effects, lasers, flying objects, moving sets, live musicians, singers and special effects on an epic scale combine to   envelope you in a way that Las Vegas has never seen.

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Well, that last statement isn’t entirely true. A previous incarnation, entitled De La Guarda, ran for about a year at Rio Hotel Casino. Somewhat ahead of its time back in 2001, the current version is exactly what Las Vegas needs. Not only does it avoid the “sameness” of most new roll-outs, Fuerza Bruta raises the bar for every show in the city.

Trying to describe Fuerza Bruta is a bit of a challenge. There’s no story line or discernible theme. What the Argentinian production does offer is an onslaught of imagery, mind-boggling segments and a daring assault on the senses. The music is fantastic, the cast is extremely attractive and the atmosphere evokes a secret rave.

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How long has it been since you attended a show and your jaw literally dropped? That’s sure to happen when the audience is surrounded by a massive mylar wall that begins to rotate like a horizontal hamster wheel. Performers jog along this enormous silver road,  suspended at a right angle and reaching out to the audience below.

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If you’ve been fascinated by the aqua-stages at “O” and “Le Reve”, wait until you see what Fuerza Bruta does. A transparent swimming pool appears from high above, slides over the audience and descends until you can reach out and touch it. Cast members swim, flip and swoosh through water that’s lit from above, creating a swirling collage of colors and patterns.

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A favorite sequence involves a white-suited young man on a stroll that suddenly turns into a soaking windstorm. He encounters flying furniture, a spinning room and breakaway walls that sail through the air….all while never losing his rhythm to the techno beat. A truly avante-garde sequence that’ll have you cheering, dancing…and perhaps scratching your head.

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