BALLET 120 presents ‘The Nutcracker Suite’ For Today’s World


innovative Dance Troupe Re-imagines The Holiday Classic for a New Generation

This year has been unquestionably devastating to live entertainment. Sadly, things just took another grim turn. Nevada’s Governor Sisolak has announced an extension of the state’s three week “pause” into mid-January of next year. Say farewell to another round of shows, jobs, businesses and more.

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As we continue to adjust, some entertainers have turned to virtual performances to keep their craft alive. Ballet hasn’t necessarily been one of the fortunate genres. In the midst of worldwide chaos, this style of dance has been all but forgotten by some. But a troupe of talented, young performers who call themselves BALLET 120 isn’t about to let their beloved dance form fade away. 

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Vegas entertainers across the city have described to me how the pandemic has motivated them to become more innovative, prolific artists. BALLET 120 was formed three years ago, long before COVID-19 impacted our daily lives. Yet their group seems to have been affected by the same phenomenon.

The guiding force behind BALLET 120 is Benjamin Tucker. You might remember Tucker from this cast announcement of A VEGAS ROOM CHRISTMAS. He and fiance Emma McGirr, both from Nevada Ballet Theater, have been delighting guests all through December as they spin, dip and sail throughout the intimate dinner theater.

“We have shorter attention spans these days” says Tucker. “And people tend to think of ballet as being ‘stuffy’. They have images in their mind of tutus and pointe shoes. There’s often an emotional detachment between the performers and the audience, so ballet has had a hard time remaining relevant in the 21st century. BALLET 120 hopes to change all of that.”

Short self-made dance videos became a rage during the pandemic. But while COVID-weary people were creating “TikTok” clips and “Instagram Reels” to lift their spirits, BALLET 120 had already adopted these platforms as a legitimate extension of their art.

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A delicate caress. Meaningful gazes. Sweeping camera movements that capture every subtlety. Glorious outdoor settings and contemporary clothing. These are some of the relatable elements that BALLET 120 uses to draw their audience into the world of ballet. And it appears to be working fabulously. BALLET 120 continues to grow, explore new avenues and inject familiar properties with a dazzling dose of immediacy.

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During any “normal” Christmas season, Tucker and McGirr would be filling concert halls with fans eager to see their annual The Nutcracker Suite performance. But this year’s holiday season plays by a different set of rules. So BALLET 120 has given the classic a contemporary twist. 

Even if COVID-19 hadn’t canceled holiday performances from coast to coast, chances are that BALLET 120 would have eventually sprinkled their fairy dust on The Nutcracker Suite. But fans of the troupe won’t have to wait, as three new installments of the cleverly-named BALLET12020 Nutcracker have already hit the internet.

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The first, entitled “How the Grinch Stole Nutcracker”, is awash in color and beauty. Click this link to view it in its entirety. It’s followed by “Have You Heard The Tea?” and “Dancing In The Coffee Grounds”. 

The final entry “Put A Little Peppermint in Your Step” was released on December 22nd.

“2020 has been weird. So we will be bringing you “Ballet12020 Nutcracker” videos that are a little different than you might be expecting.” – BALLET 120

Saying that the past several months have been “weird” might be putting things mildly. The events of 2020 will undoubtedly echo through our lives for years to come. And BALLET 120 will continue to be a powerful force, inspiring change and forever influencing our view of the arts. 

To learn about BALLET 120 and view their creations, head to the BALLET 120 website, visit them via Instagram, or “like” them on Facebook

 

‘JOURNEY TO THE NORTH POLE’ Brings Snowy Cheer to Sin City


Holiday Drive-through Attraction Is A Labor of Love for COVID-impacted Artists…

While other cities were scrambling to adjust to life during a pandemic, Sin City wasted no time in launching COVID-safe alternatives. We already had drive-through wedding chapels and West Wind drive-in movie theater. Then came outdoor fitness and dance classes with Sin City celebrities. We even got to experience Jennifer Romas’ SEXXY revue and drag shows from the comfort of our vehicles. Now you can pack friends and family into the car and head to Santa’s workshop for JOURNEY TO THE NORTH POLE.

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Some of you might be familiar with GLITTERING LIGHTS, the annual attraction at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Now in its 20th year, the massive drive-through celebration is the largest of its kind in the Valley. It’s also about as far from the Strip as you can get while still being in Las Vegas.

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JOURNEY TO THE NORTH POLE is conveniently located at 2330 Industrial Road, just a snowball’s throw from Wynn/Encore under the watchful gaze of the Stratosphere The STRAT tower. During the rest of the year, the venue is known as The Industrial Event Space, an indoor-outdoor venue for special functions.

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While it may lack the scope of its older brother, JOURNEY TO THE NORTH POLE makes up for it for with plenty of charm and good cheer. You’ll know right away when you’re greeted at the gate by one of Santa’s friendly helpers. The happy elf will safely scan your pre-purchased admission code and guide you through the procedures while all of your party remain inside.

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A mask is required if/when you interact with any of the cast members, and your windows should remain up when possible. You’ll be given a radio station to tune to, which syncs seasonal classics with the lights of the attraction. Once inside, you’ll have the opportunity to purchase hot cocoa and snacks (very reasonably priced, by the way) before proceeding.

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The journey begins with a super-cool recreation of the Northern Lights. Once you pass through the garland entrance, you’ll enter the “Path Of Lights”, festooned with glittering orbs, twinkling tunnels and a flurry of “snow”.

Along the way you’ll encounter live dancing elves, whimsical projections, over 100,000 lights, more than 380 strands and over 100 holiday fixtures. Everything has been designed and handmade by more than 30 local creative professionals who’ve been impacted by the events of this year.

