‘CELESTIA’ Is Poised To Rise Again

Classic-style circus seeks new venue for its glorious tent extravaganza…


In the realms of media and show business, one of the most gratifying phrases you can use is “I told you so”. And this particular writer is looking forward to announcing in the near future that Intrigue Shows has found a new home for CELESTIA, the wonderfully-entertaining spectacle that launched at The STRAT during the summer of 2019.

When the pandemic swept through Sin City, its impact was devastating. Companies filed for bankruptcy, long-established productions announced permanent closure, and cast and crew from all facets of entertainment scattered like petals in the wind.

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At one point I was compelled to assemble a list of the shows I felt were most and least likely to return….along with a bunch that could topple to either side of the fence. I may have swung a bit broadly on some, but others were home runs. On my “Most Likely To Return” collection was the fledgling CELESTIA. Here’s what I said on April 13th of last year:


My insiders at CELESTIA assure me that the fledgling big-top production is on solid ground. STRAT Hotel Casino has a strong financial stake. which seems to be a common thread in the current make-or-break environment. Four-wallers (independent contractors) will suffer while casino-owned shows are likely to last. It all comes down to money.


EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE NEW ‘CELESTIA’ STAR VIP EXPERIENCE

While the reason for my faith in CELESTIA‘s return might not have been correct (The STRAT is now willing to part with the tent-based production), there’s no denying that a family-friendly circus with a desirable price point has built-in appeal for post-COVID Vegas. That’s why the show’s General Manager Kim Scott (formerly of Cirque du Soleil) has dedicated every available resource to making sure the CELESTIA tent reaches towards Vegas skies once more.

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Here’s the letter that Ms. Scott sent out to all 88 cast members, technicians, ushers, front-of-house and other crew just this afternoon. The email was motivated by an article from one of my colleagues, who yesterday announced the show’s permanent closure despite the lack of a formal statement:


Hello Everyone with Celestia,

I hope this finds you all well and enjoying the reopening of Las Vegas.

I want to give you an update on the status of Celestia and its future in Las Vegas. As you know, COVID hit many businesses hard and our company ownership has tasked me with finding new ownership for the tent and show.

I have been working nonstop to source a buyer for the tent and a company interested in running the show. I want you to know that finding a new home for Celestia has been my only priority during the shutdown.

We do have a few companies interested in the tent and a potential company interested in operating Celestia.  While I cannot guarantee that Celestia will return to the stage, I can ensure you that I am working to make that happen for all of you.  I can confirm that Celestia and the tent will not remain at The STRAT and will be relocated until a new owner can be identified. The move will happen within the next few weeks.  

I want to sincerely thank all of you for your patience as I work to navigate the next steps focus and your courage and commitment to Celestia during this past year.

Please don’t fall into the rumor mill of Las Vegas. If you have any questions, please reach out to me directly.

Kim Scott

General Manager Intrigue Shows, Inc.


Regular readers will remember that I’ve published a number of articles about CELESTIA, from a stellar original review to an insider’s view via their STAR VIP EXPERIENCE (with onstage seating) and a profile of their latest electrifying cast addition, DUO TRANSCEND from America’s Got Talent.

As an avid supporter of every hard-working individual who dedicates their talents both behind the scenes and onstage, I’m excited for the possibilities awaiting those involved with CELESTIA.

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Support from large corporations and casinos may come and go with wildly unpredictable results. But Intrigue Shows, and Kim Scott in particular, have years of experience behind them. They know the do’s, the don’t’s, and B.S. that get tossed around by big-talkers. They’re independent thinkers with a passionate desire to put on an old-fashioned spectacle….just what we need in today’s turbulent environment.

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Photo by Cipriano Moreno Aparicio

Don’t count out CELESTIA just yet. You might be in for a pleasant surprise.

Photos: Sam Novak, Intrigue Shows, Cipriano Moreno Aparicio

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

 

Mend Your Broken Heart with The Timeless Sounds of “Australian Bee Gees Show”

Top-level tribute delivers the Best Music when we need it the most…


If you saw the 2021 Grammy Awards and happen to have the slightest bit of good taste, you’ve realized that contemporary “music” is being dredged up from the smelliest bowels of Hell. When “WAP” aka “Wet A** P*ssy” is performed live on network television, there’s no place to go but up.

