International Hit ‘Blanc de Blanc’ Pops a Cork at Sahara



Sexy new burlesque show forms the cornerstone of re-imagined resort…

The conversion of legendary Sahara Hotel Casino into SLS Las Vegas wasn’t the success that everyone had hoped for. Nor was it the north-Strip savior that many predicted. But five years of floundering later, Sahara is back with the original name, new owners and lots of improvements. And leading their entertainment line-up is the wonderful Blanc de Blanc.

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Blanc de Blanc is an international hit that evokes the spirit of the finest champagnes. It’s fizzy, titillating, euphoric and oh so sophisticated. Featuring a gorgeous cast of singers, dancers, acrobats and comedians, it’s 75 minutes of fast paced, adults-only fun. The Foundry has been transformed into a lush Parisian cabaret for this production, lending an air of intimacy that few shows of this nature can achieve.

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A two-level main stage is enhanced by three additional platforms, one of which becomes a balloon-filled hot tub as the show progresses. The action is all around you in the multi-level space which offers booths, cocktail tables, bar-side seats and…brace yourself…a Premium Champagne Hot Tub Experience. Yes, you can actually take a dip and sip bubbly with the cast (swimwear is required, so come prepared).

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The show itself is reminiscent of Vegas Nocturne, the fantastic three-chapter Spiegelworld extravaganza that helped launch Cosmopolitan’s Rose.Rabbit.Lie in 2014. Fans of that short-lived production, which was ironically once rumored to resurface here at SLS/Sahara, will recognize cast member Spencer Novich. The rubber-bodied funnyman, who performed a similar role as “Ripley” in Vegas Nocturne, brings his unique onstage talents to Blanc de Blanc and also serves as its comedy director.

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Blanc de Blanc is hosted by elegant, towering and muscular Monsieur Roméo. Clad in a tuxedo, holding his ever-present champagne flute and speaking in velvety French, the former Armani model, photographer and comedian greets guests at their seat before each performance. His sultry charisma sets the perfect tone for an evening of steamy Parisian thrills.

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Monsieur Roméo has worked in the past with entertainers like Lady Gaga, Beyonce and burlesque legend Dita Von Tesse. In a post-show conversation, Roméo told me that he’s been hosting Blanc through multiple tours of Australia, New Zealand and London before bringing it to the lights of Sin City.

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Show director Scott Maidment was also on hand for the evening’s performance. He watched from an upper level booth….

Click HERE to continue reading.

Photos: Sam Novak

 

 

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‘Cherry Boom Boom’ Makes Triumphant Vegas Return


Bawdy skin-fest opens at HOOTERS August 15th…..

Thanks to my partner-in-crime at VegasFool.com, I just learned that the uproarious burlesque musical ‘Cherry Boom Boom’ is coming back to Vegas. Its original run at TROPICANA in 2016 was prematurely clipped at the cowboy boots after only a few short weeks. But that was due to plenty of behind-the-scenes drama at the long-troubled Tropicana Showroom and not the fault of the show itself. 

While it’s likely that the smaller showroom and stage at Hooters Hotel Casino will require an overhaul of the production, there’s no question in my mind that the heart of ‘Cherry Boom Boom’ will still beat hard, strong and bright red, So in anticipation of its second helping of sweetness, here’s my review as published during the initial Tropicana run. Get tickets for the Hooters relaunch by visiting Vegas Fool through this LINK. Prices start at only $37 plus taxes/fees. 

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WTF did I just see? I can’t really say for sure, but it was enjoyable to the max. Yes, a T & A girl-power topless revue getting a positive review from a male member of the LGBTQ community. Is that an impressive endorsement? I would have to say “yes.” And you’ll be saying “Oh, yes” if you make it to Tropicana to check out Cherry Boom Boom.

I’m going to be absolutely direct here – Cherry Boom Boom is effing crazy. It makes no real sense, despite offering some semblance of a love-story plot. Does it take place in a brothel? A Coyote Ugly-style roadhouse? Perhaps a surreal make-believe world where men barely exist and gorgeous women dance and get intimate together in various types of fetish gear and hard-rocking costumes? Honestly, I couldn’t tell you…not that it matters.