The centerpiece of JOURNEY is a computer-programmed “mega tree” which “dances” and blinks to holiday tunes. But of course everything leads to Santa’s Workshop, where you can visit with the big guy himself. Since the original Mr. Christmas is required to maintain distance this year, there won’t be any visits to his lap. But he’ll definitely chat it up and take notes for his gift-giving list.

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“Journey to the North Pole” can be experienced nightly from 5 to 10pm at the INDUSTRIAL event space, located at 2330 South Industrial Road, through Sunday, Jan. 3. Advance tickets are required and start at $20. Purchase at northpolelv.com/tickets. “Journey to the North Pole” is a co-production of Josh Abelson (the INDUSTRIAL event space), Emo Palumbo (Tag Team Productions) and Brian Rogerson (Sin City Scenic).

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HOT GUYS OF VEGAS – Danny Wilkinson Grows in ‘The Garden’


From Hard-bodied Scholar To beefcake Bartender, a Las Vegas Resident Learns To Roll With The Punches…

Even if you’ve never seen the 1983 film FLASHDANCE, you certainly know the premise: “Welder by day, exotic dancer by night”. It seems as though there are plenty of scenarios like that in Las Vegas. This year, COVID-19’s destructive path has shifted career goals, altered destinies, and destroyed lifelong dreams. But it has also allowed resourceful people to excel at things they’d never considered before.

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One such survivor is Las Vegas resident Danny Wilkinson. This resilient 31-year-old learned the hard way that personal growth is no longer an option but a necessity. That’s how the Mesa, AZ native found himself as a staffer at The Garden, Las Vegas Art District‘s newest sensation.

It’s unlikely that Danny ever expected that his career path would lead him behind the bar of an LGBTQ hotspot. With an MBA from Western Governors University and a BS in kinesiology, he had worked his way through the ranks of Amazon.com‘s local distribution center to become a mid-level manager.

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Alas, cost-cutting at the wildly-successful online retailer led to some pre-COVID layoffs (ironic now in hindsight). Sadly, Wilkinson was part of a group that got their pink slips. So what’s a straight, educated hunk to do for employment during a pandemic? Well, you take the advice of friends who suggest marketing your impressive physique to the local gay bars.

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When nightlife wizard Eduardo Cordova announced a casting call for “model servers” and “model bartenders”, Danny showed up to The Garden with a winning smile and gym credentials in hand (or under his shirt, in this case). Asked why he wanted to work at The Garden, Wilkinson candidly answered “My gay friends think I’m cute!”.

If you remember my article on “Men of the Garden“, you’ll notice that Danny wasn’t included. He’s not quite as “showy” as some of the other boys. He’s more likely to kindle a slow burn…one that gets hotter upon return visits. Clever, observant, and genuine, he leaves a lasting impression with casual conversation and a laser-sharp gaze. Mandatory facial coverings can’t conceal that radiant smile, either.

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It took a long time for this article to come to fruition. Several months into the idea, Danny and I finally sat down for drinks and to talk about it. What I learned was that to survive in “new Las Vegas”, Danny rolled with the punches, was receptive to daring ideas, and still manages to have fun in a demanding new position.


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Your social media pictures depict a guy with a wacky sense of humor, yet you come across as really conservative when at work. Who’s the real Danny Wilkinson? Hhhmmm…. I’m definitely a fun loving guy that always wants to make people laugh and ensure that they’re having a good time, as well as have a good time myself. 

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What came first…the big muscles or Amazon.com? Hahaha! The muscles did! As the second youngest of seven kids, I was always trying to compete with my siblings. Naturally I wanted to be better at something than they were, which proved to be extremely difficult because they’re all very talented.

When did you start cross-fit training, and how does it fit into your daily routine?  Man… I started doing cross-fit seven years ago, if I remember correctly. Exercise/working out has done a lot for me mentally, as well as physically, so I try to make sure I get in the gym or work out at least once a day. Or at least do something active every day of the week! 

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Where did you go, pre-pandemic, for fun in Las Vegas?  I really enjoy drinking coffee and trying new breweries in town. So definitely going to coffee shops and checking out new ones in town and all the local breweries. Oh, and definitely checking out new restaurants…I’m a self proclaimed foodie that loves sweets.

Favorite restaurant in Las VegasThis is tough. I love food…. bbbbuuuutttt I’m going to have to go with Tacos & Beer or Bajamar Seafood & Tacos just by the Arts District! 

Are you more of a night owl or a day-dreamer? I’m honestly like a reversible shirt… definitely adaptable to every situation. But I’d say that I do enjoy the day and being in the sun. I’m a child of the sun!

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This is my boy Gabe. He is a lethal white Australian Shepard. He is 4.5 and I got him from A Home 4 Spot, a rescue here in Vegas. Gabe is literally my best bud!

You just lost a bet and you have to do something embarrassing in front of a crowd. Will you do a sexy dance or sing a romantic song? Oh wow… well I’m absolutely terrible at both, but I’m going to say that my voice is way worse than my dance moves. So a sexy dance it is!

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You just won a vacation and your choice is Alaska, Hawaii, or Miami? Which one…and what would be the first thing you do when you got there? Oh man! I’m going to Hawaii! First thing I’m doing is looking at booking a sky diving jump and a swim with the whale sharks! That’s on my bucket list to do both of those in the same day!! 

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Do you have a favorite charity or social cause? I’d say anything that can benefit kids and can offer them more resources, or ability to participate in sports. 

People would be surprised to know that you __ are a huge nerd. I really enjoy reading, subject matter is usually self-development, and I geek out on computer stuff. I don’t play many, or any video games, but building computers and seeing how people push the performance limits of them is pretty cool! 