Yes, our nation is in a deep dive. We’re hurting and need something to lift us up. So we look back at the fantastic music of the 70’s and 80’s…songs that defined several generations and will last for years to come. That might explain why we’re dusting off our vinyl records for another go-round.  And who better to exemplify that era than the Bee Gees?

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A year after COVID’s mandatory shutdown , The Australian Bee Gees are back at Excalibur‘s remodeled second-level showroom, and they’re resonating like never before. Is it because of the music and warm lyrics? Perhaps it’s our yearning for better times. Or maybe we just need a little positivity in our lives. When you hear live performances of “To Love Somebody”, “ONE” and “How Deep Is Your Love”, those questions are moot.

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This past December, while we were stuck at home instead of visiting family or enjoying holiday vacations, HBO presented the documentary “The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend A Broken Heart”. Directed by Frank Marshall (producer for POLTERGEIST, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, GREMLINS and the BACK TO THE FUTURE trilogy), the lovingly-created chronicle touched people around the world. It reminded us of the hearts behind the music, and left very few dry eyes.

There’s so much more to the brothers Gibb than the disco era. The Australian Bee Gees Show covers the gamut of their discography, opening with the 90’s, jumping back to the beginning, then culminating in a veritable dance party of Saturday Night Fever proportions.

There are medleys dedicated to every significant decade of their lengthy career. Along the way the trio visits youngest brother Andy‘s “Shadow Dancing”, Frankie Valli‘s “Grease”, Dolly and Kenny‘s “Islands in the Stream”, and a very familiar collaboration with Barbra Streisand (“Guilty”). Montages of vintage videos create a perfect backdrop to the performances.

The gentlemen behind the characters are a wildly-gifted trio of musicians in their own right. They’ve been delivering variations of this production across the globe for over two decades. Guitarist Michael Clift (“Barry”) founded the group in 1996. David Scott hits all the right notes and bears an uncanny resemblance to falsetto “Robin”. Handsome keyboardist Wayne Hosking lives and breathes Robin’s twin brother “Maurice”. They’re joined by bassist Tony Richards and percussionist Rick Powell, two powerhouse musicians with their own impressive resumes.

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It’s been several years since I last saw Australian Bee Gees. At the time, it was a two act, two-era show with a costume change in between. Hosking tells me that the production will continue to develop and grow once COVID restrictions have been eliminated:

Unfortunately some of the best additions to our new show are still absent under the distancing guidelines. We had to drop the second set costume change, the medley around one microphone and a lot of the audience interaction and dance floor. Still…just happy to be back on stage at this point!

I’d be perfectly content if A.B.G. maintained one continuous set. The current iteration is an authentic, in-character concert retrospective, as though all of the boys still remained alive (alas, only eldest brother Barry survives).  Much like Jason Tenner‘s PURPLE REIGN tribute to Prince, this is the closest thing you’ll ever get to an actual Bee Gees concert.

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Hosking also said that a big-screen biopic of the legendary group is in the works from Paramount and actor/director Kenneth Branagh. With the box office success of BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY and PIANO MAN, perhaps this was inevitable, and that’s just fine. As the HBO documentary showed, there’s a lot more to the story than you know.

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Las Vegas tribute shows rarely get the respect that they deserve. It takes plenty of effort to sing, dance, and channel iconic artists. Imagine how tough it is to maintain that illusion for an entire 75 minute production.

The Australian Bee Gees Show is overflowing with authenticity. You’ll be on your feet and feeling the fever way after the mirror ball stops spinning.

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The Australian Bee Gees Show performs at 6 pm (and 4pm on select dates) at Excalibur Hotel Casino. Prices start at $50.95 plus taxes/fees. Click here for complete schedule and to order tickets. 

Photos: Sam Novak, The Australian Bee Gees

‘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

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘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.

THE JETS BRING NOSTALGIC ‘80’S AND ‘90’S FUN TO V THEATER


The unforgettable 80’s family band brings their own top hits and many more to PHo’s V Theater…

Click HERE to read this article and purchase tickets through the awesome BestOfVegas site.

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UPDATE 6/9/20 – I’ve received word from band member Vannessa Naeta that The JETS are planning to return in July, possibly August of this year. Follow Vegas Unfiltered Blog on Facebook for updates. 

No matter what era you grew up in, chances are that you’re a fan of 80’s and 90’s music. Even today’s teens know how great the era was, thanks to the lasting influences of Tina Turner, Queen, Elton John, and boy bands like NKOTB. Now you can groove, funk and jive through the greatest years of pop music with the breakout band that made it real…The Jets.

