Production Construction – ‘MEN OF THE STRIP’

Men are hard at work as ticket sales go live and an opening date looms nearer for Men of the Strip.

The following is a reprint of an article from 5/17/17…

THREE YEARS AGO

The number of details that have gone into producing Tropicana‘s Men of the Strip, like any production, have been daunting. Hours of planning, casting, networking, legalities and preparation must bring those elements together before a single performance is tallied. But they all get traced back to one thing…an idea.

Singer/writer/producer Jeff Timmons is the brains (and considerable brawn) behind Men of the Strip, the new show bowing this month at Trop’s Havana Room. As the story goes, Timmons was guest-hosting Chippendales at Rio a few years back when he became inspired to create his own cutting-edge male revue.

From there, the inevitable avalanche of brainstorming, financing, auditions and show creation yielded a nationwide tour that culminated in a triumphant Vegas showcase. Alas, things came to a grinding halt after a tragic event. Despite the successful run and a ravenous fan base, Men of the Strip was shelved indefinitely.

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Inside the Henderson, NV dance studio during costume fittings…

FOUR WEEKS AGO

This spring, the creative process is back again in full swing. Earlier in April, three key players from Men of the Strip‘s creation converged in Las Vegas for a relaunch…this time on a much larger scale (last month I reported on the expanded show/nightclub/pool party concept here). And as promised, I was there to capture some of the preparation and speak with members of the team…both new and returning.

Timmons was front and center…and all around the studio…during auditions for new dancers. An open casting call had been announced in Los Angeles and Las Vegas for the first two days of April, with candidates encouraged to pre-submit video demonstrations of their skills.

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Mike Foland arrives at Tropicana with rookie Tyler Froehlich…

Social media plays a big part in casting these days. Show choreographer Glenn Douglas Packard, returning from MOTS’s initial run, reached out to various dancers in the industry. He also stepped out of the box by direct-contacting newbie Tyler Froehlich, whose Instagram page he happened upon.

Both Timmons’ and MOTS’s Facebook pages broadcast the auditions live, with viewers encouraged to chime in on their favorites. The show’s financier Mike Foland told me that the cast would constantly be interactive with fans, both online and after each performance. He wants the audience to get to know the men as individuals and enjoy their unique personalities as much as their looks and dancing skills.

With a projected start date looming and ticket sales about to go live, only one week passed before the cast was chosen, notified and assembled to begin rehearsals. I stopped by the following Monday at The Stage, a professional studio in Henderson, where the men were already sweating through their paces.

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Choreographer Packard (far right) and Men of the Strip 2.0

Timmons wasn’t present on the day of my visit. As has been the case since announcing the residency, he was making the rounds of a media publicity blitz. That means traveling to various cities, appearing on talk shows and doing interviews to promote his baby.

Mike Foland greeted me and showed me around as costume fittings were underway. I immediately recognized the uber-cool biker costumes that opened up the show in 2014. Over in the main studio, choreographer Packard was shouting out instructions for that very same number: “Okay, helmets on your shoulders. One-two-three, thrust, turn, turn!” (or something to that effect).

After putting the dancers through their paces, Packard discussed his goals for MOTS 2.0. The multi-talented choreographer/dancer/TV star is fresh from directing his first film, PITCHFORK, a horror thriller (released on Blu-ray and DVD this month).

With creativity in overdrive, Packard said he has taken the best of the Mandalay Bay show and pared it into a fast-moving 90 minutes designed to leave audiences out of breath.

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“We’ve got a great bunch,” he said. “They’re deep into the third number, and it’s only been one week. It took a month to get this far the last time around. We’re lucky to have gotten a really good group. The challenge now is to teach what we already have to a whole new cast of men…” Packard confided.

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Advertising materials inside the resort will soon blanket the city…

Fortunately, he’s inherited ample support from the group’s mentor-figure, returning performer Joel Sajiun. Dominican Republic native Sajiun moved back to South Florida after MOTS disbanded, waiting for a phone call. “Three years I wait. Three years! I was about to take a construction job next week when the phone rang” he said. “It was fate.”

Foland echoed that sentiment. “We waited a long time for Men of the Strip to come back together. We had to heal first. When we were ready, it was hard to find the right place”. He and others scoped numerous locations in Vegas and came close to signing a deal with The Stratosphere (the former Poly Esther’s nightclub). “Then Havana Room was presented to us, and we knew this was it. Everything fell into place”.

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Mike Foland surveys the Havana Room after meeting with Tropicana execs…

Now that the team is back in action, Joel Sajiun finds it hard to keep his emotions in check. He choked up several times during our conversation. The dancer recounted stories of special-needs audience members who attended the nationwide tour, and one dedicated fan whose family sent a message of gratitude after she had passed away.

“What we’re doing here is special. It isn’t just a male stripper show. In some way, we’re making people feel better and affecting lives. Anybody can give extra attention to a pretty girl in the audience, but to us, everyone is special.”

As he stood up to rejoin his partners, Sajiun stopped and looked me in the eye. “This sounds funny, but what we’re doing here…somehow it’s special. It makes a difference to people. I know it does…and I’m glad to be a part of it.”

LAST WEEK

Timmons and Foland sat down with me at the Tropicana‘s casino lounge last week to discuss their progress. They’d just come from a meeting with hotel execs. Both were energized by the challenges involved in organizing a residency versus a tour.

“Last time around was easy!” said Timmons. “When we were touring, we just advertised at a city, showed up in our bus and performed. Now it’s a whole different game. I’m trying to make sure we’ve got coverage in People magazine, US WeeklyTMZ. We’re learning the intricacies of Vegas marketing…taxi ads, ticket brokers, hotel concierges, timeshare people. You can’t just erect a billboard here and expect people to line up.”

