INFERNO’s Magician Goes Up In Flames

Visually-spectacular production is a victim of its own star performer…

A few years back, the handlers for Britney Spears were faced with an unusual dilemma…what to do when the star of your production is a washed-up tabloid punchline with an inexplicably-strong fan base. Their answer was simple yet effective: launch her residency with a circus of hoopla, stick her onstage with all the pyrotechnics and distractions that money could buy and hope for the best.

As fate would have it, Britney: Piece of Me was indeed an unqualified hit. The mentally-troubled pop tart flapped her arms and silently moved her lips while a small army of gorgeous dancers did the heavy lifting, both literally and figuratively. They carried her around like a mannequin accompanied by prerecorded audio tracks and propped her up in whatever area of the stage that the choreography required. Think of it as “Weekend at Bernie’s: The Musical”.


                         Joe Labero thanks Britney Spears for her #1 idea…

The minds behind INFERNO: The Fire Spectacular (now playing at Paris Hotel Casino) seem to have taken a similar route. Their featured performer is Joe Labero, an obscure illusionist (at least to American audiences) who’s apparently a big name in Europe. He’s also a former recipient of Illusionist of the Decade. Raise your hand if you’ve heard of him.


Labero’s version of smoke-and-mirrors distractions comes courtesy of a London pyrotechnic troupe known as The Fuel Girls. You may know them from the UK tour of rock group Fall Out Boy….or maybe not. The resultant pairing is the most uncomfortable seen on a Vegas stage since Criss Angel crawled into bed with Cirque du Soleil nearly a decade ago.


On their own, The Fuel Girls could easily warrant their own show. Stunts, flame throwers, explosions, choreography and visual effects are all top notch. Ramped up and fleshed out, INFERNO could be to fire what Le Reve and WOW – World of Wonder are to water.


Alas, the show is hostage to Labero and his magic routines. The illusionist does everything he can to remain front and center, despite being the weak link. Like an annoying uncle who laughs at his own jokes then repeats the punchline a second time, Labero attempts to milk every last clap from the audience.


Walking to the edge of the stage after each bit, Labero stretches out his arms in a “Ta Dah!” pose that he holds far too long…before dashing into the audience to repeat it in the aisles. There were frequent snickers from people seated all around me. Yes, it’s that embarrassing.


Labero’s stage presence is hampered by a strong Swedish accent that makes it quite difficult to understand what he’s saying much of the time. Also distracting is that the 54-year-old host is frequently out of breath, heaving heavily and sweating…even in the quieter moments of the show.


As for the illusions themselves, expect the requisite “person sliced into pieces”, sleight of hand, card tricks and people disappearing/reappearing. Two illusions that do have merit are one where Labero seems to walk right through a person stretched between two supports and another where he passes through a mirror.

Aside from that, there isn’t anything truly special about the magic acts in INFERNO: The Fire Spectacular. With the likes of David Copperfield, David Goldrake, Masters of Illusions, Criss Angel, Matt Franco and many more filling the Strip showrooms with this type of entertainment, was there really a need for another? Of course not, especially when one European import in particular is already doing it so much better (David Goldrake’s IMAGINARIUM was my choice for Best New Production of 2017).


What makes the show worthy of your consideration are all the sequences without Labero. Pyrotechnics are always jaw-dropping in any medium, but feeling the heat, hearing the sizzle and being bombarded with loud blasts are a visceral experience. In this case, the flames are deftly used through aerial stunts, physically-demanding choreography and handling of fiery objects like batons, whips and an umbrella frame.


Other saving graces are the elaborate production design and costumes. Stylist collaborators Georgia Richardson and Jeffrey DeBarathy (ALICE: A Steampunk Concert Fantasy) bring a distinctive “Mad Max” look to the performers that’s a perfect match for the Fuel Girls’ visuals. The character of “Animal” is clearly inspired by The Road Warrior.


Unfortunately, Labero’s attempt to associate his magic acts with the far superior fire aspect are truly cringe-inducing. The two just do not overlap well. It’s clear that the magician has taken his existing acts and awkwardly grafted them onto this new production with wildly uneven results.

Joe frequently breaks from what he’s doing to grab a large vase on the side of the stage and dump its contents into a nearby barrel. “We need more gasoline. Lots and LOTS of GAS O LEEEEEEN!” he exclaims time after time before returning to the business at hand.


Amidst more hushed chuckling from nearby patrons (several of whom had walked out at this point), my companion leaned in and said “Am I missing something here?”. No, my friend…it’s just the sound of another expensive Strip production going up in flames.