You’re going to be locked in a room for three days and can only eat one type of food. What are you taking in with you? Oh this is too easy! I’m bringing all the fixings for a peanut butter and jelly hahaha! Yes, I do eat them quite regularly! 

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Hollywood is about to make a movie on your life. You get to choose the actor playing Danny Wilkinson. The actor is definitely going to be whoever the sexiest leading male actor is at the time! Hahaha, I’m kidding… or am I?! The real actor would be… seriously though, I think Jensen Ackles (SUPERNATURAL) would be a good fit! 

Favorite big-screen movieOoohhhh, that’s a tough one, too!!! I really enjoy going to the movies! It’s a bit nostalgic for me as I frequently went to the movies with my father growing up… but I’d say… THE CONJURING 2.

Is this the first time you’ve worked at a gay bar? How do you deal with flirting? The Garden is the first time I’ve worked at a gay bar. And usually I’ll laugh it off awkwardly, strictly because I’m a bit awkward. But most recently, I just flirt right back, haha.

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The Garden launches a sexy new themed night and bartenders are required to work shirtless. Your response is A) Do I really have to? B) Hell, yeah, I can finally show what I’m made of, or C) Whatever…I’m easygoing – I would say that I’m a mix of B and C. You know, we gotta be comfortable showing the guests what they want to see! 

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The Garden Las Vegas is located at 1017 S. 1st St Suite 180, Las Vegas, NV 89101. It is open Thursday through Sunday from 6pm to 1am. Call 702-202-0900 or visit their website to make reservati0ns. 

Hot Guys of Vegas: Studs of Song


Harvesting a Crop of New Music from The Sexiest Men of the Season…

Earlier this year, I interviewed a number of artists regarding the pandemic shutdown…and how it affected their creativity. 98 Degrees hunk Jeff Timmons found comfort in technological advances which allowed him to write, record, and network from the safety of home. Of course, he also doubled down on workouts to relieve stress and keep those famous muscles ready for the return of live shows.

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Ever-smiling Vin A. transformed into a Tasmanian devil of activity during the shutdown. Simultaneously recording at least two albums, the musical director and breakout star of The Bronx Wanderers teamed up with father Vinny Adinolfi to form VINdemic, a father-son musical duo. And he may have shot a few music videos and done a whole lotta other stuff, too (I’ve lost track).

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This month, Vin and close pal Jimmy Denning (Tenors of Rock) launched Vin & Jimmy’s DOWNTOWN HOOTENANNY, a monthly showcase at NOTORIETY. The sold-out crowd was physically spaced, and safety protocols were carefully observed.

Uproarious, irreverent and full of guest stars, HOOTENANY was a welcome return to the fun times we desperately need.  You’ll want to reserve your tickets as soon as December’s date is announced. Click here to be notified of upcoming events at NOTORIETY.

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Many local celebrities lent their talents to Downtown HOOTENANNY, but among them, only Colin Cahill has graced the virtual pages of HOT GUYS OF VEGAS at least twice. The ATOMIC SALOON SHOW star is best known for performing shirtless wherever he goes. Once the pandemic hit, he stopped revealing that fabulous body due to what he and wife Makenzie Fly call “The Quarantine Fifteen”.

After eight long months of hiding, Cahill finally caved to requests and undid some shirt buttons for “Under Pressure” with Jimmy Denning. Three nights later, the hunk was back in the spotlight for the debut of ORIGINAL CHAOS.

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The band, consisting of Cahill, drummer Tim Sorbs, vocalist Dai Richards and guitarist Chris Cicchino (both from Tenors of Rock) took over Harrah’s Carnival Court for a fabulous first night of their weekly Saturday residency. Fans, friends, and celebs turned out to support the boys. As fate would have it, they were preceded that evening by a lengthy set from the tireless VINDemic. Click here to follow ORIGINAL CHAOS on Instagram.

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Several years ago on New Year’s Eve, I met the cast of a new Planet Hollywood show called PIANO MAN (not to be confused with the one currently playing at MOSAIC Theater). Singer Brett Pruneau had come to Las Vegas just to join the cast. As luck would have it, he and I attended the same New Year’s Eve party that evening…and we’ve kept in touch ever since.

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Brett Pruneau

Brett remained in Sin City after PIANO MAN folded, joined the cast of world-famous JUBILEE, and made a name for himself in this crazy city. Sadly, a stress-related condition traumatized the singer’s vocal chords and threatened to end his career. Lots of therapy later, the former New Yorker is back, better than ever, and just released a stirring collection entitled “The Real Thing”.

Like many artists, Brett used the pandemic situation as an opportunity to create, grow, and share his emotions. That’s what “The Real Thing” is about. As he recently told The Hollywood Digest, “I choose to interpret music that fulfills me and enriches my soul. This particular project was born out of pure necessity, to be honest. Given the current climate of the world during the COVID-19 crisis, I couldn’t bare the thought of not having a creative outlet for this indefinite season we are in.”

In addition to getting his vocal chords back into shape, Brett began a fitness routine that he’s proudly showing off on social media. If that angelic face wasn’t enough for him to make HOT GUYS OF VEGAS (it is), Brett’s newly-chiseled physique would guarantee him a spot. Expect more great things from Brett Pruneau in the future. You can purchase “The Real Thing” collection here or listen to it via Spotify here.

Travis Cloer

If all the world is a stage, then super-talented Travis Cloer is its Emperor. There’s nothing that the super-popular actor/singer can’t do. Scheduled to return to The Vegas Room this weekend after a wildly-successful showcase in July, the supper club’s press release sums up Cloer this way:

From classic to jazz, musical theatre to rock-n-roll, and everything in between, there isn’t a genre of music that can escape Travis Cloer’s masterful ability to grab a song and make it his very own.