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Now playing at Miracle Mile’s V Theater, THE JETS – The 80’s & 90’s Experience is a fast-paced jukebox of the songs you know and love. Original members LeRoy, Haini and Rudy Wolfgramm are joined by sister Etivise Haunga, cousin Vannessa Naeata, LeRoy’s 18-year-old son Evan and keyboardist Mychael Pollard.

The Jets were originally comprised of the eight eldest of seventeen siblings from the Wolfgramm family. They were the first breakthrough entertainers from the island kingdom of Tonga. Gifted with natural talent and great looks, their incredible family dynamic shines through every set. The group pumps out memorable covers of dance, rock, pop and that unmistakable Minneapolis funk made famous by Prince and Morris Day.

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The 80’s and 90’s Experience opens with a lengthy medley of The Jets‘ own favorites and those made famous by C + C Music Factory, Grammy winner Jody Watley and Madonna. Barely pausing to catch a breath, they dance through the material of Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, TLC, Fugees, Will Smith, Destiny’s Child…even Vanilla Ice.

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Of course, the show truly shines when The Jets revisit their own smash singles. With eight top-ten hits and three certified Gold and Platinum albums, the music of The Jets seemed to be everywhere at their peak. They appeared in the soundtracks for movies like Beverly Hills Cop II, Karate Kid Part 3 and Whoopi Goldberg’s Burglar, and their songs continue in rotation on many Adult Contemporary stations today.

It’ll be hard to believe that three decades have passed when The Jets deliver such classics as “Cross My Broken Heart”, “You Got It All”, “Make It Real” and of course “I’ve Got A Crush On You”. Decked out in colorful outfits that evoke the 80’s, they provide their own musical accompaniment, playing drums, guitar and keyboards while dancing across the stage and up and down the aisles.

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The boundless enthusiasm The Jets maintain during their performances is absolutely contagious. If there really is a fountain of youth, it exists back on those Polynesian islands of the Wolfgramm family tree. And you’ll feel like a teenager, too, when you see The Jets – The 80’s and 90’s Experience. It’s a soaring time capsule you’ll want to open again and again.

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The Jets perform Tuesday through Saturday at 7pm. Save up to $50 on tickets now with Best of Vegas.

Photos: Sam Novak, The Jets

5 Reasons To Revisit ‘VEGAS! The Show’


Epic production revisits decades of legendary Sin City superstars…

Click HERE to read this article and purchase discounted tickets through the awesome BestOfVegas site.BestOfVegas

Las Vegas earned its title as the City of Entertainment through years of world-class headliners. From Tom Jones and Tina Turner to Dean Martin and Gladys Knight…they all paved the way for the stars of today. And you can revisit every one of these legendary performances in VEGAS! The Show.

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The long-running VEGAS! The Show (at Saxe Theater inside Planet Hollywood’s Miracle Mile Shops) is as fresh as the day it opened nearly a decade ago. It’s a large-scale treat with massive sets, superb choreography, an outstanding setlist and much, much more. Whether you’re new to Vegas entertainment or a longtime devotee, VEGAS! The Show is a journey through the decades that’s not to be missed. Here are five reasons why:

THE PRODUCTION DESIGN IS UNRIVALED – The sets, costumes, and props for VEGAS! The Show have a wonderfully authentic feel. From the glamorous showgirl headdresses, tuxedos and top hats to the retro-cool chic of a 50’s soda shop, you’ll believe that you’re actually experiencing a trip through time.

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Various segments take you to the groovy days of Sonny and Cher, the gritty streets of Sinatra’s New York City, a naughty can-can at the Moulin Rouge and a visit to the candy store with Sammy Davis Jr. There are even a two-level bandstand and a mock-up of the Neon Boneyard, downtown’s final resting place for those iconic neon signs.

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A WHIRLWIND OF VARIETY ACTS – Following JUBILEE‘s well-established format, the larger sequences in VTS are punctuated by a collection of specialty acts. You’ll never know who will step out from behind the curtain, from acrobat Yasu Yoshikawa and juggler Michael Holly to the troupe of riotous physical comedians known as The Quiddlers. Each one is guaranteed to amaze, amuse and keep the show moving at a breakneck pace.