Havana Room never had a resident show before” Foland added. “We’ve needed to work with Ticketmaster to map out the space, arrange seats and decide on price points. Glenn has to rework production numbers for the uniqueness of the floor layout and audience placement. It’s tough!”

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Timmons and Foland chat with industry colleagues outside of the Viva Vegas awards….

With only two weeks to go before opening night, I joined the cast and management of MOTS for the Viva Vegas TV Awards celebration at nearby Mandalay Bay. That industry-centric event had already nominated MOTS for “Best Male Revue” (their showcase performance at MB in 2014 made them eligible). They ended up taking the prize over more established brands like Chippendales and Thunder From Down Under.

Clearly, the word has gotten out that Men of the Strip will be a formidable entry in Vegas male revues. Coming out of a three-year holding pattern, that’s encouraging to Timmons: “You know, we waited a long time for this. Tragedy struck and nearly wiped us out…but I never gave up hope. The universe has aligned for us”.

“Now is the time. And we’re ready!”

Men of the Strip cast

Men of the Strip will perform Thursday through Sunday at 9 pm at Tropicana beginning May 25th July 14th. Tickets start at $49.99 (plus taxes/fees) and are available via this link. Use offer code “PARTY” for a 30% discount. 

Photos: [Sammasseur, Men of the Strip]

APERO Is Sexy, Sassy, and a Whole Lotta Fun


My latest for CHIC Compass Magazine revisits the fabulous show with DNA from ZUMANITY and Le Reve…

The state of entertainment in post-pandemic Las Vegas is one of turmoil and flux. Long-running productions have permanently shuttered, and legendary stars have been shown the door. Fortunately for some entertainers and creative minds, new opportunities have arisen. That’s how APÉRO was born.

APERO is a sexy new revue presented at Baobab Stage. A swanky, intimate showroom within Baobab Café, Baobab Stage is located at Town Square on South Las Vegas Boulevard. Featuring talent from nowshuttered ZUMANITY by Cirque du Soleil and Wynn’s long-running LE REVE – The Dream, APÉRO takes the finest ingredients of those world-famous spectaculars and blends them into a delicious, fizzy cocktail delivered right to your seat.

APÉRO‘s premise is built around the aperatif, an oh-so-French tradition of early-evening libations and nibbles (something you’re invited to partake in before and during the show). An ultra-hot cast of men and women meet, flirt…and try to impress each other with feats of grace and strength. A threadbare concept to be sure, but who cares when the antics are this sexy?

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Continue reading by clicking here via CHIC Compass Magazine…

Hot Guys of Vegas: Guitar Heroes

Songs sound so much better when the visuals match the music


“Hey, don’t objectify me. I’m a serious artist”. Yeah yeah yeah….we’ve heard it a thousand times. Beautiful people often complain that they aren’t respected for their talents. Yet most of us grew up in a time when you had to be MTV-ready to make it in the music industry. Just ask Jeff Timmons of 98 Degrees.

Jeff Timmons of ’98 Degrees’ Weathers the Storm

Perennial “Hot Guys” recipient Jeff Timmons doesn’t play guitar

These days, TikTok and Instagram have made  “models” out of millions, so very little has changed. Luckily for readers of this column, three Vegas hunks have been strumming their guitars like they’re pumping iron at the gym. So here they are…Hot Vegas Guitar Heroes of 2021

Michael Shapiro –  singer/guitarist/producer

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Do you remember that old Burger King jingle “It takes two hands to handle a Whopper“? Well, Michael Shapiro not only has two full hands, but he also wears hats in two separate bands. As front man to both Many Miles Away and Reckless In Vegas, Shapiro does more in one evening than most do in a week.

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I first chatted with the handsome musician when we were guests on What The Cluck, a topical comedy chat-fest by The Bronx WanderersVin A. Prior to that, I’d enjoyed Michael’s tribute to Bruce Springsteen in World’s Greatest Rock Show at The STRAT. During the pandemic, Shapiro was busy writing music for his newest musical venture. 

Produced by Paul Fletcher, MANY MILES AWAY debuted their new songs in a showcase at The Barbershop Cuts & Cocktails (inside Cosmopolitan) earlier this week. It was a star-studded affair attended by movers and shakers like man-about-town Mark Messina, comedian/actress Elaina Bhattacharyya, Paula Maggio, Vin A. (of course), his behind-the-scenes muse Elizabeth Hunt, Review-Journal entertainment columnist John Katsilometes and singer Travis Cloer (see below).

May be an image of 5 people, people playing musical instruments, people standing and text that says 'RECKLESS IAVEGAS A MODERN TWIST ON VINTAGE VEGAS Thursday, July 15, 2021 Italian American Club 2333 E Sahara Ave., Las Vegas, NV 89104 TICKETS $65 Dinner 6:30-7:00pm-- Show 8:00pm For Reservations go to iacvegas. or call (702) 457-3866'

This coming July 15th, Shapiro’s Reckless In Vegas will be back onstage at Italian American Club. Overflowing with style and sexiness, the retro-cool Reckless In Vegas takes vintage swagger and turns it on its ear with modern interpretations. Seating is 6:30 pm and you can get tickets/info by clicking here. This is one night on the town that you won’t want to miss.

Travis Cloer–  singer/guitarist/actor

 

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Photo by Dianne Davis

It’s impossible to follow Vegas music and NOT know Travis Cloer. A rip-roaring bundle of positive energy, Travis is beloved not just by fellow musicians and fans, but by the entire Sin City community. And because he’s smokin’, Travis has made it onto my Hot Guys of Vegas column twice. 

