Get Ready For Another Dose of OPIUM


Spiegelworld’s sexy interstellar spaceship comedy gets an upgrade…

Damn, this has been a really tough summer for Vegas entertainers. Shows have been closing left and right, some before they’ve barely gotten out of preview. Sadly, I’ve seen many of my performer friends leaving Sin City for better opportunities in Los Angeles and New York City.

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So where does that leave a spaceship full of cosmic settlers trying to make a name for themselves on the Strip? Well, if you’re the passengers and crew of the OPM 73 Starship, you’re bound and determined to make your new production OPIUM a hit. After all, a return trip to Uranus would be the ultimate walk of shame.

That’s why the Spiegelworld team, creators of ABSINTHE, have streamlined and upgraded their glitzy homage to wacky 70’s variety shows with new songs, a faster storyline and plenty of humorous new acts. If you grew up on Saturday morning Sid and Marty Krofft programs like LAND OF THE LOST, DR. SHRINKER, FAR OUT SPACE NUTS and THE LOST SAUCER, then OPIUM is for you!

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You may have seen my previous review of OPIUM that I published in April. Well, blast that one into space via the airlock on Deck C. OPIUM 2.0 deserves its own write-up. It’s funnier, more shocking and a lot more polished. Look for things to get even flashier with the possible addition of BAZ’s prolific costume designer Olwen Zarlengo.

BTW, it’s still as naughty as ever, so leave your sticky little rugrats at home!

OPIUM Spiegelworld Cosmopolitan

The basic premise is the same – crewmates of the OPM 73 perform variety acts for the passengers when not engaging in sexual encounters with each other. We’re introduced to new trainee “Chip”, a virginal geek unsuccessfully looking for his first physical encounter. Despite all the randy opportunities aboard, Chip is holding out for love.

OPIUM Spiegelworld Cosmopolitan

Chip’s mechanical pal Rob the Robot doesn’t understand the concept of emotions, so Chip installs an upgrade into Rob’s software that puts him on his own path of sexual exploration. Can robots do the deed with horny humans while on a lengthy trek through the stars? You betcha….just wait until you see the newest crew member at the finale.

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The revised plot has jettisoned a riff on 1979’s Ridley Scott film ALIEN. Gone is the oversized Muppet running amok in the bowels of the ship. Captain Kunton is now in charge, replacing Ann Tennille (whose character has apparently disappeared into a black hole). The new captain has an affection for playing with his diablos (those Asian yo-yo’s), as well as certain members of the audience.

Luckily, the best variety acts have remained on board for all to enjoy. Portly maintenance man Scotty still dazzles with his flamboyant hula-hoop routine. Mateo – Queen of the Galaxy, aka the “Latino Freddie Mercury”, vies for your attention with a pair of banana-shooting WTF’s. And crowd favorites Yuri and Cosmo continue to dazzle with their shirtless-muscleboy-and-his puppy showstopper.

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        Flashy but maudlin “Dusty Moonboots” belts out another heartbreaking hit…

Also returning are drag-tastic crooner “Dusty Moonboots” and sword-swallowing Rear Admiral Todd Vader, whose role has been wisely amped up to include a subplot involving engine-room sabotage…using an enormous dildo. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

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Among the new acts is a whip-cracking Puerto Rican security officer Judita with an overactive libido. He has a mid-scene costume change that will have you gasping for days. Don’t let ANYONE spoil the surprise….and don’t reveal the twist once you’ve seen it.

As with most variety-dependent shows, expect OPIUM to continually evolve. You can be sure that each visit will be unique and memorable…just like every trip to Las Vegas.

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           Social media celebrity Perez Hilton and I take in a performance of OPIUM…

And with the volatile nature of today’s entertainment market, it would be wise for you to see OPIUM right now. You never know what threat lies around the corner…or in the furthest reaches of outer space. So grab a “Spocktail” and enjoy the show.