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LIVE BAND and SINGERS – Many of today’s productions have recently eliminated live musicians as a cost-saving measure. Not so at Vegas! The Show, where audiences are treated to a crackerjack eleven-piece band. Piano, horns, drums, and guitars bring you a musical experience that no pre-recorded track could ever emulate. VTS‘s amazing singers do double-duty, offering authentic recreations of familiar stars while delivering stunning vocalizations in their own style. Which brings us to…

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AN ALL-STAR CAST – Since the very beginning, Vegas! The Show has been a whos-who of Sin City stars, both current and in-the-making. Ballroom dancers Alejandro and Sarah Domingo became featured performers in Palazzo’s BAZ. Broadway star Josh Strickland (Disney’s Tarzan) was a lead singer for many years. Eric Jordan Young and Jaclyn McSpadden have gone on to outstanding musical productions like Cocktail Cabaret, BAZ and Postmodern Jukebox.

Today’s line-up is just as impressive. America’s Got Talent alumnus Samantha Johnson delivers stunning renditions of the hits of Gladys Knight, Lena Horne, and Tina Turner. Vocalist JT Seumalu belts out Wayne Newton‘s “Danke Schoen” then smoothly shifts gears to an Elvis gospel tune. Elijah Rock is wonderful as host “Ernie”, who takes you through the years while crooning Sammy’s “Candyman” and “Once In A Lifetime”. He and many more are accompanied by over a dozen stunning dancers.

NONSTOP HITS – Get ready for a rousing parade of timeless favorites. “Midnight Train To Georgia”, “I’ve Got You Babe”, “What’s New Pussycat”, “If I Can Dream” and “Shining Star”…they’re all here. Disco, funk, jazz, lounge standards and the big-band era get the VTS treatment in epic style. Seumalu brings the show to an emotional climax with “Rocketman” as videos of hotel implosions return us to present-day Sin City.

The Golden Era of Entertainment may have come and gone, but thanks to Vegas! The Show, the legacy will live on for a long time to come.

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VEGAS! The Show performs nightly at 7pm (dark Sunday) with an additional 9pm performance on select evenings. Tickets start at only $54 via BestOfVegas and can be purchased by clicking HERE

Photos: Sam Novak, Vegas! The Show, JT Seumalu/The Quiddlers via Facebook

2019 – The Year in Review: See It or Skip It?


A quick-reference guide for current shows and my take on their worthiness for your hard-earned discretionary income…

With all of the productions that have come and gone in 2019, it’s tough to know what is playing, let alone what to see. This is the most complete list of titles I could compile as of 12/22/19. The guide includes only shows that I’ve actually seen, along with three categories to help you decide. Where possible, I’ve provided a link to my reviews, which can be accessed by clicking on the colored letters.

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DON’T MISS IT!!!!

ABSINTHE“Daring burlesque variety show continues to amaze in its 9th year”.

ATOMIC SALOON SHOW“You’ll laugh, you’ll cringe and you’ll most definitely be titillated.” 

AUSSIE HEAT – The ‘other’ Down-Under male revue is faster/hotter/better than you’d ever expect.” 

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BEATLES LOVE by Cirque do Soleil – “Remains one of the most spectacular and satisfying shows in town.”

BARRY MANILOW – “Try not to get choked up.”

BRONX WANDERERS –  “Handsome and talented collection of musicians and singers brings down the house with every performance.”

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CELESTIA“Beautifully mounted with snappy pacing, memorable costumes, and a very attractive athletic cast.”

CHIPPENDALES – “It’ll melt your inhibitions…and the ice in your glass.”

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DAVID COPPERFIELD

DRAG BRUNCH – “The perfect opportunity to lose your gender-bender virginity.”

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FANTASY – “If you’ve enjoyed FANTASY in the past, you’ll love it even more the next time.

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HANS KLOK – “A breakneck theatrical experience that will leave you slack-jawed and gasping in wonder.”

HUMAN NATURE: MOTOWN AND MORE – “will have you humming all night and dancing in the aisles.”

JEN KRAMER MAGICa collection of tried-and-true favorites delivered with a next-generation spin.”

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John Caparulo MAD CAP COMEDY- “an unforgettable evening of gut-busting hilarity.”

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LE REVE: The Dream – “manages to be both intimate and epic. It’s my personal favorite in the city.”

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MIKE HAMMER COMEDY MAGIC

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MISS BEHAVE GAMESHOW – “An experience that you can’t have anywhere else…and that’s what Las Vegas is all about.”