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Last November, I told you about the Jersey Boys star’s Christmas single Holiday With Me. Now he’s prepared to heat up the summer charts with Standing Here. Releasing this week, Standing Here finds the crooner fresh off a sold-out Composer’s Showcase at NOTORIETY, where he performed the new ballad.

Produced by popular Vegas entertainer Frankie Moreno, Standing Here is the type of song you play during a relaxing summer drive. Close your eyes, imagine you’re riding along a country road with the windows down, and listen to a sample right here. Standing Here is available for pre-order via the same link. 

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Thanks for the great vibes, Travis!

Miles Schon – singer/guitarist/songwriter

 

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Miles Schon is as handsome as he is talented

If I have to explain why our final Guitar Hero made the list, perhaps it’s time to visit an optometrist. Miles Schon is the ultimate hot musician. Handsome, humble, charismatic and an ace on the strings, he’s got the DNA to back up his impending super-stardom.

Miles is the son of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Neal Schon. Dad has been involved with such legends as Journey, Santana, Joe Cocker, The Allman Brothers, and Sammy Hagar. When you grow up in that type of household, you’re bound to have a passion for great music, too.

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Music is always a collaborative effort, and Miles found his perfect partner in Michael Shapiro (above). The two formed MANY MILES AWAY, a moniker undoubtedly inspired by the younger Schon’s first name. The two even wrote a single sharing the same title, which they performed in Salt Lake City earlier this year:

Miles cites R & B, pop and metal as his primary musical influences. An avid jock, he enjoys the great outdoors, which explains his stunning physique. Excited about a successful first Las Vegas performance at The Barbershop last Monday, Miles is eager to learn what comes next:

“We have no idea what the future holds. Looking back on looking into the future…I had no clue and still don’t. Just keep grinding and be the best you can be.” – Miles Schon

Photos from recipients’ social media and websites. Caricatures by Neal Portnoy.

 

Brent Barrett – Celebrating 40 Years On Broadway


Most entertainers put their heart and soul into a performance. But actor/singer Brent Barrett once put his life and limbs on the line for a role. While preparing for a German production of Phantom of the Opera, Barrett suffered a painful accident that resulted in a badly broken leg.

With only two weeks to go before opening night, the handsome Vegas resident underwent surgery and rehabilitation so that the “Phantom” could go on. Still sporting a metal plate in his lower leg three years later, he laughs it off as just another chapter in a stunning career…one that spans four glorious decades.

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This July 11th at the Italian American Club, Brent Barrett will be presenting 40 Years on Broadway, a single-night career retrospective. Click HERE to continue reading via CHIC Compass Magazine.

Las Vegas To Host PRIDE XR – The World’s First Hybrid Pride Event

All eyes will turn to sin city for a groundbreaking new virtual reality/live LGBTQ experience


Remember last summer when we were all going batshit crazy with cabin fever thanks to a certain virus? Well, the brilliant minds at Fresh Wata Creative decided to host events outside of their home base at 3905 W. Diablo Drive (near Allegiant Stadium). Topless revues, drag shows, comedy acts and more drew crowds of locals and visitors alike And just like that, Dreamland Drive-In was born.

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Fast forward twelve months, and now Fresh Wata‘s interior has been transformed into StarBase, a hybrid event center for in-person and virtual-reality functions. Born out of the entertainment needs of a deeply-changed society, StarBase is fully equipped with high tech, ten rooms of excitement and a team that’s ready to welcome revelers to our new reality.


StarBase’s creators believe hybrid events are the future for companies and brands post-pandemic and wanted to give event planners a turn-key solution by booking the event space. In hosting your conference or party at StarBase, you have the option to live stream content out to Facebook, Twitch or into the StarBase building.

There are many firsts at StarBase from the first NFT gallery in Las Vegas, to being the first fully operable hybrid event venue in the world featuring a digital twin in Microsoft’s Altspacevr called StarBaseXR. Attendees can meet at StarBase physically and virtually. StarBase XR is a world presented by a group of developers and professional producers at Fresh Wata, to replicate the venue as a 360 environment online.

StarBase XR can be visited in virtual reality from a headset, like an Oculus 2, or a Mac computer or PC. In other words, the venue is not limited to the physical location in Las Vegas and in general the team believes the sky is not the limit! Engagements will be held virtually inside StarBase XR for those unable to visit in person.


This weekend, Pride XR will lift off from the StarBase launching pad. PrideXR is the world’s first live/VR global LGBTQ Pride event:

StarBase and Dreamland presents PrideXR, the world’s first hybrid live/virtual reality Pride event on June 25 and 26, presented by Bud Light Seltzer and InterPride, a nonprofit dedicated to producing Pride parades, marches, festivals and events.
 
 
Revelers can celebrate two ways – through a custom-built virtual reality world via VR headset, or in person. Hosted on social platform AltspaceVR, the VR world features a full Pride experience with a dance floor, red carpet, vendors, hologram DJs, charity auctions and a PrideXR parade. 
 
 
Friday, June 25 at 7 p.m. – Failed to Render Comedy Show 
 
 
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Stand-up comedians from Failed to Render, the first-ever hybrid comedy show, will take the stage in real life for the first time while simulcasting their show in VR. Following the show, DJ Celeste and DJ Skye will perform at the after party, along with live performances by Puerto Rican trap artist DAmire MAjor and more. Tickets are $35 and include a complimentary drink. Click here to order. Table and bottle service also available for the live show.
 
 
 
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Saturday, June 26 from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. – Starfire Saturday
 
 
 
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Edie from Faaabulous! The Show will host the hottest LGBTQ+ dance party in the galaxy, featuring hybrid live/virtual reality performances by DAmire MAjor, Kristine Mirelle, Vanessa Lynnae, DJ Celeste, DJ Skye, DJ Aravi and DJ Luke Dice, along with surprise guest appearances throughout the night. 
 