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The goal of a burlesque show, either traditional or in one of its many recent re-imaginings (like Absinthe), is to stimulate and entertain. The cast of Cherry Boom Boom does so in spades. It’s worth mentioning that the number of performers is surprisingly large for a production of this nature. But since Cherry has avoided the burlesque moniker in favor of “Rock ‘n Roll A Go-Go”, it’s clear that they’re intent on re-writing the rules for Vegas topless revues.

Tropicana‘s main showroom has a wide, deep stage, which CBB (let’s stick to that abbreviation for awhile) utilizes to the max. The lone two-level set is massive, adorned with chains, large video screens, parallel bars…and a stripper pole road sign. Production numbers fill every corner, zipping around to dizzying effect. It’s the antithesis of Jubilee‘s slow-strolling showgirls of Vegas past.

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High above the stage and to the left is a boudoir decorated in vivid pinks. An aerial acrobatic ring descends from the ceiling on occasion, and various props are wheeled out to accommodate specialty acts. They include a mechanical bull and a human-sized bird cage.

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Hosted by the androgynous “P*ssy Control” (perhaps named after the song by Prince, whose catalog gets a visit in the soundtrack), the central romance is basically a flimsy coat-hanger on which to hang libido-stimulating production numbers. It’s played out in a world of rock music, bullwhips, lingerie and cowboy boots.

A pair of small-town innocents (Rock of Ages, cough-cough) take jobs at “Cherry Boom Boom”, the brothel/nightclub/whatever of the title. Their first meeting and subsequent romance are mostly mimed wordlessly while naughty action swirls around them. Naturally, they’re drawn into this fantasy lifestyle and decide to explore their own desires. Eventually, they get back together and things wrap up in a finale reminiscent of Grease.

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If it wasn’t for the charm of the two principals and their amusing explorations of lust, the plotline could easily be eliminated, and CBB would still be a solid, satisfying production. The performers are some of the most physically attractive women on the Strip. There’s also a hard-bodied juggling aerial cowboy tossed in for girls (and gays).

Costuming is top-notch, the choreography is consistently impressive, and some sequences are downright breathtaking….especially one using wheeled mirror panels and another involving cafe chairs.

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Then there’s the soundtrack. Much like Rock of AgesCBB is a jukebox of hits, but this one crosses genres and spans decades of heart-pounding favorites. I had a hard time staying still in my seat. The songbook includes favorites from artists like AC/DC, Joan Jett, Led Zeppelin, Lenny Kravitz, Elvis Presley, Foo Fighters, Melissa Etheridge and Heart. Almost all are the original recordings, mixed and arranged for maximum impact. I noticed only one cover version (“Darling Nikki” by the omnisexual Prince).

Tropicana has had a rough go of it for the last few years, at least with their entertainment offerings. When the rare hit comes along, fate intervenes and things still go awry. Here’s hoping that Cherry Boom Boom is the one that breaks the Tropicana Showroom curse. It truly is a blast…and one that deserves to last.

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‘Cherry Boom Boom’ is scheduled to perform 11pm Thursday through Saturday at Hooters Hotel Casino starting August 15th. Tickets start at $37 plus taxes/fees and can be ordered here

Photos: Sam Novak, Diane L., Cherry Boom Boom

UV Beach Club – A Pool Party with a Purpose


Unique weekly event offers a safe haven for all…

Have you ever seen the ads for Planet Fitness gyms? They boast a “Judgement-Free Zone” to entice members who don’t normally feel confident inside health clubs. Too bad they contradict that very philosophy with a “Lunk Alarm” that shames those getting too intense with their workouts. 

The creators of UV Beach Club promise no such mixed messages. Everyone is welcome to their veritable safe haven under the sun…one that promises frivolity and entertainment, food and drink in a welcoming atmosphere of tolerance and acceptance. Located at the NoMad Pool inside Park MGM Hotel, UV Beach Club is part of JEMAA, winner of Las Vegas Weekly‘s “Best New Pool Party 2019”.