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MURRAY THE MAGICIAN

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MYSTERE by Cirque du Soleil

OPIUM – “will have you gasping for days. Don’t let ANYONE spoil the surprise.”

PURPLE REIGN

REDNECK COMEDY MAGIC

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SEX TIPS FOR STRAIGHT WOMEN FROM A GAY MAN – “a fast-paced evening for open-minded adults of all persuasions.”

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SEXXY 

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TENORS OF ROCK – “An international confection of rip-roaring vocals, boundless energy, and a live onstage band.”

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TOURNAMENT OF KINGS

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V- THE ULTIMATE VARIETY SHOW

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VEGAS! THE SHOW

WOW – THE LAS VEGAS SPECTACULAR“an unforgettable adventure through the oceans of time.”

ZOMBIE BURLESQUE

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DON’T DO IT!!!

BLACK MAGIC LIVE – a cheap, chaotic disaster unworthy of your time and money.”

CRISS ANGEL MINDFREAK – “continues to regurgitate up our collective pipes and spread noxious odors throughout the Vegas valley.”

MARIAH CAREY – “Santa didn’t hand out coal this year…he gave away tickets to Mariah.”

MAT FRANCO: Magic Reinvented NightlyMat Franco is about as dull as a dead rabbit.”

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R.U.N by Cirque du Soleil – “you’ll think you’ve wandered into a high school production of West Side Story”.

TERRY FATOR – “Terry Fator is a log jam that just won’t flush.”

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THUNDER FROM DOWN UNDER – “a great big middle finger to the audience.”

IF THE PRICE IS RIGHT

AUSTRALIAN BEE GEES

BLUE MAN GROUP 

CARROT TOP – “the exact same jokes and gags for over a decade”

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CHERRY BOOM BOOM – “Costuming is top-notch, the choreography is consistently impressive, and some sequences are downright breathtaking.”

CRAZY GIRLS

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GEORGE WALLACE

KA by Cirque du Soleil

LEGENDS IN CONCERT

MAC KING COMEDY MAGIC

MARC SAVARD COMEDY HYPNOSIS

MENOPAUSE THE MUSICAL

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NATHAN BURTON MAGIC

‘O’ by Cirque du Soleil

PENN & TELLER

POPOVICH COMEDY PET THEATER

POTTED POTTER – “a face-paced and humorous retelling of the wizarding-world saga.”

RAT PACK IS BACK

STEVE CONNOLLY – SPIRIT OF THE KING 

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X BURLESQUE

XAVIER MORTIMER’S MAGICAL DREAM – “technology blends with meticulous choreography and precision timing to jaw-dropping effect.”

ZUMANITY

More of my 2019 Round-up in the days ahead…

 

 

2019 – The Year in Review: Entertainment Highs and Lows


Taking a look back at the best, worst and notable in production shows of 2019….

As in recent years, the Las Vegas entertainment arena of 2019 was volatile, to say the least. Some headliners soared while others became a blip. Expensive new productions were met with skepticism or downright disdain. And still, those rotten brown logs known as Terry Fator, Mariah Carey, and Criss Angel continued to float in toilets of their own making.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the more notable examples of Sin City’s troubling trends in 2019 – The Year in Review: Entertainment Highs and Lows.

BEST NEW SHOW – Atomic Saloon Show at Venetian/Palazzo

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Spiegelworld hits and scores once more with Atomic Saloon Show. A bawdy in-your-face Wild West romp with hookers, cowboys, a horny minister, and his pair of twisted nuns, Atomic Saloon Show tosses the high points of Absinthe and Opium into a blender and pours out a perfect cocktail. Cast members Colin Cahill and Davide Zongoli receive bonus points for pushing the “hotness scale” to ten but the entire cast is uniformly excellent.

Runners Up: Blanc de Blanc, Blond Invasion, Fuerza Bruta, Hans Klok 

WORST NEW SHOW – R.U.N at Luxor

R.U.N For The Exit – Cirque du Soleil’s Latest is an EPIC DISASTER

Cirque du Soleil has definitely had their heyday on the Strip but they’ve swiftly fallen down the scale in terms of must-do entertainment. The famed acrobatic troupe somehow survived a nauseating ten years of BeLIEve/Mindfreak Live, Criss Angel’s abominable slop fest at Luxor. Then they replaced it with something far worse (how that’s even possible is a question for the ages).

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Nothing can prepare you for the awfulness of R.U.N (read my full review here). No matter how much you may be warned in advance, you’ll still leave feeling nauseated, perplexed, violated, repulsed and suffering from a throbbing headache.