 
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Tickets give you general access to all PrideXR events at StarBase on Saturday, June 26th, featuring the world’s first hybrid live/virtual reality nightclub experience presented by Bud Light Seltzer. With dazzling out-of-this-world performances hosted by Edie from ZUMANITY, and special celebrity guest appearances all night. 

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Tickets are $39.05 and include a complimentary drink. Vegas Unfiltered readers can get $20 off by using code “sam20.  Click here to purchase tickets. Bottle service available first come first serve or book in advance via email at info@dreamlandxr.com. StarBase is located at 3905 W. Diablo Drive in Las Vegas, near Allegiant Stadium.

Hot Guys Of Vegas: Grab A Handful of ‘Rock Candy’

New male revue features pedigree talent, chiseled abs…and one sizzling lady…


With nearly every major production already re-opened or slated to, it’s inconceivable that world-famous Chippendales male revue was recently evicted from Rio Las Vegas. In the past few months, a reborn Thunder From Down Under has gained steam, Aussie Heat continues to pack Mosaic Theater, and the awful Magic Mike Live‘s relaunch at Sahara Hotel is now scheduled for August (several false starts later).

While Chippendales searches for a new home, some cast members have scattered to parts unknown or taken non-entertainment roles. But at least three of the cuffs-and-collar crew are back onstage in a fledgling male revue called ROCK CANDY.

ROCK CANDY has taken a clever casting route by filling its recipe with laid-off performers from major shows like Le Reve and Cirque du Soleil productions. There’s also a heaping helping of AUSSIE HEAT with a few sprinkles of Thunder. Add a dash of one sexy lady and you’ve got a colorful display of morsels that is worth digging into with both hands and your teeth.


Rock Candy Male Revue is an intimate fantasy journey through the mind of your hostess, Rosa. This is not your typical Male revue, where the men think they know how to fulfill every woman’s fantasy. Rock Candy will entice your mind and stimulate your senses from a female perspective, as Rosa directs the dancers like her muses to bend to her will and desires. Every performance is different, while Rosa’s mind wanders from voyeuristic fantasies, uniformed dreams, and even a bit of bondage play. The Rock Candy dancers are Rosa’s playthings as she daydreams the night away.


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Rosa Agius – Your Host

The big-budget Magic Mike Live could learn a few lessons from ROCK CANDY. Foremost is how to have a female host that doesn’t run interference between the guys and the audience. Mike‘s shrill emcee yanks you out of the fun with her incessant blather, but Rosa Agius serves as the perfect tour guide.

This super-sexy dancer/actress/choreographer/entrepreneur explores a variety of scenarios that draw you so deep, deep, deep into fantasy land that you just might need a towel.

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Sydney-born Rosa is one of the most ambitious entertainers in the city. Besides performing in ROCK CANDY, she runs her own apparel/furnishings company (Aussie Allure), operates an entertainment production company and is a VIP hostess at The Garden, the hunk-packed nightspot I told you about in this article.

Rosa probably has her lovely hands in even more enterprises, but thinking about it has made me exhausted. So let’s just enjoy a few of her fabulous photos before proceeding onto the men. 

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You can see more of Rosa Agius by following her Instagram page here.

Now let’s taste a few delicious samples from the extensive selection at ROCK CANDY. Keep in mind that the large cast rotates from performance to performance….so you’ll want to dig into the candy bowl more than once.


Miguel Rivera Laureano –

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When dancer Miguel Rivera Laureano made the move from Le Reve to Chippendales, his new employers couldn’t have been more pleased. “We’ve been trying for about two years to get him”, one of them confessed to me. And who could blame them for wanting to land this level of smoldering talent? Miguel is as good of a dancer as they come, and his looks and physique made him the perfect match for their cast.

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Seeing Miguel back onstage at Rock Candy this past week was a pleasant surprise. I’ve been an admirer of his for a long time (Le Reve was my favorite production until the pandemic forced its closure). I can’t say if he’ll return to Chippendales when they reopen, but he’s a terrific fit for Rock Candy, too. And…why wait for “then” when you can see him RIGHT NOW!

Follow Miguel’s Instagram right here.


Miguel Reyes Santiago –

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If you’re into Latin lovers, then one scorching Miguel is never enough. ROCK CANDY serves up two hot tamales with the casting of Miguel Reyes Santiago. Be careful not to confuse them, as Santiago was in the Le Reve cast, too. He’s also been in Cirque du Soleil‘s MJ One and Vegas! The Show. So while other male revues are more about the looks, Santiago’s resume proves that the studs of ROCK CANDY can really dance!

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Mr. Santiago’s manly chest and rippling abs are the product of hours of training. An avid cross-fit participant, he recently traveled to Tulum, Mexico, where he gave their famous “Jungle Gym” a try. Shirtless, of course. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

Take a trip with Miguel Reyes Santiago through his Instagram page.


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Ryan Kelsey –

If you’re a follower of local Vegas bands, chances are that you’ve seen Ryan Kelsey behind the guitar. A born entertainer with show business in his blood, Kelsey plays venues of all sizes. He’s also a consummate dancer, having progressed from Chippendales swing performer and calendar model to their official Dance Captain.

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As is the case with Miguel Rivera Laureano, the handsome musician joined the cast of ROCK CANDY while Chippendales loyalists await the verdict on when, where, or if the original male revue will return. In the meantime, Kelsey is tantalizing audiences at Alexis Park Resort every weekend. His fans will undoubtedly follow him there. And you can follow Ryan via Instagram by visiting this page.