INFERNO: The Fire Spectacular performs Wednesday through Sunday inside the Paris Theater. Tickets start at $65.77 (plus taxes/fees) and can be ordered here. is offering a $20 discount on INFERNO by following this link. Discounts on additional shows and hotels can be combined/increased by visiting here.

Photos: INFERNO: The Fire Spectacular, Joe Labero

Cosmopolitan Gets High on “OPIUM”

Absinthe-style production brings Spiegelworld madness back to Rose.Rabbit.Lie…

“Slip through the crack in the space/time continuum for a close encounter with a spaceship of fools”.

The politics of show business are not unlike those of the world’s governments. Coalitions are forged, battle lines get drawn and sometimes old enemies become allies. That’s what happened when the 2014 spectacular Vegas Nocturne abruptly closed at the Cosmopolitan‘s Rose.Rabbit.Lie Social Club a mere seven months into its run.

It’s a genuine shame if you missed out on Vegas Nocturne. That genre-spanning production delivered an entire evening of thrills and laughter, spread out over three full-length interconnected shows.

Some of Nocturne‘s best acts, like David O’Mer‘s bathtub seduction and Sean and John‘s tap-dancing routine were integrated into Absinthe. Other breakout performers like Piff the Magic Dragon and beatbox singer Butterscotch moved onto their own fame as well.


       Vegas Nocturne’s “Bathtub Boy” now shares his excitement at Caesars…

Vegas Nocturne‘s sudden closure led to legal battles that continued for years. Things got more complicated when it was announced that Caesars‘ hit show Absinthe would be moving into the performance space once occupied by Nocturne. Again, the big guns came out…and after a few volleys and threats, Absinthe stayed put (leaving the Rose.Rabbit.Lie theater empty for yet another year).

This month, all those differences have been put aside. A brand new variety show is about to launch in that sadly-neglected space. It’s called OPIUM…and it promises to be as crazy and off-the-wall as those other two naughty spawn of their Spiegelworld parents.


Last week, Spiegelworld held a cast reveal and teaser performance under the Cosmo’s Chandelier Bar. Emceed by “Harry M. Howie”,  the supposed creator of OPIUM (and a fictitious character a la Absinthe’s “The Gazillionaire”), the official Arrival Ceremony was comically timed to overshadow the opening ceremonies of the 2018 Winter Olympics.


Howie, looking nervous and disheveled in a tacky suit, spoke from a cheap portable PA system in front of a folding table adorned with lunchbox packs of Jell-o and a gallon jar of Costco Cheez Balls. He was eager to unveil the final artwork for his long-dreamed-of Sin City project.


“You make a poster and everything else pretty much falls into place” Harry stated with the arrogance of a seasoned Vegas producer. One might say that his confidence fluctuated as wildly as the authenticity of his Australian accent. With one quick tug, the veil was lifted on the official poster…and the drums started to play.


As various characters entered the Cosmo casino from all directions, the crowd began to thicken. A sax player belted out notes on the descending escalator. Towering interstellar God (and costume designer) Machine Dazzle made a grand entrance by way of the Chandelier Bar‘s glass elevator. They all came together to give the curious spectators a peek at OPIUM, which opens next month.



What happened next was hard to explain. The cast performed a rhythmic number backed by bongos and carrying pyramid-shaped props from which they extracted a change of costumes. Utilizing folding lawn chairs, suitcases, confetti and LOTS of aluminum foil, the OPIUM performers shared their home galaxy’s avant garde brand of music and dance:

It’s clear from the video clip above that OPIUM will be anything but ordinary. One can only hope that the new show will bring the same level of enchantment that Vegas Nocturne did when it first graced the Rose.Rabbit.Lie stage.

Although shrouded in mystery, OPIUM is already more forthcoming than Nocturne ever was. That ill-fated production asked members of the media not to reveal very much in hopes that guests would discover it on their own. Even my VegasChatter review, which spared held back most of the details, was heavily edited to blot out additional specifics. That over-reliance on secrecy, IMO, is what led to consumer confusion…and ultimately the untimely closure.



In addition to the teaser performance last week, the folks at Spiegelworld have offered this formal synopisis of OPIUM:

Journey on a trip to a new dimension of entertainment with OPIUM, the new show at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas from the creators of ABSINTHE. What is OPIUM? It’s fast, funny and funky. Completely off the planet. Remember the good old days when you sauntered into a Las Vegas showroom, martini in hand, while a pack of comedians and crooners bantered in front of the house band? Even if you do, one thing’s for certain: it didn’t look like this. Slip through the crack in the space/time continuum for a close encounter with a spaceship of fools.