When the company behind such beloved productions as Mystere and The Beatles LOVE pukes out a furball of this magnitude, there really is no way to recover. R.U.N will go down in the history books as one of the worst shows that Las Vegas has ever seen. And this is the city where Nudes On Ice was born.

Runner Up – Criss Angel Mindfreak Live at Planet Hollywood Same shit, same arrogant asshole, different theater. Enough said.

BIGGEST SURPRISE – Blond Invasion at V Theater

In a city filled with tribute shows, Blond Invasion (here’s my review) had no right to be this much fun. Spot-on impersonations of Britney Spears, Madonna, and Lady Gaga would already be entertaining, but mix in a quartet of hot male dancers, terrific choreography, spectacular costumes and live singing and you’ve got a perfect night out.  Things got even better when the trio came together for a once-in-a-lifetime medley that will sadly never happen in real life.

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             Swoon-worthy Adam D. Tucker as Tim McGraw in Vegas Gone Country

Unfortunately, Blond Invasion was one of two gems at V Theater that was never discovered by the audiences they deserved. Companion show Vegas Gone Country followed a similar formula and also suffered from anemic ticket sales. When the stars themselves have regular gigs a few blocks away, it seems that folks would rather pay more for the genuine article, no matter how lazy or rude they’ve become (I’m talking to you, Madonna). Which leads us to…

MAJOR HEADLINERS THAT SNORED AND SOARED – 

2019 was the year that fans went gaga over Lady Gaga. With two simultaneous productions playing at Park MGM Theater, the Star Is Born actress wowed sold-out audiences with classy Piano Jazz on some nights and Enigma‘s full-scale psychedelic pop on others.

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Britney Spears imploded on a personal level…yet again…and her February residency at Park MGM was quickly canceled and forgotten. The official explanation was a concern for her father’s health, then later the pop tart claimed that daddy dearest had forced her into rehab. Whatever they claim, poor ticket sales were being reported right up to the cancellation. You can only move your lips and flap your arms so many times before audiences cry out “Enough already!”.

Janet Jackson quickly moved into the Brit-bot’s vacated slot but barely managed to make a squeak. It seems like most of her fans remained behind the velvet rope, waiting for something better. Maybe it was her silence regarding LEAVING NEVERLAND, the HBO documentary detailing brother Michael’s fascination with little boys, that kept them away.

Perhaps it was the tabloid-worthy marriage/pregnancy/birth/divorce to a Qatari billionaire. Or her conversion to the Islam faith accompanied by uncomfortable photos in traditional Muslim garb…or the fact that the weight-troubled former hitmaker had canceled a 2016 tour then kept the money from advance ticket sales (fans sued and won) that pushed them over the edge. Whatever the reason, don’t expect a return from the money-grubbing Rhythm Nation songstress anytime soon. Sorry, Miss Jackson, but you’re nasty.

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Madonna turned out to be no lady for a trio of shows at Caesars Palace last month. Originally scheduled for 8;30 pm, the self-proclaimed diva pushed the start time to 10:30 pm after tickets were already sold, then had the nerve to show up three hours beyond THAT, going on stage way after midnight. Fans rebelled, hundreds of refunds were issued and of course, a lawsuit was filed by ticket buyers.

Arriving to a chorus of boos, Madonna remained unapologetic, saying “”There’s something that you all need to understand, and that is that a queen is never late.” Well, let’s hope this queen bitch tumbles from her throne and lands on her face. Maybe then she’ll finally get those teeth fixed and put that absurd eye patch to good use.

Shania Twain arrived late in the game for a series of shows at Zappos Theater, Planet Hollywood. Fans and non-fans alike gave the new production an enthusiastic thumbs-up with special mention to the energetic performance of its star…and some seriously steamy back-up dancers. Christina Aguilera and Gwen Stefani’s residencies in the same venue garnered a similar response.

Paula Abdul signed on for Flamingo‘s Donnie and Marie Theater and reviews have been decidedly mixed, leaning towards the negative. While I’ve yet to see the show (I was never a fan in the slightest, so she isn’t high on my list), those who have gone to it report that she lip-syncs the entire performance while being tossed around like a sack of potatoes.

