ELVIS IS BACK IN VEGAS WITH ‘HEARTBREAK HOTEL IN CONCERT’


Concert-style Elvis retrospective is satisfying, solid entertainment…

Just when you thought there couldn’t be any new ways to celebrate the life and music of Elvis Presley, along comes Heartbreak Hotel In Concert. The new production at Harrah’s Las Vegas is an extravaganza of swiveling hips, legendary blues and rock-a-billy guitar hits that will have you rising from your seats with cheers.

Unlike other Elvis tribute shows, Heartbreak Hotel In Concert isn’t a typical impersonation act. Instead, its talented cast of singers and a live band present a chronological journey of The King’s career in word, song and style. A carefully-crafted set list visits his earliest church gospel days to recordings in Memphis through his army stint and Hollywood breakout, culminating in that historic record-setting residency at the International Hotel (now Westgate Las Vegas).

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Bursting onstage with “All Shook Up”, front man Eddie Clendening is an accomplished rock-a-billy powerhouse. His personal love for Presley’s music shines through with every chord of “That’s Alright”, “Baby Let’s Play House” and the title tune. Having previously portrayed the late superstar on Broadway in Million Dollar Quartet as well as touring around the world with his Blue Ribbon Boys band, Eddie knows instinctively how to channel Presley’s persona and style. Rather than mimicking Elvis, the Denver Colorado native allows the music to flow through him, infusing his vocals and body language with Presley’s signature heart and soul.

Musical director Colte Julian tickles the ivories and has a great time as Jerry Lee Lewis in a sequence saluting the Million Dollar Quartet jam sessions. Julian’s spot on, having played the wild piano man in several productions of the long-running hit based on that gathering. He’s also hysterical in a “White Pop” medley that dramatically emphasizes how daring Presley’s “black” music was perceived by listeners of the day.

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Once a two-act musical drama, Heartbreak Hotel has been re-imagined for Vegas audiences by Ivan Menchell and staged by Jeff Calhoun as a concert experience. Each performer gets their moment to recount a historic milestone and share personal reflections of The King’s songbook. Lovely singers Jackie Wiatrowski, Tymara Walker and Fana Hughes take center stage (and the keyboards) for “Handyman”, “Love Me Tender” and “Can’t Help Falling In Love With You”. Broadway vet Geno Henderson (guitarist for B.B King and Ike Turner) captivates the audience with a soul-filled rendition of “Are You Lonesome Tonight”.

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In addition to lush costumes, precise staging and slick choreography, Heartbreak Hotel has invaluable and unprecedented access to thousands of rare photographs and video footage through Elvis Presley Enterprises.

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Satisfy Your Inner Foodie at “Vegas Unstripped”


Outdoor festival gathers on-the-rise Chefs for a new take on Sin City dining…

After an extremely unusual winter of snowstorms, downpours and chilly temps, the visitors and citizens of Las Vegas are taking to the streets. What better way to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine than an outdoor food festival?

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In recent years, Downtown Las Vegas and the valley’s surrounding areas have become a hotbed of culinary talent. Places like EDO Gastro, Flock & Fowl, Patrage and Esther’s Kitchen have allowed innovative chefs the opportunity for more daring ventures. They’re able to stretch their creative muscles, free from the confines of mega-resorts and brand names. While those celebrity chefs have done wonders to bring attention to the culinary landscape of Sin City,  at “Vegas Unstripped”, it’s simply all about making and serving great food.

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After a successful inaugural run, “Vegas Unstripped 2019: Second Helping” will again fill the sidewalks of Downtown’s Arts District with a tempting array of dishes, drinks and fun. “Second Helping” boasts nineteen chefs and teams that have been challenged to “create unique dishes for the night reflecting their culinary passions”.

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To enhance an independent spirit, all participants and organizers volunteer their time and efforts. In addition, the announced chefs and restaurateurs have their expenses covered by the event’s ticket sales. The goal is to make Vegas Unstripped as affordable as it is fun. Any remaining proceeds will then be donated to charities that assist the local homeless population.

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Last year’s launch gathered ten culinary teams to strut their stuff. “Second Helping” ups the ante by nearly doubling that number and adding a collaboration from six beloved local bars. Expect unique cocktails from the famed Golden Tiki Lounge, Velveteen Rabbit and Herbs & Rye. Beers will be provided by CraftHaus and Trumer Pils, wines by Bin 702 of Downtown Container Park.