OPIUM Spiegelworld Cosmopolitan

OPIUM Spiegelworld Cosmopolitan

OPIUM performs at the OPIUM THEATER next to Rose.Rabbit.Lie on the second level of Cosmopolitan Las Vegas. Showtimes are Wednesday through Monday at 8pm with additional 10pm shows Thursday through Sunday. Tickets start at $79 (plus taxes/fees) and can be purchased via this link

OPIUM Spiegelworld Cosmopolitan

VegasFool.com is currently running a special for $38 that you can take advantage of by clicking here.

Photos: Sammasseur

 

 

 

 

 

 

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PEREZ HILTON -Breaking The Rules (and making some new ones) at Chippendales


The nation’s foremost social media “influencer” manages to make the outlandish seem easy in his guest-hosting stint…

I was one of many who were shocked when Chippendales announced notoriously-outspoken Perez Hilton as their next celebrity host. After all, the self-proclaimed “Queen Of All Media” was hardly forged from the same slabs of beef as previous guests like Tyson Beckford and Antonio Sabator Jr. So what gives?

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The answer is that the forces behind Chippendales version 2018 are ready to shake things up. With the absurdly awful Magic Mike Live biting into their sales and cutting-edge newcomers like Aussie Heat offering alternative takes on the male revue concept, it isn’t enough to just be the gold standard any more.

As I previously reported, Chippendales is one of several erotic male productions that have evolved in order to tap into the DINK demographic. What’s that, you ask? It’s the “Dual Income, No Kids” members of our society, which these days are widely represented by the gay community.

Perez Hilton Chippendales

With the passage of marriage equality, the need for gay-only entertainment options has largely melted away. LGBTQ tourists are now welcomed along with everyone else, so it’s common to see gay couples and groups attending male revues along with the ladies.

That’s why Perez Hilton fits so nicely into this hosting gig. Never one to shy away from controversy, the flamboyant Hilton is this generation’s Paul Lynde, Liberace or Siegfried & Roy. He’s way out there, yet approachable. Daring, yet somehow safe. A perfect mash-up of comedy, shock value and tongue-in-cheek humor to make your night on the town an only-in-Vegas experience.

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I sat down with Perez before the official opening of his debut last Friday. Decked out as a carnival barker in a spectacular Jeffrey DeBarathy-designed costume reminiscent of Britney Spears’ ensemble for The Circus tour, Hilton was surprisingly eloquent and soft-spoken.

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         The two of us at a performance of Spiegelworld’s OPIUM at Cosmopolitan…

When asked if he felt like a pioneer by being the first openly-gay host of a show that once prohibited men from attending, Perez seemed surprised:

Wait a minute….I’m gay? Who told you that? (laughter). Wow, I did not know that! So men weren’t allowed in the audience before…that’s interesting. But no, I can’t say that I feel anything like a pioneer. This is something that I’ve wanted to do for awhile and I’m glad we were able to make it happen!

“Now that you’ve been in rehearsals, gotten to meet all the guys and seen their inner workings (more laughter), were there any pre-conceived notions about Chippendales that were either confirmed or shattered?”

(sly grin) Hmmmm….there weren’t really any backstage shocks that I can think of. I know the show pretty well from coming so many times. And I’ve only been rehearsing since Monday so there hasn’t been a lot of opportunity to think about things like that when you’re focused on the work.

I will say that everyone here has been supportive of me and they’ve made it easy. It’s been so much fun and I’m eager to see how the audiences react. This is uncharted territory for me as much as them.

Perez Hilton Chippendales

With the pre-show party about to begin inside the adjacent Flirt Lounge, time was running short. So I was able to ask one last question – “What advice can you offer a small-time blogger like myself?”.

You need to know your audiences for every individual platform. The readers on Facebook are going to be a different group from those on Instagram. They want to experience different kinds of content, so you need to tailor each social media outlet to their expectations, not yours.

YouTube is the big one right now. You have to use video…and lots of it. People want to see for themselves what you’re up to. I have two YouTube channels and it’s a challenge to keep up with all of it, but you have to stay current and pump out new information all the time.