Among his credits are West Side Story, Damn Yankees, Starlight Express, and – most notably – his record-setting performance as Frankie Valli in Jersey Boys – with over 2,200 appearances around the world to his credit. This portrayal earned him several Best Actor nominations from BroadwayWorld.com and much acclaim and respect in Las Vegas and on Broadway. 

In addition to his artistic talents, the great-looking Cloer has an infectious energy that makes every song a party. His latest recording is “Holiday With Me”, a doo-wop ditty that you can’t get enough of. The song was written by Cloer and produced by Vegas headliner Frankie Moreno. After only one week in release, the song is rising up the charts and is sure to be a perennial favorite.

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You can order “Holiday With Me” by following this link. Then make your reservations to see Travis Cloer on November 27th and 28th at The Vegas Room by clicking here.

MOSAIC THEATER – Everything Old Is New Again


A Historic Little Venue Shows the big boys how to safely Bring Live Entertainment Back to the Strip…

Don’t throw the past away
You might need it some rainy day
Dreams can come true again
When everything old is new again

It’s been eight long and painful months since the famed Las Vegas Strip went dark. Frightening images of lonely sidewalks and boarded-up casinos will forever haunt our memories. Now we’re crawling out of the darkness…a little uncertain and stumbling a bit along the way….and live shows are opening once again.

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Huge digital billboards at major casinos like ARIA and MGM Grand proclaim “LIVE ENTERTAINMENT IS BACK”, as if they’re the ones leading the charge. In actuality, it’s the relatively-unknown MOSAIC THEATER that’s making the most strides. The fully renovated venue, most recently known as TOMMY WIND THEATER, has become a shining beacon for performers, fun-starved visitors, and Las Vegas residents .

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Mosaic Theater follows the same, effective programming formula that made Planet Hollywood‘s V Theater such a success. Individual shows are scheduled with short turn-around times in between. Cleanup crews follow exiting patrons to sanitize and prepare the space for the next round. Behind the gorgeous red curtain, sets and cast move into position. And…..it’s showtime!

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MOSAIC THEATER currently offers three separate titles: QUEENS OF ROCK starring Elyzabeth Diaga, Kyle Martin‘s PIANO MAN (see review here) and long-running AUSSIE HEAT male revue. There’s more on the horizon, including MJ: The Evolution (a Michael Jackson tribute) and a return of the controversial A MOB STORY with Michael Franzese

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I predicted early on that V Theaters and affiliated Saxe Theater would be some of the first to reopen (see article here). Alas, all four auditoriums remain dark with no word on when they’ll be back. This gives Mosaic (and Downtown’s NOTORIETY) a distinct advantage in the current climate.

New ‘AUSSIE HEAT’ Show Debuts at MOSAIC ON THE STRIP

It’s worth noting that AUSSIE HEAT moved to MOSAIC in February after several years with David Saxe. The change was motivated in large part by a desire to have more control over their show. It’s well known in the industry that Saxe calls all of the shots in his domain. MOSAIC is clearly more of a collaborative effort.

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Some people consider MOSAIC‘s location to be a disadvantage. The structure is a bit back from Las Vegas Boulevard and not easily visible to passers-by. But once you know where it is, the positives become clear. A dedicated parking lot means that MOSAIC‘s entrance is mere steps from your car or the Strip. What other showroom in Las Vegas can boast that? (Take your time….I’ll wait).

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The theater’s dazzling, retro-cool lobby leads to a comfortable lounge with bar service. You can order up your favorite cocktail while waiting for curtain time.  The main auditorium is a throwback to NYC’s Studio 54, offering a wide proscenium stage and a main floor that can be used for show seating, dining or dancing (post-COVID, of course). Two balcony levels and an upper lounge are ideal for physical distancing and reduced-capacity requirements that are currently in effect.

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MOSAIC‘s rich history is reflected in its ability to host a wide variety of functions. The former Empire Ballroom, which also operated as Utopia, Metz, and KRAVE in the past, can handle award shows, fundraisers, lectures, weddings, podcast tapings, and corporate events.

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The venue is owned and operated by Dean Coleman of SPR & Promotions, a company with two decades of experience in promotion and production. Managing Partner Sophia Song is MOSAIC‘s Marketing Director. Together, they deliver fun, excitement, and a myriad of entertainment options designed to take on whatever 2021 throws their way.

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MOSAIC THEATRE is located at 3765 Las Vegas Blvd. S. Suite G., next to Red Palms and directly across from Park MGM Casino Resort. Click here for more information or to purchase tickets to shows. 

 

‘Piano Man’ at MOSAIC Theater Hits All The Right Notes


Tribute to Elton and Joel is way better than it has any right to be…

Tribute shows rarely get the respect that they deserve. It takes a massive amount of talent to physically transform into a well-known entertainer, then deliver spot-on performances in song and dance. Sometimes tribute shows are even better than the real thing…a joyous experience without the exorbitant prices, ego-fueled antics, or notorious late starts (I’m looking at you, Madonna). 

Celebrity impersonators have been a mainstay in Las Vegas for decades, and LEGENDS IN CONCERT is the longest-running show in the city. In 2019, I named V Theater‘s Gaga/Britney/Madonna tribute Blond Invasion as “the ultimate pop-diva experience” and “Biggest Surprise of the Year”.

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With all that’s happened this year, there’s no telling when concerts and superstar residencies will return. So imagine my joy, in this era of pandemic madness, in discovering a new show that delivers everything the biggest names can…except for a certificate of authenticity. That’s Kyle Martin’s PIANO MAN at Mosaic Theater on the Strip.