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Antonio GrandA manzano –

Young Cuban Antonio Granda Manzano is another one of those handsome hardbodies that you’ve seen all over town. You might not know his name, but it’s hard to miss his memorable features on billboards and ad campaigns for The STRAT hotel, Passion libido spray (say what?), Navi Collection swimwear and INMEX eyewear.

An international entertainer who’s been all over the world, the singer/dancer/actor has been in numerous stage productions, TV commercials and films. Antonio is also a horror movie enthusiast who spends many evenings attending the fright fests at West Wind Las Vegas Drive-in Theater. And he somehow finds the time to pick up extra cash as one of the hot staff at The Garden, along with his dear friend Rosa Agius (see above).

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Get to know Antonio a little better by stalking visiting him on Instagram via this link.

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Jeffrey Garrovillo –

Every class has a clown. And every group of guys has the “bad boy”. Jeffrey Garrovillo fulfills both roles in ROCK CANDY. As outlandish as he is naughty, the seasoned entertainer sports a physique as memorable as his distinctive hair style.

Jeffrey is as home in the water as he is onstage, being both an experienced technician for “O” at Cirque du Soleil and a former man of Chippendales (yes, another one!). If you want to how this sexy stud got that slamming body, then ask Teresa Van. She’s the owner of ENVY Training, which I profiled here. Jeffrey is a trainer at ENVY and excels at kickboxing, which explains his supple abs and impressive flexibility.

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If you’d like to dive a little deeper into Jeffrey Garrovillo, then check him out on Instagram right here.

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Nino Anthony SMith –

He’s a stunning dancer. An actor. A stuntman. A teacher. A host. He’s Nino Anthony Smith, the multi-hyphenate action man of ROCK CANDY. Nino might come across as a little intense, especially with his steely gaze. But once he smiles, you’ll see the little kitten behind Nino’s panther-like facade.

Speaking of panthers, word has it that Mr. Smith was part of the large cast of Marvel‘s mega-hit BLACK PANTHER. How’s that for an impressive entry on the resume? He’s also a big fan of horror films. One of his favorite actresses is Lisa Wilcox (A Nightmare On Elm Street 4 and 5), who happens to be the manager of The 35 Cinema right here in Las Vegas. And Nino has delved into the horror genre himself, playing the undead in a recent zombie flick.

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If you want to see Nino Anthony Smith very much alive and up close, get your tickets to ROCK CANDY. And you can follow his latest activities on Instagram.


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ROCK CANDY performs Friday through Sunday at 8pm inside Alexis Park Resort at 375 East Harmon Avenue. Audiences members must be 21 or over. Tickets start at $59.95 via the official website, but you can save up to 25% by ordering via BestofVegas.com. right here.

Photos: ROCK CANDY cast and show social media, Levi Walker and Noel Dahl. Photographers are credited at those sites. 

Grab Your Boots and Stetson for ‘BLICK LINEDANCE’

Sin City Dancing Returns in an exciting All-American way…


Yes, it’s true that Las Vegas is back. And if the packed airline flights that I’ve recently taken are any indication, that’s the way it’s going to stay. Restaurants, pools, and shows have opened up to increased capacity, and more fun and freedom are on the horizon. But what about dancing???

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Photos from mid-April 2021

The pathway to reopening nightclubs in our new era is going to be tricky. Too bad there aren’t any outdoor dancing venues around town to speak of. But award-winning line dancer George Blick has a plan to make COVID-safe line dancing the latest Sin City trend. 

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Gallery by Vinnie Cassidy…

“Line Dancing improves stamina, muscle tone and coordination, is a great stress buster and energy booster. Dancing is a unique form of exercise because it provides the heart-healthy benefits of an aerobic exercise while allowing you to engage in a social activity. It’s a community, and it’s all about having fun” says George.

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If you are in the camp that doesn’t find this activity to be appealing or hip, you might be in for a big surprise. Despite being a skeptic myself, I joined George and his crew, pre-pandemic, for an evening of fun at Stoney’s Rocking Country at Town Square. The youthful crowd was extremely high-energy and raucous, and all eyes turned towards George when he entered the dance floor. It’s quite a sight.

Blick Linedance began a YouTube Channel in October 2019, long before COVID-19 changed our way of life. An accompanying Facebook Page and official website keep fans up-to-date on the latest classes and events. George’s tutorials blend socializing, physical fitness and a love for good ole country music into a rip-roaring great time. Fortunately, the need for distancing of participants is built right into the checkerboard format. So…win-win!

169621015_542477543822771_7174071611073932316_n“The only way to keep the fire going is to outrun the wind.” – George Blick 

If the name “George Blick” seems familiar to you, it should. I’ve featured this handsome devil in an in-depth profile as well as an essay on Celebrity Quarantine Fitness.  The native of Whales played the role of “Stefan” in SEX TIPS at Paris Las Vegas, is a cast member of Mosaic‘s Aussie Heat and host of the new Rock Candy Male Revue at Alexis Park Resort.

Dancing has always been George’s passion. The Laine Theater Arts graduate holds six consecutive World Championship titles, has performed for the Queen, entertained aboard cruise ships, and shared his talents in over fifty countries. 

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On May 1st, George will be heading to California Ranch Company in Temecula for an outdoor festival. The EDGE DANCE EVENT invites guests to grab their camping gear, hook up their RV’s and prepare for a boot-scooting good time. Tickets and registration are available here

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Closer to home, Blick Line Dance holds beginner and intermediate classes in Las Vegas for those yearning to get out and enjoy themselves in a safer setting. Sessions take place Mondays (beginner) and Wednesdays (intermediate) at 9am inside Seniors Helping Seniors. Their center is located at 451 E. Bonanza Road. Classes last one hour and are quite a bargain at only five dollars each. Click here for more details. 