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                Ever-present mother Teresita enjoying Perez’s debut performance…

After fans (and the curious) had lined up and taken their seats inside Rio‘s custom Chippendales Theater, the countdown to showtime was interrupted by Perez himself. Appearing from behind the audience, the host stopped the show with a bit of impish playfulness before allowing the beefcake to be revealed.

Perez Hilton Chippendales

Throughout the evening, Hilton worked his way into the proceedings with his signature charm, playing emcee for a faux game show, busting in on performer Kyle Efthemes‘ “Purple Rain” shower sequence (yes, really) and holding an open forum for questions from the audience.

What could have been a train-wreck attempt at hipness from lesser media celebs (the flatliner response to Chester Lockhart and Scheana Shay’s short-lived stint at Sex Tips for Straight Women From a Gay Man comes to mind) turns out to be a brilliant move. And one that should bring in hordes of new fans to the long-running show.

Perez Hilton Chippendales

But don’t take my word for it. See the audacious Perez Hilton and his crowd-pleasing antics for yourself. Chippendales performs nightly at 8:30 p.m. with additional shows on Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 10:30 p.m.

Perez Hilton’s Chippendales residency runs Thursday/Sunday nights through Sept. 2nd, 2018. Tickets range from $64.95 to $165.09 + tax and fees (18+) and can be purchased by calling (702) 777-7776. VegasFool.com is currently running discount rates as low as $39 for select evenings.

Photos: Sammasseur, Perez Hilton via Facebook, Chippendales

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sexy Power Duos: Alejandro and Sarah Le Clear-Domingo


The city’s best dancers are a husband and wife team that brings down the house each night at Palazzo’s BAZ….

Ask anyone what their must-do Vegas experiences are and you’ll undoubtedly get a list of familiar answers: a romantic stroll by the fountains of Bellagio…people-watching at Mon Ami Gabi…drinks at a favorite cocktail lounge.

For this writer, no trip to Vegas is complete without a seat at the Palazzo Theater for BAZ: A Musical Mash-up. And that experience was recently taken to new heights with the addition of husband-and-wife dance team Sarah Le Clear and Alejandro Domingo.

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Stunning to look at (Alejandro was featured as “Best Abs” in my column four years ago) and a revelation to see in action, this power duo exudes every aspect of power, sensuality, sophistication and the sheer stunning artistry of dance. Audiences may recognize them from nearly five years at David Saxe‘s glorious VEGAS! The Show, but BAZ has unleashed their abilities in a way rarely seen on any stage.

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I recently spoke with the couple after seeing BAZ for the the 27th time (yes, really) and invited them to participate in a fun Q & A. I’m honored to say that they excitedly agreed. But before we get to that, here’s a little about them and how they came together as a professional team.

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Sarah and sister Julianne were born in southern California and grew up in the Bay area of San Francisco. Their parents were college sweethearts who encouraged their daughters’ love of performance arts. So, Sarah began formal dancing classes at age five.

I started intense ballet training at a very young age at Contra Costa Ballet Centre. A very prestigious school that I took very seriously, but I knew I wanted to study all aspects of dance. This is when I started my training at Dance Connection Performing Arts Center in Concord California, under the direction and ownership of Paula Henson.

My years at the studio is when I flourished the most…I became involved in the competition aspect of the studio competing all over California through the competition season. I was so thrilled to be expanding my repertoire of styles.

Years of practice and competitions were rewarded by a Sue Pipo Memorial Dance Scholarship, and Sarah’s future in the world of dance was assured.

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After graduation I auditioned to be an NBA Dancer for  the Golden State Warriors and became the youngest on the team. From there I moved to LA to continue my training at EDGE Performing Arts Center.

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Alejandro is from Buenos Aires. A rare combination of brains, brawn and grace, he played soccer and piano in his youth before pursuing a career in civil engineering. Despite his athletic frame and dashing looks, the Argentinian native enrolled in dance classes at the age of sixteen just to overcome shyness. By eighteen this natural talent was already touring with the salsa-heavy Latin musical Baracatun.