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From the UVBC website:

We are proud to make UVBC a party environment that welcomes people of ALL identities. Our party is a safe space where you can come and let your true colors shine! Come enjoy our specialty cocktails, hand crafted food, music from top DJ’s, and the hottest staff and entertainers providing you with world class service. UVBC – Beyond the rainbow!

Co-creator Garrett Pattiani stresses that UV Beach Club isn’t a copycat of gay-themed pool parties you may have attended in the past. He and partners Andrew Lignelli and Russ White (of QLife Media) have dreamed up a concept that’s as timely as it is unique.

This isn’t a gay pool party. It’s meant to be expansive. LGBTQ+, allies, people of color, feminists, etc. Every week we will partner with nightlife & day-life staff, local show casts, birthdays, and influencers.

The premiere on July 26th will celebrate birthdays of two popular gentlemen – aerialist Brandon Pereyda and photographer Frankie Tabares Sanchez of Piranha Nightclub.

UV Beach Club is held every Friday from 11am to 7pm. Admission is $10 which includes a voucher for one cocktail up to $20 in value. For more information and to purchase advance tickets, visit the UVBC website by clicking HERE

Photos: UV Beach Club

 

 

ICONIC Rips Off The Roof (and lots of shirts) This Weekend


Highly-anticipated nightclub promises a much-needed boost to the Las Vegas LGBTQ party scene….

It’s been a long time since Sin City’s had a major new gay nightclub. Aside from a handful of neighborhood-style bars like The Garage and Flex Cocktail Lounge, the only large-scale nightclub for the LGBTQ crowd has been Piranha Nightclub on Paradise Road (near the airport). But all that is about to change this weekend with the arrival of ICONIC Nightclub.

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ICONIC’s location on S. Wynn Road might prove tricky for the tourist trade, but locals will have no problem rediscovering the once-popular SHARE venue. Plenty of money and energy have come together to make ICONIC live up to its name. Owner and former Broadway performer Adam Simmons has gathered quality talent both behind the scenes and out front to make that happen.

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              Adam Simmons is working hard to make ‘Iconic’ a hit gay destination…

Simmons published a casting call earlier this year for “smoking hot, super friendly, and amazingly fun performers”. The club will be entertainment-centric with pop-up shows, themed evenings and a monthly fundraiser. Of course, bottle service and VIP tables are available for groups desiring a more elite evening out.

 

 

One of the more alluring offerings is an upscale Craft Cocktail Bar that invites intimate conversation and a respite from the pulsing energy below. AVANT After-Hours invites you to party until the sun comes up. The club is able to host private events and gatherings, too.

 

 

Locals with Nevada ID are eligible for no-cover entry and several hosts are publishing guest-list access on their social media pages. The club officially opens on Friday July 19th at 9pm.

Iconic Nightclub is located at 4636 S. Wynn Road, close to Orleans Hotel Casino. Hours are Friday through Monday 9pm to 6am. Visit their website for more information or to make table reservations. 

Images and video courtesy of Iconic Nightclub and Adam Simmons social media….

The SAHARA Is Back – But Is It Too Late?


The iconic hotel gets yet another chance after the SLS debacle…

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The Sahara Hotel was one of the first casino resorts I stayed at when the Vegas love affair began. This was back in 2005, just when the landmark property was about to plummet to its lowest depths. Once a legendary destination, Sahara had become a place of despair. That being said, it still had its purpose as a value destination for those on a budget.

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In 2007, Sam Nazarian and Stockbridge Real Estate Group purchased the Sahara…and quickly ran it into the ground. My final stay in the summer of 2009 was so awful that I vowed it would be my last. Exposed electrical wiring, broken lamps, cigarette burns in the carpeting and furniture, golf ball-sized hole in the shower stall, broken bed frame, filthy casino restrooms….well, you get the idea.