They’ve also uploaded this peculiar featurette onto YouTube. I recommend jumping to the actual promo video which begins at the 2:18 mark:

So if your senses…and your curiosity…are prepared to be heightened, take a hit of OPIUM. I’ll be checking it out myself soon and will report back with a detailed review.

Preview performances for Spiegelworld’s OPIUM begin March 13, 2018 at Cosmopolitan’s Rose.Rabbit.Lie. Tickets are on sale now at or by calling 1-866-973-9611. Use code VEGAS at checkout to receive the amazing price of $30 (plus taxes/fees) while offer lasts.


Photos: Kirvin Doak, Erik Kabik, Spiegelworld

Palazzo Surprises Guests On “National Plan For Vacation Day”

Movement encourages Americans to schedule their vacations and enjoy well-deserved fun…

Yes, I know what you’re thinking – “Sammasseur really loves Palazzo Resort. Blah blah blah”. And you’d be fair to say so. It’s true that I continue to crow about Palazzo‘s virtues (like Best Luxury Resort and Best Overall ShowBAZ Musical Mash-up). But since we’re in a time when so many Vegas properties continually find new ways to stick it to their customers, Venetian’s sister hotel does the opposite by giving back.

Palazzo National Plan For Vacation Day

Earlier this week, BAZ star Ruby Lewis posted a cute and clever video wherein she surprised Rosina Lounge bartender Sarah by taking over her shift. She then shocked two of Sarah’s guests with a complete Vegas vacation package.

Palazzo National Plan For Vacation Day

The unexpected award included round-trip airfare via Allegiant Air, a suite at Palazzo, tickets to BAZ Musical Mash-up and cocktails at Rosina Lounge. While the beginning of the clip seems somewhat scripted, the facial expressions of the recipients are anything but…

Palazzo National Plan For Vacation Day

The purpose of this clip…and the “holiday” that inspired it…is to bring attention to an growing trend among Americans. And that is the wasting of paid vacation time…an estimated 659 million days each year. An alarming 54 percent of us don’t collect on the R & R we’re entitled to, and that’s harmful in more ways than you’d think.

In today’s uncertain economy, many workers are hesitant to take time off, perhaps fearful that the well-entitled indulgence will cost them more than it’s worth. Sadly, that decision backfires in many ways. Not only does work fatigue damage both productivity and morale, but the economy loses approximately $236 billion each year in vacation spending.

Palazzo National Plan For Vacation Day

That’s why the organization Project: Time Off was created. They’re spearheading a movement to address this silent epidemic of self-neglect, as so eloquently stated on their “About Us” page:

We aim to shift culture so that taking time off is understood as essential to personal well-being, professional success, business performance, and economic expansion.​

To that end, January 30th has been declared National Plan For Vacation Day. It has been shown that workers who actively and deliberately schedule upcoming vacations in advance are less likely to make excuses for skipping them. 2017’s NPFV Day was the very first, yet more than 600 organizations in all 50 states participated.

Palazzo National Plan For Vacation Day

This year’s NPFV Day was even larger with major players in the tourist industry hopping on board. Naturally, everyone wants a piece of the pie, but what better place to let off some steam than Las Vegas?

Palazzo National Plan For Vacation Day

Palazzo and Venetian have a long history of community service efforts and often show support for worthy causes. You’ll frequently see the colors of their signage and marquees changed to support awareness (World Heart Day, Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Breast Cancer Awareness) or darkened altogether for the annual World Wildlife Fund Earth Hour.

Venetian/Palazzo team members also do their part to help the world’s communities. To date they have assembled and shipped out about a half-million hygiene kits to support Clean the World. That organization’s mission is to promote good health and well-being around the globe through improved access to soap and other hygiene products.

Baz Boot Camp

Myself with BAZ star Ron Remke and “Morning Blend” host Jennifer Jean Snyder…

That cast of BAZ: A Musical Mash-up reaches out to the community through the magic of song and dance. In addition to giving performance lessons to members of the media and clumsy bloggers like myself (BAZ Boot Camp), they’ve welcomed local children to participate in a day with the cast. The event is part of the Positively Arts Foundation, a local nonprofit dedicated to using the arts to empower, inspire and heal.