Many entertainers credit their parents and family for setting them on the show-business path. Ale is no exception:

My parents, Jorge and Ana, are just the best parents you could ask for. They always have supported my crazy dreams, and me, even though it meant being away from them for long periods of time. I have also a very smart and sweet little sister called Mariana, four years younger than me. I’m very proud of her and the person she is becoming.

Alejandro received a scholarship to further his dance studies in ballet, jazz, contemporary and partnering at Teatro Colón and the National Institute of Art in Buenos Aires. In 2006 he left Argentina to perform at the Chateau du Versailles in the renowned Fêtes de Nuit. After that he settled for periods in both Paris and Barcelona then continued his training throughout Europe and the United States.

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In 2008 the couple met in Hollywood, Florida when both were hired as dancers and aerialists for Royal Caribbean‘s Explorer of the Seas. Rehearsing nine hours a day, six days a week can bring people very close…and so can a first date at the local Martini Bar. That was a decade ago, and the gorgeous couple has never looked back.

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You might think that sharing the workplace and being together around the clock might tighten the pressure on a relationship, but for Sarah and Alejandro, their art is what brought them together and keeps them strong.

As Ale tells it:

Sarah and I met working together. Since then we have been blessed with sharing the same stage in many different productions, something quite unusual in our line of work. We have had our share of ups and downs in this crazy performers’ world.

I personally love working with Sarah because I always know that she has my best interest at heart…and I have hers. So any criticism or note we give to each other always comes from a caring and honest place and it’s intended to make the other person better.

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Sarah added:

The tense moments are very rare for us because we know how lucky we are to still be performing together. More than anything, it’s fun. A lot of hard work goes into it but it’s worth it!

I asked the couple if either of them tends to “take the lead” during their rehearsals….

We have both been “dance captains” so it depends on what we are rehearsing for, honestly. We pay attention to what the other one needs because if we are going to look and feel good on stage we both need to feel comfortable. (Alejandro)

Hahaha…I think we both want to take the lead! That’s the thing when you’re married to your dance partner…you both want to be in charge. But I think we have a very strong communication and respect for the other so we’re able to tell each other our needs as a partner. Ale is a fabulous ballroom teacher and I will say I have learned a lot from him as far as execution goes. (Sarah)

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Life in Vegas has definitely agreed with the couple. Along with having a great collection of friends in the community, the two enjoy much that the city has to offer. Alejandro offered these insights:

In my free time I like reading, going to the gym and to the movies. I’m not great at cooking but do enjoy it. I always enjoy trying new restaurants and Vegas is an awesome place for that.

I don’t dance much when I’m not on stage, but I have always enjoyed salsa dancing. It’s the first style I ever learned and it’s so much fun in social settings. I’m not a nightclub kind of guy. I prefer going to a chill bar with friends and having a drink, listen to some music and have a good conversation.

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I like taking Sarah out for dinner to a good restaurant and buying her nice things. I love Sinatra at the Wynn…the atmosphere and awesome background music. For a “cheat meal” I’d have to say Vege-Way…some of the most delicious vegan burgers you’ll have.

We also enjoy taking some much needed time off and going on a relaxing vacation. So far my favorite spot has been the Riviera Maya in Mexico.

Sarah enjoyed Mexico as well, but she’s partial to a different vacation destination:

Hawaii!!!!! We make an effort to spoil ourselves with nice vacations. We also love going to the M Resort pool during the summer as well as trying new restaurants on the Strip or downtown. I love cheat meals!!! Mon Ami Gabi is one of our favorites.

At my “seasoned” age I’m not much for the nightclub scene anymore…and because we perform so much we tend to enjoy our nights off with no dancing. Although the occasional line dance night at Stoney’s with my girls is always a blast. And we love catching new shows and supporting fellow performers.