You might not be familiar with Mosaic Theater, but you should be. I’ll publish a dedicated column on this unique, COVID-conscious venue very soon. Mosaic has become a shining beacon for show-starved audiences. It currently offers three separate productions, including Queens of Rock and the sexy Aussie Heat, with more on the way.

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You might remember the short-lived PIANO MAN at Planet Hollywood‘s V THEATER. That version featured a quartet of singers that bopped and swayed through a lively medley of Elton John, Billy Joel, and Barry Manilow. Backed by a terrific seven-piece band, stars Brett Pruneau, Russel Francis, Savannah Smith and Sophia Monica winningly delivered the hits, but no actual piano. 

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Mosaic Theater‘s PIANO MAN takes quite a different approach. A grand onstage keyboard is the heart of this production, and star Kyle Martin delivers its soul. The former Californian cut his teeth on Disney stages and as Billy Joel in Broadway’s MOVIN’ OUT. He’s also covered the west coast with JOEL, his own tribute band.

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It’s to the show’s advantage that Martin isn’t necessarily familiar to Vegas audiences yet. He enters the stage in character, and his physical resemblance to the hitmaker is noteworthy. But it’s Martin’s remarkable keyboard skills that might fool you into thinking that you’re in the presence of stardom.

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Pounding out a rapid-fire “Angry Young Man”, Kyle launches on a high note followed by chart-toppers like “We Didn’t Start The Fire” and “Uptown Girl”. “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” provides one of the few mellow moments…the Billy Joel parade rarely slows down.

After such a spot-on first set, I was skeptical that Martin could shift gears to the foppish whimsey of Elton John, but my concerns were unfounded. Donning a pair of flashy goggles and flashier shoulder pads, the beefy singer/songwriter brings the house down with “I’m Still Standing”, “Benny and the Jets” and “Tiny Dancer”.

Martin’s four-piece band is an excellent assemblage. Each member gets their turn in the spotlight. Percussionist Daniel Sia, bass player Steve Bonacci, saxophonist Jeff Teczon, and Liam Hemsworth lookalike Luke Randall on guitar are all flawless. Sexy dancers Sarah Le Clear-Domingo (see profile here) and Nadia Albulet dazzle in costumes created by legendary BAZ alumnus Blair Farrington, who also oversees visuals. The entire team appears to be having one hell of a good time. 

At just the right length, the 75-minute concert winds down with a segment that’s unusual for tribute shows. After two sets performing as the featured headliners, Martin addresses the audience as himself. A charismatic and humble “everyman”, he offers a little insight into his career and shares a few family photos. Then the whole thing comes together in an explosive finale.

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Nothing brings people together like live entertainment, and MOSAIC‘s new show is a labor of love that hits all the right notes. PIANO MAN will send you into the night with a smile on your face and a song or two in your heart.

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PIANO MAN performs Thursday through Monday at 8:30pm. Click here for tickets. MOSAIC THEATER is located at 3765 Las Vegas Blvd, just north of HARD ROCK LIVE and across from PARK MGM Hotel Casino.

‘A VEGAS ROOM CHRISTMAS’ – An Updated Forecast


lastest news on the season’s cheeriest holiday dinner and show…

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It’s often said that in Las Vegas, the only constant is “change”. From entertainment offerings to the temperatures, you never know what to expect from week to week. And so it seems that the winds of change have shuffled the playbook at The Vegas Room. I’ve got the latest updates for fans and newbies alike.

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If you’re just tuning in, you can catch up with A VEGAS ROOM CHRISTMAS show announcement here, then cast bios here and here. As is the norm in the entertainment world, things tend to evolve during creative processes. And so it is that Eric Jordan Young, Brent Barrett, Bernie Blanks and Lisa Marie will no longer be appearing in A VEGAS ROOM CHRISTMAS.

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The announced cast of 20 performers has been revised with additional Las Vegas favorites. Each is a respected entertainer with their own legacy and fan base. Let’s take a look at the gentlemen who will now don stocking caps and mittens to celebrate Irving Berlin‘s WHITE CHRISTMAS:

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CARNELL JOHNSON – Familiar to thousands of Golden Knights fans…and people around the world…as “Mr. Golden Pipes”, Carnell Johnson unifies the nation regularly with his stirring rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner”. Born in Las Vegas, the gentle giant is known for entertaining enormous crowds at T-Mobile Arena and enhancing intimate moments as a singing gondolier at Venetian‘s GRAND CANAL.

A compassionate individual, Mr. Johnson regularly lends his time and talent to Ronald McDonald House and social equality movements.  He also participated in the MaskUpForNevada (#MaskUp4NV) campaign at the Welcome to Las Vegas sign that I covered in June. Carnell spent much of this summer doing small outdoor gigs, and is a professional actor and voice-over artist.

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Robert Hyatt

ROBERT HYATT – Who could ever guess that the gondolas floating on Venetian‘s canals could deliver so much talent. Such is the case with Oregonian Robert Hyatt. Like castmate Carnell Johnson, Hyatt also spent time on the fabled waters, serenading the city’s visitors in his own unique style.

Rob is just as skilled at music arranging as he is on the microphone. The husband and father is founder of the amazing Fifth Avenue jazz quartet, a managing member of E3 Digital Entertainment and was musical director/pianist for Riviera Hotel‘s long-running Barbra and Frank: The Concert That Never Was.

Ian Ward

IAN WARD – Regular readers of Vegas Unfiltered Blog know my admiration for California boy Ian Ward. Check out this profile piece to see what I mean. It’s rare to find such explosive talent in someone so young. Poised to detonate the national scene any day now, Ian had a featured showcase at The Vegas Room in August. Naturally, I attended every evening.