Palazzo National Plan For Vacation Day

Palazzo National Plan For Vacation Day

  BAZ stars Savannah Cross and Patrick Ortiz put children through the paces…

Ruby Lewis, the show’s resident “Daisy”, released a holiday single to raise funds for Alzheimers research. In October, she and her fellow cast mates formed “Team BAZ” for the Las Vegas Walk to End Alzheimers. It’s the largest such event dedicated to fighting the dreaded disease. Each performer dedicated their efforts to someone…for Ruby, it was her grandmother.

Palazzo National Plan For Vacation Day

In December, my best friend and I were lucky enough to be in attendance at BAZ when they were collecting donations for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Our donation nabbed us a couple of autographed posters and photos with some of the cast. Overall donations exceeded $11,000.00 in the two weeks leading up to Christmas.

As you can tell, I’m extremely enamored of the people in front of and behind the scenes…those who tirelessly work, create, support and go beyond to make Palazzo a very special place.

As other hotel casinos on the Strip find new ways to gouge their guests and claw every last cent out of your wallet, the team at Venetian/Palazzo go down a very different path. This is one of the many reasons why I consider Palazzo to be the “Best Luxury Resort” in Las Vegas. You can read more about the how’s and why’s by clicking here.

Palazzo National Plan For Vacation Day

And don’t forget to schedule your vacation soon. If you don’t, Ruby Lewis just might show up at your workplace to remind you…and maybe even give you the night off…

Palazzo National Plan For Vacation Day

BAZ: A Musical Mash-up performs Tuesday through Sunday at 7pm. Tickets are available here.

Photos: Sammasseur, Venetian/Palazzo, Ryan Lyons

2017 In Review Part 1 – Best and Worst New Shows

The inaugual “Vegas Unfiltered Wrap-up” is upon us. Brace yourselves…

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. Within the laughter, tears and tragedy were moments of amazement and joy. Whatever you sought, there was something for you to relish and moments to make you cringe. Nothing will let you forget 2017 – the Year in Las Vegas.

Best New Major Show – David Goldrake IMAGINARIUM

Small-scale magic shows come and go all the time, yet the corner of Tropicana and Las Vegas Boulevard has been home to two large-scale headliners (David Copperfield and Criss Angel) for several years. Jan Rouven was doing pretty well as the third member of their triad until a nasty scandal sent him behind bars.

David Goldrake IMAGINARIUM

Enter David Goldrake, the mysterious muscleman from Luxembourg as heir apparent to Rouven’s crown. His IMAGINARIUM is epic, poetic, classical magic with high-tech dazzle and a solid multi-talented cast (read my full review here).

Let’s hope Goldrake’s mastery can overcome the curse that is Tropicana‘s long-troubled showroom. Skip the mediocre Mindfreak Live at Luxor (in its merciful final year) and give this one your entertainment dollars.

Honorable MentionMiss Behave Gameshow at Bally’s

Miss Behave Gameshow

Worst New Major Show – Magic Mike Live

What do you get when you build a show around a male stripper movie, then throw out the movie and keep the dancers in their clothes? That’s the cash-grab fiasco now playing at Hard Rock Hotel. I’ve nothing positive to say about Magic Mike Live…but if you’re still curious, you can read my detailed review here. Or you can save yourself some time and just check out this pic below.


Movie superstar Channing Tatum hung his name on this bait-and-switch mess but you won’t see him anywhere in it. Not even in the posters. The world’s first male revue that mocks male revues (and men in general) with utter contempt, Magic Mike Live is a big fat turkey that deserves to have its head chopped off.

Dishonorable Mention – Black Magic Live at Embassy Night Club

Male revues gay

You’ll want to look away from the disastrous Black Magic Live… 

Photos: Sammasseur, David Goldrake IMAGINARIUM

Get Sweaty for Christmas with 98 Degrees

Steamy pop group’s holiday tour schedules final show for Vegas fans…

As popular boy bands of the 90’s segued into nostalgic “pop groups”, most of them have disbanded or faded into obscurity. Not the hotties of 98 Degrees. As part of the primary 90’s 4-pack (along with N’Sync, Backstreet Boys and NKOTB), 98 Degrees built a ravenous and extremely loyal fan base.  Of those groups, only 98D continues to record great new albums and fill arenas. They also manage to stay relevant in an ever-changing musical landscape.

98 Degrees Christmas

While New Kids and Backstreet have shown love to Vegas from time to time, it’s 98 Degrees that shares a special bond with Sin City. For that you can thank group founder Jeff Timmons, who calls Las Vegas home.