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Nazarian locked the Sahara’s doors on May 16th, 2011, taping up a handwritten sign as his final farewell. To those of us who knew what he’d done to the place, this served more as a threat than a beacon of hope:

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When the property’s liquidation sale was announced, I flew in from Oregon to attend. We bargain-hunters and nostalgia-seekers were escorted onto the property in controlled groups, required to listen to a presentation before being unleashed to go exploring. Our guide told us that the hotel would eventually be re-opening under the name “SLS”. The fellow next to me said “S.O.S.? What kind of name is that for a hotel?”. If he only knew how prescient his question was…

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SLS Las Vegas opened three years and three months later. I was one of the first guests to check in on opening day….and just about everything went awry. No elevators in the parking garage, malfunctioning elevators in the hotel towers, being assigned a room that was already occupied, problems with the TV and more. Of course, all of these things were growing pains and could be easily forgiven for a newly-opened establishment.

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What couldn’t be overlooked was that the concept of turning a rundown north-Strip relic into an expensive knockoff of a Los Angeles hit was a fool’s errand. Nazarian and team had entertained the idea that LA residents would come to Vegas to experience what they already had at home. They packed the SLS with not one but SEVEN Hollywood-based Fred Segal shops, taking up every retail outlet within the resort. Within a year, they were all gone.

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Some things vanished even quicker that the Segal stores. An excellent new second-floor buffet was shuttered after only three months. LA-based Griddle Cafe lasted an entire five months before pulling out. Foxtail Nightclub was quickly shut down and LIFE Nightclub was gutted/converted into The Foundation Room (allowing for Foxtail’s pool club to reopen at night).

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The musical chairs within the building were shuffled as frequently as the execs in the boardroom. SLS Las Vegas was, without a doubt, a resounding flop from every perspective. All because it tried to be something it wasn’t and deliver something the city never needed.

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What Sahara really needed was another chance to be the Sahara again. Refreshed, revitalized, reborn as “The New Sahara”, perhaps….but NOT re-branded into an expensive luxury destination built on a rickety old foundation. The little nods to Sahara’s past had been peppered into the SLS decor, but this was essentially lip service to people like me…those who continue to embrace Sin City’s past.

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But the Sahara’s soul had been ripped out along with the theme, camels and that unforgettable neon porte cochere. It was replaced by bare concrete and a nearly-colorless, white/grey/black palette with bare ceilings, exposed duct work and a bar that looked like a boardroom full of monkeys. An artistic representation of reality, perhaps?

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Last week’s announcement that current owners Meruelo Group would be restoring the Sahara name was met with great fanfare (Scott Roeben’s VitalVegas.com readers knew quite awhile ago that this was in the works). It’s the hottest topic on Vegas message boards, Facebook pages and blogs like mine right now, so there’s interest in the old property after all.

Mostly everyone seems to like what’s been happening at the old/new Sahara. Meruelo has re-acquired a tower that had been taken over by W Hotels. They’ve restored full in-house operations and are putting a reported $100 million or more into additional renovations, much of them to address the despised flaws in the SLS room redesigns. Even the Casbar Lounge is back in a modern incarnation!

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             Sahara owner Alex Meruelo and wife Liset and name-reveal gala…

The company’s founder Alex Meruelo had this to say last week about the property’s future:

The SAHARA played an important role in the evolution of the destination. And, we are now responsible for shaping a new narrative. We are writing the next chapter in the city’s evolution, for the love of Vegas.
We are committed to delivering an intimate, unexpected and memorable visit for our guests. We want people who stay with us to say, ‘My God what an experience!’ because experience leads to memories. And, that’s what we want to create, memories and experiences you won’t forget.
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                                               Casbar Lounge then…
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                           …and now…(photo by Scott Roeben, Vital Vegas)
You can watch a video of the announcement by clicking here. The press release went on to say:
Alex Meruelo’s debut comes at a time when there are few sole proprietors left along the Las Vegas Strip. As a life-long entrepreneur with a track record of business success, Meruelo expressed his commitment to continual improvement and investment in SAHARA Las Vegas ensuring the resort remains both timeless yet modern so that guests will want to return time and time again.

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So yes, there’s plenty to be excited about The Sahara’s return. All signs point towards things being done correctly this time. But is it too late to matter? That depends on the final product and where it fits into the 2019 market.