For the past three weeks, he and partner Ruby Lewis (who also appears in A VEGAS ROOM CHRISTMAS) presented a musical journey highlighting their ability to blend, harmonize and compliment one another. Here’s just one of the unforgettable moments:

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Ben Tucker

In addition to casting changes, dancer/choreographer Benjamin Tucker has taken on the role of Stage Director. Ben told me that he plans an immersive experience that will evoke the warmth of a holiday ski lodge. Guests will briefly leave Las Vegas behind and enter the world of White Christmas. Once you’ve enjoyed a bountiful Christmas-style dinner, The Vegas Room cast will commemorate the perennial movie classic via song and dance.

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Throughout December, guests of The Vegas Room will experience the fragrances and tastes of the season, too. Chef David James Robinson has crafted a glorious holiday menu to compliment and accompany the onstage presentation:

Savory Gingerbread with Vanilla Butter

Mini Lobster Quiche

Borscht with Sour Cream

Holiday Salad with Homemade Ranch Dressing

Roast Beef with Yorkshire Pudding or 

Turkey and Sage Dressing with Green Beans & Pomegranate or 

Roasted Acorn Squash with Sage Dressing and Sweet Potato Puree (vegan)

Egg Nog and Peppermint Shortbread Cookies

The Vegas Room Dessert That Snows!

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In preparation for upcoming festivities and to allow patrons to remain safely at home during increased COVID-19 concerns, The Vegas Room will be dark through November 26th (Thanksgiving). Shows will return on November 27th and 28th with dinner performances by Travis Cloer (Jersey Boys).

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Sunday brunch returns on Sunday, November 29th with international dazzler Nieve Malandra. Chef Robinson has prepared a multi-course brunch to accompany Nieve’s songs from Japan, Spain, Italy, France, and Portugal.

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A VEGAS ROOM CHRISTMAS launches its first of 20 performances on December 2nd. Join them for what is sure to become an annual holiday tradition. Click here for reservations to any performance at The Vegas Room.

The Vegas Room is located at 953 East Sahara Avenue E-18. Phone (725) 206-7059 for more information.

‘EXTRAVAGANZA- THE LAS VEGAS SPECTACULAR’ Will Be Sin City’s First New Show In….Forever…


Long-delayed variety production finally debuts at fabled JUBILEE showroom November 23rd…

The famed Bally’s Showroom on the Strip is often referred to as the birthplace of the iconic Las Vegas showgirl. Whether that’s true or not can be debated, but the classic Donn Arden production JUBILEE! performed there for an incredible 35 years. Now, the spirit of that famed revue and the showgirls themselves are set to return in a new variety show called EXTRAVAGANZA – The Vegas Spectacular.

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Set to premiere on November 23rd after one preview performance in March (thanks for nothing COVID-19), EXTRAVAGANZA – The Vegas Spectacular will feature an international cast of more than 30 artists and performers. It’s directed by Hanoch Rosènn, the creative force behind WOW – The Vegas Spectacular at Rio Hotel Casino. And while the two share similar DNA, EXTRAVAGANZA will lean a little less towards “family-friendly” and a bit more towards the sensual and passionate.

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Advance buzz on EXTRAVAGANZA has centered around an extremely sexy cast of athletic and graceful performers. Guests can expect to be mesmerized by thrill-inducing acts that feature aerialists, acrobats, comedians, ventriloquists, and dancers. Some of the most astonishing feats of Sin City’s entertainment heyday will return, too, including the infamous “Globe of Death”.

Fans of Downtown’s Fremont Street Experience will surely remember the terrifying “Globe of Death”, a gasp-worthy stunt in which several high-speed motorcyclists roar around at top speeds while inside a spherical cage. The “Globe of Death” ranks with CELESTIA‘s “Wheel of Death” as one of the most popular and frightening daredevil acts ever to be performed in the city on a regular basis.

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EXTRAVAGANZA will also include a salute to Vegas icons like Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra, this time via state-of-the-art hologram technology. LED video screen backdrops, elaborate costumes, and large-scale sets will transport guests through several decades of songs, dances, and variety acts that laid the foundation for contemporary epic productions like Le Reve – The Dream and Michael Jackson ONE.

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Director Rosènn was inspired by the success of WOW – The Vegas Spectacular (two years, over 1,000 performances and counting) to create EXTRAVAGANZA as a tribute to Las Vegas and its legacy of entertainment.  “The show is my homage to this amazing city – bringing not only tremendous and unique performers from all over the world – but, also, some of the most iconic and thrilling acts, as well as, the return of the classic showgirls, who made the Jubilee Theatre home for so many decades.”

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EXTRAVAGANZA – The Vegas Spectacular,” resumes performances on the iconic stage at the Jubilee Theater inside Bally’s Las Vegas on Monday, Nov. 23, 2020. The show will perform to a socially-distanced audience capped at 250 guests.

In addition, for a limited time, the production will feature special guest stars and America’s Got Talent finalist and crossbow superstar Silvia Silvia and husband Victor Ponce, two of the stars from Extravaganza’s sister show, WOW – The Vegas Spectacular at Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino.

“We are excited to reopen ‘EXTRAVAGANZA’ in Las Vegas” says creator and director, Hanoch Rosènn. “We are also thrilled to have two of our WOW stars, Silvia Silvia and Victor Ponce, join our cast until we are able to reopen WOW at the Rio.”

“EXTRAVAGANZA – The Vegas Spectacular” Performance Schedule:
“EXTRAVAGANZA – The Vegas Spectacular” will perform nightly at the Jubilee Theatre inside Bally’s Las Vegas at 6:30 pm and 9:30 pm (dark Wednesdays except for Nov. 25, Dec. 23, 30, 2020 and Jan. 6, 2021).