98 Degrees Christmas

A frequent guest at local functions and on Vegas TV talk shows, the ultra-sexy and ridiculously-fit Timmons is also the chesty front man for Men of the Strip. That’s the male revue which took on a vastly-inferior Magic Mike Live and is currently touring the U.S. and Canada.

98 Degrees Christmas

98 Degrees Christmas

  Timmons delivered Christmas in July with Men of the Strip at Hard Rock…                

But before I get more drool on my keyboard, let’s return to the matter at hand….Christmas! Yes, the four-part harmonies and soulful voices of 98 Degrees are back for their second collection of holiday treasures.

98 Degrees Christmas

Has it really been eighteen years since this album hit the shelves?                   

The first, This Christmas, was a certified-platinum hit at the peak of their popularity. Brimming with seasonal standards and three new songs, the album was released on the Motown label in 1999. Fans have been clamoring for a follow-up ever since…and for them, Santa came early this year.


98 Degrees Christmas

Better hair and clothing, same soulful harmonies…                 

Let It Snow debuted on October 20th and the boys gentlemen have been quite busy supporting their new album. They launched another nationwide tour along with TV appearances and a glorious performance during last week’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

98 Degrees Christmas

Ever trendy, the guys made sure that Let It Snow will be released on the retro-hip vinyl format (yes, actual freaking VINYL!) on December 1st. Click here to order the LP via It’ll be great addition to my own collection of treasured holiday records gathered through the years. That postman better be on time….I have plans to get mine autographed.

98 Degrees Christmas

It’s amazing that 98D‘s four members  – Timmons, Justin Jeffre and brothers Nick and Drew Lachey – managed to find time to record a new collection this summer. With Jeff’s Men of the Strip launch in July (read my review here), Nick’s successful stint on Dancing With the Stars, the brothers’ super-popular Lachey’s Sports Bar in Cincinnati and Jeffre’s political activities….well, the logistics must have been staggering.

This isn’t the first time that 98D found themselves riding a new wave of popularity. In 2013 they released 2.0, their first studio album since 2000. They followed that with The Package Tour, a multi-group effort with Boyz II Men and NKOTB.

Now they’re back for phase three and closing out 2017 with a final stop in Las Vegas. 98 Degrees at Christmas will sleigh-ride into the area on Saturday December 23. Star of the Desert Arena in Primm Nevada will host the final performance of the tour. This awesome venue is a short drive south of Las Vegas and a world away from the madness.

The 6,500-seat arena is located at Buffalo Bill’s Hotel Casino in Primm. If you’re concerned about leaving the city limits for an evening, don’t be. Primm Valley Casino Resorts has three hotels serving the venue with hundreds of newly-renovated rooms. Rates start at $59 plus taxes/fees for the night of the event.

98 Degrees Christmas

So why not venture beyond the Strip for a different kind of fun? Turn up the heat and get sweaty on the eve of Christmas Eve with the guys of 98 Degrees. I hope to see you there.

“98 Degrees at Christmas” performs Saturday December 23rd at 8 pm. Tickets start at $20 plus taxes/fees up to a $149 VIP experience with meet/greet. Click here to order.  

Photos: Sammasseur, 98 Degrees via Facebook, Jeff Timmons via Facebook,





“WOW” is Wet Outlandish Whimsy on a Grand Scale

Rio’s water-themed production salutes the heyday of Vegas variety….

If you’ve read my show reviews and columns through the years, you’re probably aware that I’m not a fan of the direction the Vegas entertainment has headed. You know the kind I mean…manufactured talents clogging up enormous venues with their auto-tune warbling. Has-been “divas” sleep-walking and lip-syncing through high-ticket residencies for an enormous paycheck. So-called “celebrity DJs” with their creepy mugshot-style billboards peppering the main roads of the city. It’s all garbage!

Sorry, folks, but Vegas was built on the backs of real talent. If you don’t know or don’t remember what that is, you can check out the amazing musical BAZ at Palazzo, where singers can dance and dancers can sing. And they combine their complex roles with superb acting, offering wide-spectrum talent from every member of the cast.

In recent years, an assortment of variety shows have sprung up that remind us of the glorious era of Vegas. Dancers, singers, circus acts and comics zipping on and off the stage in a constant barrage of whimsy to thrill and dazzle. WOW – World of Wonder is the latest of these, and it’s definitely on my list of must-see-again thrills.