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Going forward, George would like to take advantage of warmer weather to bring line dancing “out to the streets”. He’s actively seeking venues with large spaces, paved surfaces and courtyards to launch concepts like “Linedance Brunch”, early-evening nightclub socials and the like. Perhaps it’s time to bring flash mobs back to the Fremont Street Experience

Vegas is back on its feet, and it’s time to bring a little “country” to Sin City. If you have a performance venue, group, club, or special event that could use an infusion of fun, contact George Blick to see what he can bring to the floor. You can reach him right here

Photos: George Blick, Sam Novak, Vinnie Cassidy

‘Unicus Manufactus’ – Muscle Up to the City’s Healthiest Food Truck


…or “What happens when two Las Vegas heroes launch a business during a pandemic”…

Once again, the challenges of 2020 have resulted in new, innovative and positive changes for our community. From daring music performances to the resurrection of old-school supper clubs and modern upgrades to the hospitality industry, Las Vegas has hit the “reset” button and is experiencing a fast-paced rebirth.

While some changes happened overnight, a pair of hometown heroes has been carefully curating a new approach to food trucks, those roadside food emporiums that soared in popularity during the “NO INDOOR DINING ALLOWED” madness of last year. But instead of the usual taco platters and BBQ’d ribs, this mobile kitchen promises an American-fusion menu with healthy flair.

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UNICUS MANUFACTUS aka U.M Trailer Bistro, is a curious name for an enterprise by first responders Daniel Sauls and Gunnar Walcavich. These two heroic friends protect the city’s citizens when the sun goes down and the bad guys come out. In the light of day, they’re whipping up creative new dishes to tickle the taste buds and build healthier bodies. That’s when they’re not hitting the gym to keep their own physiques in superhero condition.

The boys came up with the UNICUS MANUFACTUS moniker to acknowledge their mission statement, one that promises healthy, delicious dishes at the lowest possible price…all while never compromising quality. The Latin word Unicus means sole/unique/uncommon:

We didn’t pick the name “Unicus” because it sounded good. We picked it because Unicus is what we are. Our trailer looks different. Our food tastes different. Even our prices are different. We can guarantee there is nobody like us in the industry, that’s simply because we try harder. 

 You can tell that our nature is humanitarian, from the attention we give each customer to the prices across our menu. We ran through finance scenarios over and over to find the lowest numbers we could use on our menu BEFORE the pandemic. We want it to be apparent that we care.

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We are constantly thinking of ways, current and future, that we might be able to better Vegas with our existence. Our entire menu consists of items at $5 or less. We are (to my knowledge) the first mobile food business that provides not only caloric dietary information but MACROS as well!

We want to make ourselves available to those that need us most, as our mission is first and foremost to serve. We will diligently search for areas that service medical workers, first responders, and essential personnel during these trying times, in hopes to bring the most delicious food with a price that makes the most sense.

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The truth of that was most apparent recently when kitchen wizard Daniel had to undergo emergency surgery to save his life. Mere days later, he and Gunnar were back at that same hospital with UM Trailer Bistro to thank the hospital workers with their creations. They comped meals for anyone who wore scrubs:

We held a surprise service for the hospital that saved my life a little over a week ago. We always have so many hurdles to jump to try and accomplish things because of how new and small we are. We are a couple of persistent guys though, and yesterday was proof NOTHING CAN STOP US.

Persistence is a quality that Gunnar Walcavich exemplifies in spades. Vegas Unfiltered Blog readers first met this towering Russian boxer in my piece on ‘Quarantine Fitness‘, where I described his achievements and skills at getting people motivated.

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The formerly-overweight (and always-mugging) Gunnar recently earned a certification in Food Handling/Safety to accompany his personal training and nutritionist certifications. And his jacked physique makes the perfect canvas for Unicus Fitness Apparel that’s now available in the “Merch Market” section of their website.

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The menu at UM Trailer Bistro is a taste-tempting collection of recipes that Daniel has gathered from family members in Hawaii, along with others that he’s perfected through multiple trials. Pan-Asian influences are reflected in dishes like Agedashi Tofu, Ramen, Udon and Chashu bowl, and a Hawaiian Toast Breakfast plate.

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Daniel is especially proud of his freshly-made Shrimp and Grits and Fresh Pour-over Hot Chicory, a nutty, cajun-influenced alternative to traditional coffee beverages. And every item is served with style and a smile, accompanied by fun music from their vintage-style Victrola sound system.

We care about your enjoyment down to each bite and sip, and you can taste it every time. When you pay, you want to know that you got real ingredients, made WHEN you asked not before, and made with the care that we all desire our own food and drink to be handled with; and that’s our guarantee.

We promise that EVERY time you come by you will receive our best attempt at perfect service. Your food hits your hand hot, and your drink is either perfectly cold or has steam coming from it. You see us make each part of your drink, and even shake/stir it to make sure even your first sip is perfectly mixed and chilled. We actually care, and we care THAT much; and if you don’t believe us, come call our delicious bluff. 

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Along with the regular (and growing) menu, there is always a featured daily special to tempt you away from established favorites. And Unicus Manufactus has launched a 3-level loyalty program that can reward you with discounts and giveaways, one free item per month, up to a free item with every visit (purchase required).

The boys just announced a partnership with Tempo Ultra Lounge at 1000 East Sahara Avenue, where they’ll be every Friday and Saturday night beginning April 2nd. To learn where else to visit the UM Bistro Trailer, follow them on Facebook, check out the YouTube Channel, or subscribe at the official website.