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Since the one-time American Idol judge (oh, the irony of that) was always a horrible singer, perhaps her onstage fakery is a blessing in disguise. But who thought that Abdul was worthy of a residency, especially since her 2018 comeback tour crashed and burned? Apparently the thrifty folks at TravelZoo, where you can snag discounted tickets for as low as $49. Forever your girl, indeed.

Next year will see a residency by Kelly Clarkson that already promises to be a big hit. The initial response has been through the roof. If this seems like something you’d be interested in, snatch up your tix asap, or else you may be seeing Gaga-level resale prices very soon.

GONE AND FORGOTTEN – Gordie Brown

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Last year Gordie Brown was the unfortunate recipient of my “Saddest Career Path” award. Well, the new owners of Hooters Hotel Casino rebranded the place as OYO and quickly showed Mr. Brown the door. It certainly didn’t help that the one-time Venetian headliner slandered and criticized his own showroom and host hotel during performances, promising the audience that he’d rise again in a better place. Good luck with that, Gordie.

“THEY’RE STILL AROUND?” AWARD – Mariah Carey, Criss Angel, and Terry Fator

The unsinkable triad of Mariah Carey, Criss Angel, and Terry Fator is a log jam that just won’t flush. Maybe it’s just time to grab a plunger and force them down the drain. You already know my contempt for arrogant mouthpiece Mariah and douchebag Criss from last year’s summary. Those who’ve aligned themselves professionally with the faux-goth farce, in particular, have learned the hard way that they’ll eventually get stabbed in the back…and become a laughingstock in the eyes of colleagues. So the less said about them this time around, the better. Please, just go away.

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Terry Fator is new to the list but deserves a placing nonetheless. His stale attempts at comedy were tired ten years ago but have grown exponentially stale, with the offensiveness amped up to levels that have garnered reactions from both audience members and host hotel Mirage.

While Fator presented himself on America’s Got Talent as an awe-shucks kind of guy, those in the know are aware of the real details of his scheming, shocking personal life. Fator has been accused of scandalous treatment and abandonment of first wife Melinda, a skeevy relationship with half-his-age employee/wife #2 Taylor Makakoa (he proposed to wife #3 right in front of #2 during a performance…while still married), lawsuits with former managers and a very bizarre background (including being raised in a cult). Then there’s that mysterious death of his estranged sister in his home and the lawsuit that his mother brought against him, fearing for her personal safety. You can’t make this shit up.

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         Nothing says “Christmas” like your fist shoved deep inside a sexual predator doll…

The Mirage recently asked Fator to get rid of his controversial Donald Trump puppet “to avoid escalating the political divide in an already polarized country” as reported by the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Then Gary Costa, Executive Director of LGBTQ/AIDS charity Golden Rainbow sent a complaint letter to protest the show’s slandering of minorities and gays. Here is Mr. Costa’s public post via Facebook:

A few months ago I attended this offensive show at The Mirage Hotel and Casino and was horrified at the blatant racist, transphobic and homophobic content of the Terry Fator show. I contacted the management of The MGM including their diversity manager to formally lodge a complaint. While removing the offensive Trump puppet is a start it isn’t enough.

Blatant discrimination and public ridicule of Latinos and trans and LGBTQ individuals has no place on the Las Vegas strip disguised as “entertainment”. As long as the MGM corporation continues to allow this man to spew his hate under the guise of “family comedy” I will continue to boycott their company and keep pressuring their management to remove this outdated performer from their property permanently. There are literally a dozen or so ventriloquist acts in Las Vegas that are funny, entertaining, talented and enjoyable to watch. Terry Fator unfortunately is NOT one of them

My husband and I had a similar reaction when attending Fator’s sorry excuse for a show. We actually left the performance early and went to Le Reve instead. The fact that Fator is regularly listed on Groupon for $45 may be a sign that the wild, freaky ride is finally coming to a close. Then again, this is the same hotel that shuttered the Terry Fator Store in favor of Kardashian Khaos Boutique, so who can say? In any case, I urge you to boycott this hateful and revolting man, along with his nasty excuse for “entertainment”.

 

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT – The Fate of FUERZA BRUTA 

The long-running international hit Fuerza Bruta had a chilly reception from Sin City patrons and was closed mere weeks into a proposed six-month run. A daring, innovative show, it should have been a slam-dunk on the Strip (see my review here). But Vegas audiences won’t buy tickets to something that isn’t a known quantity, much like at movie theaters, where sequels and reboots shove new ideas to the bottom of the box office tallies.