WOW World of Wonder Rio

WOW is a rare commodity on the Sin City entertainment scene. It dares to be simultaneously silly, chaotic, retro and modern while offering high-tech amazement. WOW wears its randomness on its sleeve, starting here and jumping over there. You never know who will be coming onto the stage, creeping up behind you, descending from the ceiling or rising from the depths.

If some of that sounds a bit like Le Reve, you’re right. There are plenty of moments in WOW that resemble Wynn’s signature production, along with Absinthe, Mystere, Vegas! The Show and the sadly-defunct Vegas Nocturne at Cosmopolitan’s Rose.Rabbit.Lie. I offer those comparisons as compliments, as all have been personal favorites.

What differs with WOW is in the presentation, starting with the venue. Rio‘s refurbished Crown Theater will definitely elicit a “wow” from your lips. Not necessarily from the seating arrangements (which are a bit dated and not-quite-lush) but from the main stage and panoramic video panels, which are absolutely gorgeous and impeccably utilized.

WOW World of Wonder Rio

Dazzling moving images of waterfalls and intensely-colored landscapes resemble Wonder Woman’s “Paradise Island” and Ariel’s undersea kingdom. Atmospheric sound design adds to the effect, creating significant anticipation for the show to begin.


The thin plot line involves a nerdy fisherman, badgered by a harpy’s voice into catching something for dinner. Hunkering down in his yellow slicker, he casts his line into the water.  Of course, his baited hook is just there to grab the audience and take them on a journey to the fantastic.



What follows is a hodgepodge of circus acts, peculiar talents, humorous bits and large-scale production numbers. Some are familiar, like the skating act from Absinthe and V – The Ultimate Variety Show. Others offer talents you’ve surely never seen before.

WOW World of Wonder Rio

That in itself would work just fine…if the individual acts didn’t play to drastically different age groups. For instance, a sexy sequence with three lovelies swimming inside a clear glass bowl (similar to Zumanity but without the toplessness) is geared toward adults. But it’s preceded by a lengthy Pirates of the Caribbean spoof that’s best appreciated by children.

WOW World of Wonder Rio

WOW World of Wonder Rio

WOW follows the classic set-up of having smaller acts draw your attention while the big set pieces are setting up behind a curtain on the main stage. One moment an Italian chef is spinning plates on the streets of old Venice.

WOW World of Wonder Rio

WOW World of Wonder Rio

The next, a hot-bodied group of dancers is strutting their sexy stuff to popular and classic music. Just wait until you see the salute to Singing In The Rain, wherein the raindrops actually form the shape of umbrellas. Clever!

WOW World of Wonder Rio

WOW World of Wonder Rio

All of it is superbly done and most is highly enjoyable…and really, really random. But that’s what’s great about variety shows, especially in our era of short attention spans. As they say about San Francisco weather, if you don’t like what’s happening, just wait a moment.

WOW World of Wonder Rio

Perhaps that’s why Riviera’s SPLASH and Bally’s JUBILEE!, a pair of Vegas classics, lasted for decades.  The format also allows for frequent refreshing, so each visit is sure to yield a unique experience.

WOW World of Wonder Rio

WOW World of Wonder Rio

The epic production numbers were my favorite aspect of WOW, especially a jaw-dropping ballroom scene aboard the Titanic. Your entire field of vision is filled with the ship’s interior, rising waves seen through the windows and a cast of dancers that is suddenly engulfed in the deluge. This obvious nod to the legendary sequence in JUBILEE! takes the experience much, much farther. Hold onto your life preserver!

WOW World of Wonder Rio

WOW World of Wonder Rio

WOW World of Wonder Rio


My least favorite act involves Guinness World Record holder Dickson Oppong of West Africa. This large fellow has the unique ability to guzzle huge amounts of water, then spray it as continuous stream from his mouth. Although fascinating, it’s also a bit disturbing. Germ-aphobes may wish to avoid sitting in the splash zone.

WOW World of Wonder Rio

WOW World of Wonder Rio


More entertaining is a bit involving statues who become fountains too…in a funny, clever way. The gag builds layers of whimsy until it segues into another a trio of swimmers. I’d have like to have seen the statues go on a bit longer first.

WOW World of Wonder Rio

Sadly, the comic-relief character that opens the show has solo moments that go on way too long. He also gets worked into too many of the other acts. Mostly wordless, his child-like bits involving a clap-along and a series of boo-boos make for excellent bathroom breaks. But he’s still more entertaining than the creepy, annoying clowns of O.