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With all of the activities being planned, Master of Ceremonies Chef Gary Lamorte (founder of Honest Hospitality) will have his talented hands full keeping things flowing smoothly. He’ll be joined onstage by a number of live bands including Super Lemon, Johnny Hazard Trio and The Rhyolite Sound. Socio-political artist Recycled Propaganda will be on hand to present a “live activation” of his intriguing and often controversial work.

The line-up of Vegas Unstripped 2019 chefs is a veritable who’s who of culinary wizards:

  • Oscar Amador (EDO Gastro Tapas & Wine)

  • Brian Howard (Sparrow + Wolf)

  • Chris Decker (Metro Pizza/Lulus Bread & Breakfast)

  • Johnny Church (Cookfast LLC)

  • Geno Bernardo (The Summit Club)

  • Gina Marinelli (La Strega)

  • James Trees (Esther’s Kitchen)

  • Ralph Perrazzo (BBDs)

  • Justin Kingsley Hall (Main St. Provisions)

  • Khai Vu & Tony Nguyen (District One/Le Pho/Mordeo Boutique Wine Bar)

  • Sonia El-Nawal (Rooster Boy Cafe)

  • Marc Marrone (Graffiti Italian, Graffiti Bao)

  • Sheridan Su (Flock & Fowl/Fat Choy)

  • Jamie Tran (The Black Sheep)

  • Michael Stamm & Emily Brubaker (Cured & Whey/MGP)

  • Saipin Chutima (Lotus of Siam)

  • Shaun King (ex-Momofuku Las Vegas)

  • Yuri Szarzewski (Partage/Eatt)

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Photos provided by The Feast of Friends

 

 

 

 

 

“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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Mott 32 – Asian Fusion on a Global Scale


Palazzo’s fine dining experience is a culinary adventure worth embarking on….

What do you get when you combine the centuries-old cuisine of China with 1800’s NYC industrialism, contemporary Hong Kong’s vibrant culture and the whimsical flair of Sin City? The answer is Mott 32, a gorgeous and glorious new addition to Venetian/Palazzo‘s ever-evolving restaurant family. And this one deserves a place at the top of your must-do Vegas adventures.

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Situated on the north side of Palazzo’s casino floor (next to the popular Grand Lux Cafe), Mott 32 may be one of the most visually striking restaurants in the city. Brought to life by famed Hong Kong designer Joyce Wang, the venue is positively teeming with cultural references, subtle nods and innovative touches.

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From a film tribute to Anna Wong (Hollywood’s first Chinese-American starlet) to a giant metal abacus and artworks of stunning detail and significance, diners could easily get lost exploring the massive 11,400 square foot space. There’s even an exclusive Boom Boom Room private dining area where guests can request a special “Red Menu” designed to conjure joy, happiness and good fortune.

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The name Mott 32 is a nod to New York City’s first Chinese convenience store, which opened at 32 Mott Street in 1891. The fact that the original Hong Kong location took its name from a NYC Chinatown business demonstrates the global scope of their vision. It’s enhanced by a commitment to ethical sourcing and using organic, sustainable ingredients.

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Of course the real reason that you should visit…and will want to return…is for the food, cocktails and service. As you might imagine, all are world-class and exemplary. Recipes are primarily of Cantonese style, with influences from both Beijing and Szechaun cooking.

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After enjoying a couple of Mott 32 Mules from the lounge (more on that later), my party settled into a secluded booth beyond the main dining room. There we had the pleasure of sampling a presentation of dishes selected for us by the Chef.

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We began with a refreshing plate of Marinated Cucumber and Garlic ($9). The Starter Menu includes a wide variety of vegetables and meats like Wild Mushrooms with Black Truffle Sauce in a lettuce cup ($20), Sesame Prawn Toast with Autumn Sauce ($18) and Cubed Australian Wagyu Beef with mustard sauce ($22).

Heading over to the lengthy Dim Sum section, we sampled the unusual but stunning Hot & Sour Iberico Pork Shanghainese Soup Dumplings ($14 for 4 pieces)an absolute must. They were followed by Crispy Sugar Coated BBQ Iberico Pork Buns ($13 for 3), whose tangy flavor offered a marvelous hint of sweetness. If your taste buds long for Chinese barbecue, try BBQ Pluma Iberico Pork ($39). It’s amazingly tender and sweet thanks to a layer of Yellow Mountain honey.

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Mott 32’s astounding meat and seafood dishes are carefully prepared using generations-old cooking methods, seasonings and recipes. The house specialty is Mott Duck, a Peking duck that is air-dried in a special refrigerator, marinated then applewood-smoked in a custom oven.

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The entire preparation of Mott Duck takes two days, requiring that you order well in advance of your meal.

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