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    World Tower room at SLS. Super-boring, oddly arranged, claustrophobic…

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                               New color scheme on current Story Tower room…

I have no problem in admitting that, just because of the name, I’m much more inclined to book or recommend a hotel called “Sahara” than “SLS”. After all, there is a major road and several current businesses in the area that are named after it. Sahara IS Vegas…it evokes the desert, a rich history and promises of an experience that “SLS” (that nonsensical clump of letters) never could.

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Many of us have complained about the removal of themes from Strip resorts. Then we lost our cool when office-bland City Center bleached out any hope of their restoration in the future. So if Sahara dares to restore its past Moroccan motif, even just a little, we owe it to Meruelo Group to support their audacity and daring.

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It’s reassuring to know that the new owners have already done a great job of returning Reno’s Grand Sierra Resort to relevancy. They’ve wisely appealed to a variety of guests from the frugal to the elite, managing to modernize that hotel/casino while acknowledging its rich 41-year history. That’s exactly what The Sahara needed to do all along.

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There are plenty of reasons to give the new Sahara a try. Resorts World and The Strat are drawing much-needed attention to those few blocks of the Strip. Sahara has its own monorail station, tying with Westgate for the most accessible of any stop on the line. Vital Vegas broke the news that foodie-favorite Bazaar Meats will remain and get expanded. He also reported they’re gaining an established resident production (the nauseating-yet-inexplicably-popular Magic Mike Live) that is sure to draw traffic back into the resort.

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So let’s hope that Meruelo Group continues their current audacious path for The Sahara. They’ve been running reduced booking rates, “No Resort Fee” and “Half-off Resort Fee” specials since taking over, have maintained free parking, attracted a variety of hip comedians and made the casino layout more appealing.

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With the right mixture of value, service and dining/entertainment/gaming offerings, The Sahara could become a standout destination that the current Las Vegas is sorely lacking…a fun affordable Sin City resort worth returning to over and over.

Photo By Denise Truscello

Sahara fans are invited to witness its rebirth and transformation via a newly-launched website. Follow the excitement and sign up for updates by clicking here

Photos: Sam Novak, Greg C., SLS/Sahara, Vital Vegas, KVVU-TV, Pinterest, The Publicity Lab, Denise Truscello

 

 

‘Potted Potter’ Casts a Laughing Spell on Vegas


Bally’s rapid-fire Hogwarts spoof is a silly, irreverent treat…

The quaint Windows Showroom at Bally’s Hotel Casino has been home to a number of successful productions, from The Bronx Wanderers to legendary Wayne Newton. Even 50 Shades: The Parody enjoyed a long, healthy run in the second-level space.

Now the quirky venue is hosting another laugh-filled movie spoof, this time without the riding crops and blindfolds. Experience a phantasmic adventure filled with magic wands, dark arts and fearsome dragons at ‘Potted Potter – The Unauthorized Harry Potter Experience’, a face-paced and humorous retelling of the wizarding-world saga.

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‘Potted Potter’ was created by Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner, sharp-witted BBC actor/writers who clearly love the source material. They’re also the stars of the production, which has toured through the United States and the rest of the world. Clarkson and Turner themselves came here to launch the Vegas residency, acting out all the characters in the two-man comedy. They’ll be here only a short while before passing the torch to a new Sin City cast.

Nobody can skewer pop culture like the British (think Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Little Britain and the films of Simon Pegg). The students and faculty of JK Rowling’s beloved Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry prove to be perfect targets for this style of humor. Using just a few silly props and lots of audience participation, Daniel and Jefferson plunder and pillage the entire seven-book epic (and dozens of characters) in only seventy minutes.

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Children will have an especially good time at the all-ages ‘Potted Potter’. During a media event that this writer attended last week, an adorable five-year-old girl with amazing improvisational skills was welcomed onstage for a magic-wand battle. Her deadpan responses and gestures matched anything that the professional cast could dish out. It was truly a priceless moment, one of many sure to follow in the open-ended run.

Click here to continue reading….