WOW World of Wonder Rio

Some acts would be more at home in a traveling circus but don’t necessarily translate well to an evening Vegas production. Perhaps the fact that WOW comes from overseas (Israel, in fact) helps to explain why it feels so offbeat. The weirdness isn’t the same as Cirque du Soleil‘s French humor…nor is it as annoying. But a little fine-tuning for Vegas audiences might do WOW a whole lot of good.


I also had issues with some clumsy sound cues and abrupt changes in volume that distracted from the performances of a uniformly excellent cast. As the show is relatively new (it opened just last month), things like this should eventually be worked out.

WOW World of Wonder Rio

But that’s a small complaint when compared to the scale of talent and visuals represented here. The 30-member international cast is beautiful and overflowing with skill. And they have one goal in mind – to leave you saying “WOW”.

WOW World of Wonder Rio

The success of any variety production depends largely on whether you’re drawn into the premise. WOW succeeds in capturing your imagination. It grabs you from the opening moments, twirls you around, lifts you up and doesn’t let go until the final bows.

WOW World of Wonder Rio

It’s classic Vegas variety entertainment on a grand scale.

WOW – World of Wonder performs Tuesday through Sunday at 7pm with an additional 9pm show Friday-Sunday. Tickets start at $49 (plus taxes/fees) and can be ordered here. Travelzoo currently has discount tickets from $39 with no additional taxes/fees. Click here to access this offer, good through 1/7/18.

Photos: Diane Lynn, Sammasseur




Anne Martinez Can’t Slow Down To Be “The Next Big Thing”

Meet a talent who’s equally at home in Gatsby’s world and Alice’s Wonderland…

Some performers set their sights on Las Vegas and dream of one day ruling the stage. Anne Martinez must have missed that memo about “someday”. You see, she came to Sin City four years ago and immediately began her Vegas reign.

Anne Martinez

You may not know Anne Martinez by name, but chances are that you’ve seen her perform at least once..and heard her glorious voice rattling the rafters. From Luxor‘s sexy Fantasy to Steve Wynn’s classy ShowStoppers. Dripping with blood at Zombie Burlesque or adorned with dazzling jewels in BAZ – A Musical Mash-up. There’s seemingly nothing that Anne cannot do.

Anne Martinez

Anne and her husband John Martinez came to Vegas in 2013. John’s expertise in rigging and scuba diving made him a perfect fit for Cirque du Soleil‘s water production “O”. While hubby was getting his feet wet at Bellagio, Anne was putting her own skills into play on various stages…while simultaneously working with a team of gifted colleagues to establish her own production company. BBR, like Anne, quickly made a name for itself with the genre-bending Alice: A Steampunk Concert Fantasy (more on that in a bit).

Anne Martinez

Despite her short time in the city, Anne dove headfirst into a wide variety of gigs, charitable functions and community events. Belting out hits at House of Blues Music Forward Foundation, joining Mondays Dark to benefit AFAN, singing the National Anthem during March Madness, saluting Amy Winehouse at Brooklyn Bowl‘s The Setlist late-night concert series…the list truly is endless.

Earning a BFA in acting no doubt explains Anne’s ability to step into a wide variety of song styles and characters, but her Masters of Fine Arts degree in Theatre Practice (aka show creation) is how Alice: A Steampunk Concert Fantasy sprang to life. Taking the darker elements of Lewis Carroll’s “Alice In Wonderland” and weaving them into a hard-rocking opera set in a retro-futuristic sci-fi world, Alice is sheer brilliance. Even Tim Burton didn’t try something so audacious for his interpretation.

Anne Martinez

Anne credits a great deal of Alice‘s success to other ambitious young artists like Jeffrey DeBarathyAdolfo BarretoLora KelseyAshley FullerClaudia MitriaApril Leopardi and co-director Ryan Kelsey. Having such a gifted ensemble almost guaranteed a show unlike anything Vegas had ever seen.

Naturally, Martinez wanted to see her baby become a resident production. Having outgrown its early days at Hard Rock Hotel‘s VinylAlice quickly became the must-see monthly event at Brooklyn Bowl…for locals and tourists alike. Even when the show was on hiatus last summer, she re-assembled the cast for a one-off at Las Vegas Pride.

Since then, Rocks Lounge at Red Rock Casino has become the permanent home for Alice. One Monday each month, the cast gathers for another epic performance. Their next show date is November 13th with guest performance by Cirque du Soleil artist Michelle DiTerlizzi as the Red Queen.