Tickets are on sale now and prices range from $49.99 to $109.99 + taxes and fees and can be purchased at Extravaganza-Vegas.com, the Bally’s Las Vegas Box Office, Ticketmaster, BalllysLasVegas.com or by calling 702-777-7776.

Photos: Caprio Media Design for EXTRAVAGANZA – The Las Vegas Spectacular

MAYA CINEMAS Brings Unique Entertainment to North Las Vegas


Unconventional theater chain favors quirky gems over mainstream hits… 

With so little live entertainment currently available in Las Vegas, some of us who yearn for something to do have been rediscovering the cinemas. Alas, the only apparent winner from a business perspective has been West Wind Las Vegas drive-in, which I’ve reported on several times. But a gorgeous new indoor multiplex on the north side is shaking things up. And it’s definitely worth a visit.

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As an avid movie buff (and former manager for AMC Theaters) who attends film screenings at least three times per week, it pains me to admit that the expansion of MAYA Cinemas to Las Vegas escaped me. The high-tech complex began operations in early 2019, but was apparently overshadowed by the hype surrounding downtown’s ECLIPSE Theaters. That pricey restaurant/bar/cinema hybrid reportedly failed to connect with movie-goers, and remains dark for the eight month. Expensive $18 movie tickets certainly didn’t help.

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MAYA Cinemas, on the other hand, is a more economical alternative. While their ticket prices are in line with bigger brands like Regal and Cinemark, snack prices are remarkably reasonable. For instance, a large drink/popcorn combo runs $10 at MAYA, compared to over $16 at AMC Town Square. And before you complain about snack prices, keep in mind that food and beverage sales are what keep your local movie house in business, not ticket sales. The vast percentage of your admission price goes back to the studios who make the movies. So…no concession sales equals no movie theater. Period.

MAYA Cinemas is based in California. The Las Vegas location is their first in Nevada. It’s only a few minutes from the NEON Museum, and next to old-time locals casinos Silver Nugget and Jerry’s Nugget. While the location might seem puzzling to some, it was deliberately chosen in keeping with the company’s mission statement.


Maya Cinemas was chartered in 2000 with a mission to develop, build, own and operate modern, first-run, megaplex movie theaters in under-served, family oriented, Latino-dominant communities. In January 2019, Maya Cinemas North Las Vegas opened its doors bringing state-of-the-art movie-going to an area of Las Vegas seeing rapid growth of new business. 

Maya Cinemas offers first-run Hollywood movies in high-end theaters focused on quality of design, state-of-the-art film presentation technology, and superior customer service.


It’s hard to downplay the visual appeal of MAYA Cinemas N. Las Vegas. The massive modern structure features a spacious parking lot that’s landscaped beautifully with thoughtful accent lighting. Inside, touchscreen podiums allow you to reserve your tickets, or you can pre-order them online. All seats are assigned, and physical distancing protocols are automatically implemented.

An enormous lobby houses Energi Gaming arcade, a dining area, and Maya Cantina, which serves alcoholic beverages that you can take into the auditorium. Snacks, meals, and drinks can be ordered via the MAYA Cinemas App, which also includes MAYA Rewards loyalty program. Sign up to receive a free small popcorn and accrue points towards future discounts. You’ll be eligible for periodic email deals, too.

Throughout the week, you can take advantage of discounts like “Date Night Mondays”, “Family Day Tuesdays”, and “Senior Day Wednesdays”. Specially-scheduled presentations are targeted towards guests with sensory sensitivities, and the theater is available for private rentals and birthday parties.  

The wonderful design of MAYA Cinemas continues into the corridors and auditoriums, which are decorated with mellow earth tones and vibrant yellows. Plush electronic recliner seats are equipped with dining tables that easily swing into position and back out of the way. There is ample spacing between rows, once again ideal for physical distancing. Auditoriums are thoroughly sanitized between each showtime, and extra precautions are regularly implemented by the staff to protect your health. 

If you’re a techie, you’ll appreciate the presence of DOLBY ATMOS sound systems, D-BOX motion seats (in select auditoriums), and MPX, Maya’s own large-screen premium format.

MPX is the most immersive movie experience yet! Be engulfed in our large silver screen with the clearest and brightest 2D and 3D images from our projection technology. And hear every detail in amazing clarity with a true 360-degree sound!  MPX clarity of sound effects is phenomenal and delivers total immersion into the film.


Attention to detail is even evident in MAYA Cinemas restroom facilities. Family restrooms are ideal for those with small children or special needs. There are environmentally-friendly waterless fixtures for the gentlemen, and all-in-one sinks have high-speed blade dryers that instantly dry hands without paper towel waste or mess.

The best thing about MAYA Cinemas, aside from the unbelievably-delicious popcorn, is their unique approach to programming. As I mentioned in yesterday’s article on the release of STEALING CHAPLAIN, theaters have been impacted by a drought of Hollywood product. Of course, this was caused by the pandemic that shut down all film and television production this year. In place of new titles, theaters have been relying on classics, mostly from the 80s, with a few major studio releases peppered in.

MAYA Cinemas has taken that business model one step further. They’re featuring low-budget indies, urban-appeal thrillers, film festival favs, and genre-busters that might have otherwise gone straight to video. But let’s face facts…no matter how high-end your home system is, nothing beats the massive screens, booming sound, delicious smells, mouth-watering tastes, and captivating atmosphere of a real movie house. 

My first visit to MAYA Las Vegas was for LOVE AND MONSTERS, a critically-acclaimed (90% on Rotten Tomatoes) post-apocalyptic romantic adventure starring Dylan O’Brien of the MAZE RUNNER trilogy. Also showing were SPELL, a voodoo chiller featuring an African-American cast, JUNGLELAND, a boxing drama with SONS OF ANARCHY‘s Charlie Hunnam, and THE INFORMER with Joel Kinnaman. None of these titles are playing anywhere else in the city.