Dance With The Devil at SATANGO


New musical comedy in the Arts District is one Hell of a great time…

Despite my promises to do otherwise, it’s been way too long since this writer has visited a community theater performance. My last was the outstanding KRAMPUS by Majestic Repertory Theater during the 2018/2019 holiday season. It’s a good thing that dancer/choreographer Alejandro Domingo reached out to me this week and invited me to his latest production. Otherwise I might have missed the brilliantly entertaining SATANGO at downtown’s adorable Cockroach Theatre Company.

I’ll admit a certain weakness to the prospect of seeing Alejandro back in action after the abrupt closure of BAZ in 2018. Despite having kept busy since then, the abs-tastic dancer has been keeping a relatively low profile here in Sin City. Now it’s clear as to why…Domingo has created the choreography and supplies a supporting role in one of the cleverest and most wonderfully naughty new musicals in ages.

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The premise of SATANGO is delightful and delicious. Toby Allen‘s “Old Scratch” is contemplating his eternity of loneliness (Welcome To My Neighborhood, I Was Once An Angel) while fearing that he may have lost his dance grooves. You see, it’s the eve of the All-Souls Ball, a once-in-a-millenium party. On that special night, the barrier between Heaven and Hell dissolves, giving souls the opportunity to lure each other to the opposite side. How? By using tango, the “Dance of Seduction”, of course. Will Lucifer’s dancing impress the other guests…and will he find an eternal companion?

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Fortunately for Satan, a lost innocent named Sofia (played by Savannah Smith) happens to pass through the gates to his fiery lair. She also just happens to be a dance instructor from Pahrump! Using his persuasive charms (“Everyone loves Luci!”, he boasts), Satan manages to strike a deal with Sofia to give him three tango lessons. She asks for one thing in return, which she’ll reveal after the party. What ensues is an amusing and steamy tug of war between the temptations of naughtiness and the rewards of being pure.

 

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Pop-culture references and topical humor fly as fast as the nimble feet in a wild assortment of comical and sexy dance numbers. Vegas locals will enjoy a shout-out to downtown pizza favorite Evel Pie and jabs at parking fees, the High Roller observation wheel and the ill-fated Fontainebleau tower. Supported by a solid five-piece band led by Music Director Keith Thompson, the cast belts out fifteen original songs (music by Stewart D’ Arrietta, book and lyrics by Justin Fleming) that keep the plot moving at just the right pace.

 

Toby Allen absolutely shines in the lead role. Despite his towering physical presence, Allen tends to be the lowest-profile member of Venetian’s long-running Human Nature Jukebox. In SATANGO, he unleashes a maelstrom of emotions and energy coupled with a scathing slice of wit. He’s clearly great at improv, too. An opening-weekend mishap with a prop was splendidly blended into the proceedings by Allen. As luck would have it, a second occurrence of the same gaffe occurred perfectly in sync with lyrics being sung at that moment. Clearly, the Devil had an angel on his shoulder last night.

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Speaking of angels, Savannah Smith (Vegas! The Show) is sheer nirvana as “Sofia”. Whether singing the praises of Pahrump from atop a ladder (My Favorite Place To Eat) or bringing the audience to its feet with her dazzling steps, the popular singer/actress/dancer is clearly having the time of her life.

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Alejandro Domingo, Kate Farrow and Socorro Jones round out the wonderful cast. They portray Satan’s minions along with a variety of other characters including Donald Trump, Kim Kardashian and even a lusty delivery boy. And yes, Domingo doffs his shirt once more to display the legendary abs that earned him a place on my list of the hottest guys in Vegas five years ago.

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Despite the tiny size of Cockroach Theatre Company, every inch of the venue is utilized in this production. Set design and costumes are spot-on, and director Wayne Harrison (ABSINTHE) achieves a polish that belies the indie nature of this production.

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SATANGO is one dance with the Devil that you won’t want to miss. You’ll forget your humble surroundings and be immediately drawn into this den of temptation. That’s the magic of live theater, and SATANGO pulls it off with aplomb.

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Cockroach Theatre Company is located at 1025 South First Street #110 in the Arts District. SATANGO performs Friday through Sunday at 8pm through June 23rd with matinee performances at 2pm on Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $35 ($20 for public servants) and can be ordered here