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“Unique Handmade Culinary Creations & Libations for just $5. Need I say more???” – Unicus Manufactus

Photos: Sam Novak, Daniel Sauls, Gunnar Walcavich

Revamped “Thunder” Goes From ‘Strike-out’ to ‘Home Run’

Long-running male revue takes early lead as most-improved production of 2021…


Regular readers of Vegas Unfiltered Blog have probably figured out by now that this writer is an out-and-proud gay man. If you haven’t, my long-running “Hot Guys of Vegas” series should have tipped you off. Nevertheless, this column has never been focused on that aspect of my personal life. I just mention it now to give some insight on my perspective of male revues.

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Clowning with the guys of “Aussie Heat”…

That being said, I’ve spent many a night with my friends at Aussie Heat and Chippendales. And I’ve deliberately avoided that misguided mess called Magic Mike Live (one of the worst major productions of any kind). The other that’s been high on my “Do Not Fly” list is Australia’s Thunder From Down Under at Excalibur.

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My first visit to “Thunder” was in December 2015…

If you’re curious as to why “Thunder” ranks so low in the hierarchy of Vegas beef-fests, the full review from 2018 is here. But I can give you the Cliff Notes version:

“It’s everything that the equally awful Magic Mike Live ridicules male revues for being. Packed with rote production numbers, Thunder will have you mentally scratching off each item from the list of cliches as it plays out on a cheap plywood stage.”

Now, I experience no joy in publishing negative reviews, especially when the cast and crew are rarely to blame. “Thunder” being in a temporary venue at the time (their second-floor showroom was undergoing a desperately-needed re-fit) certainly didn’t help. But three years later, I revisited this “Outback throwback” on a whim and found myself having a fantastic evening.

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“Thunder” shares a revamped showroom with “Australian Bee Gees”…

Let’s start with the venue itself. The newly-christened THUNDERLAND showroom received a pretty modern retrofit. The odd two-level footprint is sadly unchanged, and the choice of furniture is somewhat curious (psuedo-IKEA, much like Mat Franco’s space at The Linq). But the current positioning of seats and tables has improved the sight lines. Moving video walls double as a stage curtain, bar service has received an overhaul (with optional online ordering), and the lighting/sound system booms like a beating chest. 

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Speaking of chests, the cast of Thunder is one pec-tastic bunch. Each is chiseled, handsome, and much better at dancing than the last go-round. And this is where I noticed the first major improvement…individual performers are given a chance to shine. Each guy is introduced after their respective showcase moment, removes their mask, offers a few words to the audience…and one even sings the rafters loose.

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As for the ensemble numbers….my biggest gripe was the lazy choreography and cliched acts. Mercifully, “George of the Jungle” seems to have crashed into his final tree, and the vampires have retreated to their coffins. Replacing them are an uncomfortable SWAT team sequence in riot gear (too soon, guys) and a take on the 300 Spartans (meh). The rest is a top-shelf combination of musical hits, contemporary moves, and extreme athleticism that brings horney guests to their feet. 

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It’s worth noting that the element of male audience inclusion remains unchanged since my last review:

“Don’t expect to get more than a fist-bump from the dancers as they work their way through the audience. The rough-and-tumble men of the Outback are dripping with testosterone, but only seem interested in sharing it with the ladies.”

The show is specifically geared towards women, and the few guys in attendance are presumed to be supportive straight men (not tonight, fellas!). Hopefully the minds behind Thunder will catch up with the all-are-welcome Aussie Heat and realize that they’re turning away an untapped, lucrative market. Click here and here for more of my analysis on that topical subject. 

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New host Scott Reading is sass, class…and one sweet surprise…

Now for the best improvement of all….host Scott Reading. This bloke is just about everything you could hope for in a male-revue emcee. He’s sexy, charming, charismatic, funny, engaging, spontaneous, and downright fantastic. In other words, he’s everything that former front-man Marcus Deegan wasn’t:

Abrasive and short-tempered, Deegan seems to take delight in belittling rowdy audience members. The past two times that I’ve seen THUNDER, Deegan’s stopped the show dead in its tracks to berate rowdy women. He’s gone so far as to blatantly tell them to “Shut the f*ck up”. On one occasion, he came out during final bows to flip his middle finger at an audience member while mouthing “F*ck you!”…and it wasn’t done with a wink.

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Yes, Marcus…that’s the exit door…

Who knows how many ticket-buyers failed to return thanks to Marcus and his abusive antics? But with any luck, he’s gone for good. Let’s hope that Scott Reading is a permanent fixture. He alone is worth the price of admission….and that’s before he unleashes a massive surprise at the finale.

With the recent sale of RIO Hotel Casino to Hyatt, there’s no telling when gold-standard CHIPPENDALES will return to Sin City…if ever. Thank goodness Thunder From Down Under has stepped up to the plate. It’s an early front-runner for “Most Improved Production of 2021”. And once COVID restrictions are finally removed, this generous serving of beef from the Outback will become a veritable buffet.

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Australia’s Thunder From Down Under performs Wednesday through Monday at 9pm with additional showtimes on weekends. Click here for full schedule and to order tickets. Prices start at $70.95 (plus taxes/fees).

Photos: Sam Novak, Thunder From Down Under, Scott Reading via Instagram

 

‘APÉRO’ is a Sexy New Way to Get Your Vegas On

European-influenced acrobatic production packs a lot of flirtation into a gorgeously lush showroom…


“Love comes from the most unexpected places.” – Barbra Streisand

It was inevitable. With Cirque du Soleil on an ongoing hiatus and both ZUMANITY and Le Reve – The Dream shuttering forever, it was only a matter of time before some of their top-level talent came together to create something new. And as I’ve said many times before, COVID-19 has had an ancillary effect of spurring creativity. Combine those two elements, drop them into a stunning cabaret and you have APÉRO, a delightful new show at Baobab Stage in Town Square.