Previous discoveries include SAVE YOURSELVES, a riotous comedy of two city-slickers stranded in a rustic cabin during an alien invasion. Horror film favorites Tobin Bell (SAW) and Lin Shaye (INSIDIOUS) teamed up for THE CALL, a nail-biter from the creator of FINAL DESTINATION. Coming soon are SPIRAL, the latest in the SAW franchise, and MURDER IN THE WOODS with Danny Trejo (MACHETE). 

Of course, with over a dozen auditoriums to fill, major Hollywood releases like HONEST THIEF and older classics get their fair share of screen time. Ongoing series include family favorites like THE WIZARD OF OZ and BACK TO THE FUTURE, musicals like GREASE and FOOTLOOSE, and the entire HARRY POTTER series.

Retro titles are only $3.00 for adults and $1.00 for children, so pack up the kids and allow them to experience TOY STORY, CHRISTMAS VACATION and more on the big screen for the first time. It’s time to get out of the house and rediscover the pleasures of going to the movies.

MAYA Cinemas Las Vegas is located at 2195 North Las Vegas Boulevard North Las Vegas, NV 89030. Click here for showtimes, ticket prices and more information.

Photos: Sam Novak

‘Stealing Chaplain’ – Las Vegas Indie Headed for the Big Screen

Locally-produced comedy benefits from sHortage of Hollywood theatrical releases…


“Keep digging. Otherwise the next grave we’re digging is our own”. So says ‘Cal’, a con man desperate to stay alive while embroiled in a daring Las Vegas scam. That’s the premise of STEALING CHAPLAIN, a brand-new comedy filmed on location in Sin City.

STEALING CHAPLAIN is an independent production that’s about to hit big screens across the country. It’s being released at a time when theater chains are starving for new titles. For local producer Ken Bressers of Dystopian Films, this came as a stroke of luck, one that he swiftly pounced upon.

After the relative failure of director Christopher Nolan’s expensive (and downright awful, IMHO) TENET on U.S. screens, tentpole features like Pixar’s SOUL, Disney’s MULAN remake, WONDER WOMAN 84 and the latest James Bond film have either been postponed or diverted to streaming services. As a result, chains like AMC, Cinemark and Regal have relied on running retro classic titles…or have shut down altogether.

“Knowing we’ve got a quality movie ready to deliver and that theaters are drying up, we approached several theater chains directly, and they loved the idea” said Bressers. “Beginning November 13, we will be opening in over a hundred movie theaters across six major chains, and we’re still in talks with several others.” Stealing Chaplain is currently in theatrical release in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Stealing Chaplin is a comic caper focused on two British con men who dig up and ransom the corpse of legendary comic actor Charlie Chaplin. It’s inspired by the true story of a pair of crooks actually exhuming and stealing the body of the silent comedy star. Ken oversaw a production also starring The Sopranos star Al Sapienza and The Patriot actor Peter Woodward.

Eagle-eyed viewers will recognize a number of local performers who are featured in Stealing Chaplain. It even includes a cameo appearance from “Mr. Las Vegas” himself, Wayne Newton. Dani Elizabeth, fiance of comedic magician Murray SawChuck, is the popular emcee of CRAZY GIRLS at Planet Hollywood. Handsome Brent Barret of PHANTOM – The Las Vegas Spectacular (and former entertainment director for THE VEGAS ROOM) is on hand, as is sultry Cheryl Prater, a frequent host and guest at ROCKING COMEDY SHOW with Jay Bird

  Cheryl Prater has been in numerous Vegas-centric films and TV series

It was at a Halloween day private screening of the 1984 classic Nightmare on Elm Street (hosted by Jay) that Cheryl Prater first told me the STEALING CHAPLAIN news. She was undoubtedly excited by the chance to reach a large-scale audience in her latest role. In a year filled with endless bad news, this was a solid reason for cast, crew and friends to celebrate.

Bressers echoed those sentiments: “If Charlie Chaplin taught us anything; it was that laughing in times of difficulty sometimes is the best medicine. In light of everything going on in the world at the moment, we are very pleased to be partnering with Cinemark Theatres, Marcus Theatres, Malco, Starlights, and more to deliver Stealing Chaplin to an audience in need of an escape!”

Escaping to movie theaters has long been a popular Las Vegas pastime. Fremont Street’s historic El Portal Theater, built in the 1920s, was the city’s very first air-conditioned structure. Casinos throughout the valley have multi-screen theaters under their roofs, and the West Wind 6 Drive-in is filled with hundreds of cars every evening.

Several local movie producers and directors have turned Las Vegas into their own private Hollywood. Directors Joe Lujan and brothers Sonny and Michael Mahal use local talent and locations for outrageous cult horror films like Art of the Dead, Bus Party to Hell and the Immortal Wars franchise. Along with Sharknado actress Tara Reid, their films feature handsome future stars like Mark Justice, Ben Stobber, and burlesque performer Ronnie Nanos.

Even Gregory Popovich of David Saxe‘s POPOVICH COMEDY PET THEATER got bit by the movie-making bug. His endearing “Popovich and the Voice of the Fabled American West” had an exclusive run at Brenden Theaters at The Palms Casino Hotel. So, it’s no surprise that Stealing Chaplain benefits from the talent of many Las Vegas entertainers.

With all of the new precautions that have been standardized to make your movie-going experience safe and enjoyable, there’s no better time to head out and experience a new film. Enjoy this trailer for STEALING CHAPLAIN and see it on theater screens beginning November 13th. Visit the official Facebook page for more information and showtimes.