Anne Martinez

Compounding the challenge of short preparation time was the fact that her predecessors have gone on to major high-profile productions. Returning BAZ star Ruby Lewis finished her Daisy run at Light before the titular role in Broadway’s Paramour. Last fall, Joanna Alexis Jones left Palazzo Theater‘s production for the NBC broadcast of Hairspray Live. Her abrupt departure required Martinez to step into the star-making character.

Despite being an understudy for only a few short weeks, Anne’s version of Daisy was nothing short of breathtaking. She subsequently took on the lead role of “Satine”, made famous by Nicole Kidman in the film Moulin Rouge:

As if her schedule wasn’t already busy enough, Anne currently does double-duty as one half of the duo HEART in Stratosphere’s World’s Greatest Rock Show. She literally finishes her BAZ performance at Palazzo and high-tails it down the Strip to roar onstage and belt out high-powered anthems like this:

Before a performance of BAZ, I sat down with this dynamo outside of the Palazzo Theater to talk about her background, her inspirations, and of course, plans for her future in Las Vegas.

When asked what it felt like to join For The Record‘s innovative, genre-busting, star-making troupe, the Rochester NY native had this to say:

I think For the Record is a brilliant company that has only just begun on their road to amazing success! They have a keen sense of entertainment and are completely fearless in their journey of storytelling. It’s incredible to be a part of and magical to watch.

Despite the difficulties that entertainment productions aced in Sin City during 2016 (over 30 closures), Anne is optimistic that quality shows will continue to thrive on Las Vegas stages:
I think Vegas is an ever-changing amoeba that will always take us by surprise. As artists, we are always working toward entertaining our patrons and how exactly to do that. Experimentation is the key to growing as an artist and as a business. Keeping an open mind and trying new things will allow projects to grow and flourish. As new generations come forward, we can (hopefully) create entertainment that they will enjoy!
When asked how challenging it was to join an established cast then quickly step into a central role, Anne seemed grateful and confident at the same time:
My primary talent is willingness to learn. Everything can always be improved as a performer…but you have to be willing to jump. I love music with meaning. Listening to QUEEN and the BEATLES as a child really informed the sense of using music to speak…to color…to paint with your musicality….to speak your truth or to find the truth in others.

Martinez confided that coming down from the show each night is a bit difficult. The emotional energy required to take on a production like BAZ is also evident in her personal life and passions:

I love NSPCA. I have rescue cats myself and it breaks my heart to think they were hurt in the past. Adopting a pet or donating to NSPCA can save so many lives of innocent animals. I also have a yearly holiday show for Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth. There are so many teens and children in need of protection, education and opportunity.
 Anne Martinez
Every year, pianist Kenny Davidsen and I gather numerous vocalists in Las Vegas who donate their talents for a night of music. Our next one is December 19th at Tuscany Resort. It’s so important to remember that everyone deserves a chance.

The morning after the recent shooting tragedy in Vegas, Anne and husband John were the first people I saw on social media delivering food, water and assistance to first responders operating out of the Las Vegas Convention Center. They were broadcasting live via Facebook and urging people to come down and do the same.

Later that month, she and her fellow castmates formed “Team BAZ” for last month’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s, the largest such event dedicated to fighting that dreaded disease.

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Just this past Sunday (November 5th), Anne appeared with many other entertainers at Venetian Hotel for the Vegas Cares Benefit Concert to support both victims of and first responders to the tragedy.

It’s clear that Anne Martinez has truly found happiness in the city she calls home. Her love for its people is as strong as the passion she delivers in her performances. I look forward to many more hours of enjoying this boundless talent in darkened theaters throughout Las Vegas.

BAZ – A Musical Mash-up performs Tuesday through Saturday at 7pm at Palazzo Theater. Tickets start at $65 and can be ordered by clicking here

World’s Greatest Rock Show performs Tuesday through Sunday at 9pm at Stratosphere. Tickets tickets start at $73 and are available here.

ALICE: A Steampunk Concert Fantasy performs one Monday each month at Rocks Lounge inside Red Rock Resort. Tickets are $25 and can be ordered here.

This article previously appeared elsewhere in another version. It has been updated with new information.

Photos:  Jake Klein, Patrick Rivera, Elaine Wilkinson, Richard Brusky, Bill Hiltz, BBR and Anne Martinez via Facebook. Videos by Sammasseur