APÉRO‘s premise is built around aperatif, the oh-so-French tradition of early-evening libations and nibbles (something you’re invited to partake of at Baobab Cafe adjacent to the showroom). An ultra-hot cast of three men and three women meet, greet, flirt, switch around…and try to impress each other with feats of grace and strength. A threadbare concept to be sure, but who cares when the antics are this sexy?

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APÉRO is geared towards adults, but there’s no nudity (the guys do get shirtless, thank goodness) or anything overtly sexual. Just a bunch of charming young people strutting their impressive bodies skills and having a great time.

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The sensual atmosphere and strikingly-appointed Baobab Stage create a total escape from reality. You’ll believe that you’re in a vintage European cabaret. I was hard-pressed to look away from the stunning wall coverings, overstuffed love seats, ornate light fixtures and artwork. A 20-minute intermission allows you to drink in the settings and indulge in another aperatif or share a bottle of wine with your companion.  But….back to the show.

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The cast of APÉRO is a veritable who’s who of the athletic arts. Towering Damir Mouzdybaev is 6 feet, 3 inches of chiseled muscle who opens the production. Lithe, God-like, and sensual, he guides the cast through their various interactions…and has his own adventures along the way. Damir was most recently in Le Reve – The Dream, and has performed in Ringling Brothers and “Marvel Universe Live”

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Damir Mouzdybaev (with Angelique Janowski), photography by @benjaminhphoto

Aerial hoop artist/dancer/choreographer Angelique Janowski spent several years at ZUMANITY until the pandemic clipped the show’s wings. Undeterred, she and a few colleagues formed Visionary Pack Collective, which produces APÉRO. A graduate of two art schools in France,. Ms. Janowski performed hundred of hours for audiences in Paris before coming to Las Vegas. 

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Angelique Janowski

Dazzling Natsumi Miyazaki performed in Le Reve alongside Damir Mouzdybaev, where the two of them soared through the air and danced on water. APÉRO finds the award-winning synchronized swimmer airborne once more, this time via an amusing pole sequence. Her charming character is a little sassy, a little sweet, and a whole lotta “wow”.

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Natsumi Miyazaki, photo by Charles Lohman

Beefy, brooding Roman Tomanov is the “bad boy” of the cast. Decked out in a leather jacket and ribbed tank shirt, he performs gymnastic feats, then takes flight for the aerial straps. Roman has been in the casts of ABSINTHE and   (by Cirque du Soleil), along with Cirque’s KURIOS and LE NOIR in Tokyo.

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Roman Tomanov strikes a pose in APÉRO

Mongolian contortionist Tsatsral Erdenebileg will have you gasping with her stunning flexibility. That’s certainly what occurred when the audience I was a part of saw her abilities. You’ll be awed, amazed, and perhaps even cringing when you witness what this Guinness World recordholder can achieve. Tsatsral also comes to APÉRO by way of ZUMANITY.

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Tsatsral Erdenebileg is APÉRO’s stunning contortionist…

Is it possible for juggling to be sexy? If the performer is Vladislav Miagkostoupov, then the answer is a resounding “Yes”! Part clown, part underdog, and the “nice boy” of the troupe, Vladislav combines dancing and juggling into a hysterical mixture which defines his signature style. The European acrobat entertained Vegas audiences in ZOMBIE BURLESQUE and V: The Ultimate Variety Show before landing on his feet at Baobab Stage.

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Vladik Miagkostoupov will juggle his way to your funnybone…

There is plenty of DNA from ZUMANITY behind the scenes of APÉRO, too. Niccole Dunn, co-founder of Visionary Pack Collective, spent seventeen years at Cirque‘s first adults-only show. Skilled at backstage duties and wardrobe design, Niccole created the costumes for APÉRO and is entrenched in making the public aware of their new production.

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Pavel Gurov…

Pavel Gurov serves as Artistic Director/Acrobatic Advisor, and Jorge Salomone (Niccole Dunn’s husband) is Technical Director. Salmone was involved in the video elements of ZUMANITY, and Gurov is a performing artist himself.

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The Baobab Cafe, Boutique and Showroom are all operated by Wassa Coulibaly, who spent several years as a dancer at New York NY‘s resident Cirque show. In some ways, she seems to have become the de facto “mom” of this ambitious endeavor, and shares the Collective’s enthusiasm.

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Wassa Coulibaly

The fact that APÉRO was born from the shockwaves of an international pandemic isn’t forgotten by the cast and creative team. All performers wear masks during the show, the audience is capped out within legal limits, and there’s even a COVID-19 protocols/procedures page on the show’s official website.

Final bows after a recent performance…

With live entertainment just now ramping up after almost a year of darkened stages, the producers knew they had to work long-term sustainability into their model:

Visionary Pack Collective was born of a small group of artists and industry professionals eager to create something sustainable and beautiful in this unprecedented time. The Baobab Stage is a cool small theatre and we wanted to make a show that would feel huge in this space, and give the audience the feeling of seeing something truly extraordinary in a way they could not have in the past. The show combines extraordinary talent and all the trappings of a
production usually seen on grand stages and in arenas playing to thousands.

So when you’re ready to rediscover the magic of sensual circus artistry, head to Town Square on South Las Vegas Boulevard and immerse yourself in an evening with APÉRO.

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APÉRO performs Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 7pm. The show runs approximately 90 minutes with intermission. Tickets are $50.00 (plus tax/fees) and can be ordered here

Photos: Sam Novak, APÉRO, cast members via Facebook