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Fuerza Bruta‘s quick shuttering inspired me to write what would turn out to be my most-read article of the year. If you haven’t taken the time to look at it, now would be a great opportunity. The in-depth piece analyzes the troubling future of the City of Entertainment and explains why so many shows have closed…and why others are on the chopping block.

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

 

RUNNER-UP: Blanc de Blanc’s abrupt closure at Sahara

 

BITTERSWEET FAREWELL – Jeff Civillico Closes After A Decade

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It’s a well-known secret within the industry that Vegas performers often head to other cities on their days off (or take a Vegas hiatus) to supplement high overhead (and dwindling sales) on the Strip. Entertainers like Jason Tenner (PURPLE REIGN), The Bronx Wanderers, Criss Angel, and even Terry Fator hop onto planes (or busses) to fill much larger venues with significantly lower overhead.

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Jeff Civillico has been extremely candid with me through the years regarding his difficulties with the “Four Wall” method of running shows. It’s a business model that puts the responsibility and cost of performing on the entertainers instead of the old way when casinos supported their productions. And it seems like Jeff has had enough of the current system.

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Last Wednesday was Civillico’s final Vegas performance after a decade that saw him in places ranging from guest gigs with magician Nathan Burton to his first stint at Planet Hollywood (the restaurant, not the hotel) to residencies at Imperial Palace/The Quad/Linq Hotel, Flamingo and the Anthony Cools Showroom at Paris.

Jeff will continue to perform at corporate gigs around the country while focusing more time at Win-Win Entertainment, which matches performers with not-for-profit organizations. As a fan and personal friend who has followed Jeff’s journey from very humble beginnings to his current achievements, I will miss this handsome hunk of joy.

RUNNER UP – The Naked Magicians

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The cuddly, talented and adorable duo of Mike Tyler and Christopher Wayne enjoyed the prestige and opportunity (along with enthusiastic reviews like mine) to have their own Strip residency. Alas, the Naked Magicians experienced the same difficult reality that persuaded Jeff Civillico to say “I’m leaving Las Vegas”. Why fight an uphill battle when you can do financially better just about anywhere else in the world?

Stick with Vegas Unfiltered for more of 2019 – Year in Review in the days ahead.

‘WOW: The Las Vegas Spectacular’ Celebrates Two Years on the Strip


Rio’s water-based variety show sails on a sea of silly fun….

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It’s a world of water. A world of whimsy. And most especially, a world of wonder at WOW: The Las Vegas Spectacular. The fantastical international variety production at Rio Hotel Casino is celebrating two successful years with new acts and plenty of excitement and laughter.

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The premise of WOW is pretty simple…a shy, awkward fisherman casts his pole into mysterious waters and drifts off to sleep. His fishing line opens the doorway to an undersea kingdom of nymphs, mermaids, pirates, and long-lost souls. Freed from the depths, these spirits dance, sing, fly and celebrate with all forms of acrobatics and aerial magic. With their encouragement, the fisherman discovers his confidence and joins in on the fun.

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If the concept of a water-based dream sounds a little like Le Reve, you’re right. But that’s where the similarities end. Unlike the Wynn production’s romantic-triangle storyline, WOW audiences are presented with a free-wheeling assortment of sequences, each built around water. From the romantic canals of Venice to the dangerous shores of the Carribean to the Grand Ballroom aboard Titanic, WOW takes you on an unforgettable adventure through the oceans of time.

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Rio’s spacious circular showroom has been outfitted with a powerful sound system and visual effects that are simply stunning. Wide panoramic screens envelop the audience and heighten the central action in a way that’s almost three-dimensional. You’ll feel like you’re zipping across the surface and plunging below the waves.

An actual pool at the center means you might even experience a mild splash or two.

Along with physical feats and plenty of gut-busting comedy, WOW features several Broadway-worthy dance numbers. A musical salute to “Singing in the Rain” drenches the cast in a high-tech downpour where rainfall takes the shape of umbrellas, diamonds, and hearts. With gorgeous choreography and highly-talented performers, this sequence alone is worth the price of admission.

But there are plenty of other reasons to experience WOW. The fun-filled production is….

Click HERE to continue reading…

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WOW: The Las Vegas Spectacular performs Tuesday & Wednesday at 7PM, Thursday – Saturday at 7PM & 9PM, Sundays at 5PM & 7PM. Family-friendly, although no children under 4 will be admitted.  

Photos: Sam Novak, WOW – The Las Vegas Spectacular