I was a competitive swimmer for eleven years, so swimming is a fun hobby of mine. Fitness is a huge part as well so I enjoy the gym. And of course I have my “guilty pleasure” hobbies which include “The Real Housewives of Orange County” and “The Bachelor”, haha.

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It seems that animal rescue is a common thread among cast members of BAZ. Along with Anne Martinez and Ron Remke, the Domingos have a special place in their hearts for the Vegas community’s needy animal population.

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                                              Little Milo loves his toys…

“We both love animals and support the work of amazing nonprofits like The Animal Foundation“, Ale stated. Sarah continued “I am a member of the Humane Society and like to donate to any charity that helps and aids animals..this is very important to me! We have one dog named Milo and he is our baby. He is a rescue dog and has become a part of the family!”

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Speaking of family, I inquired as to where the Domingos saw themselves twenty years from now. Both hinted at the possibility of little dancers in their future.

Maybe I will go back to school and become an engineer. I’v wanted to finish that career. Hopefully we will have kids by then and we will be choreographing for Broadway, cruise ships, or another Vegas show.

Bob Fosse’s work has always been an inspiration for me. I would love to perform some of his work on stage someday. I absolutely love his style and legacy to the dance world. I would also love to work with choreographers like Jerry Mitchell, Sergio Trujillo and Andy Blankenbuehler.

Maybe we will own our own production company… Who knows? (Alejandro)

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Sarah shares her partner’s admiration for the work of Bob Fosse, too:

I would love to work with Broadway choreographers or any master of “Fosse” style like Ann Reinking. Any Broadway show or tour would be a dream of mine, but I also consider myself very lucky and grateful for the career that I’ve had thus far.

The exciting thing about this question is that I just don’t know. We are gypsies and follow the work. Vegas has been incredibly good to us, but the “show” aspect of the city is changing. I do know that we will always be involved in the industry, one way or another.

And by then, maybe we’ll have our own “little performers” in the making.

It’s true that the future of production shows in Las Vegas seems rather uncertain, especially recently. The sometime-abrupt closures of long-running hits combined with many short-term failures reflects a changing landscape for Strip entertainment.

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The Domingos left secure positions with VEGAS! The Show after nearly five years to join BAZ. Only a short time later, they learned that the last performance would be on July 29th, 2018.

As they prepare for an emotionally-charged final weekend with this landmark production, neither displayed any regret for coming aboard at Palazzo‘s signature musical. Instead, they’ll look back with fondness and gratitude:

This is a tough one to talk about and not get emotional. I will never forget the very first time I saw BAZ two years ago. I left the theater feeling completely overwhelmed with what I’d just experienced and witnessed. I remember thinking to myself “What an incredible show to be a part of”.

When Alejandro and I received the call with an offer we were absolutely blown away. After our time at VEGAS! The Show I was now being given the opportunity to be a part of a production that I love and admire. Words can’t really describe how I feel about being a part of the magic of BAZ…especially with Alejandro. (Sarah)

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                      “The first time I saw BAZ”. Sarah Le Clear-Domingo

The more I think about it the more I’m convinced this was where we were meant to be at this moment in our lives and careers.  It’s a memory I will forever cherish, and will always put a smile on my face.

I absolutely love the movies BAZ is based on, and have been a fan of the production since it first opened at Light in Mandalay Bay. The level of talent is incredible, and I’m fortunate enough to share it with the person I love the most, my beautiful wife.

It also allowed me to go back to my beginnings in ballroom and perform in a style that has always been so close to my heart. It’s a show that I truly believe in and that I am so proud to be a part of. There’s nothing else quite like it in the city, and I think Vegas is losing a true gem.

This show reminds people that love is the only thing really worth living for, no matter what situation life throws at you. Yes, it can cause pain, but only if you were lucky enough to truly love someone.

BAZ has real content and real entertainment. I would love for people to remember its message alongside with the talent that brought it to life: “Love is like … oxygen. Love is a many-splendored thing… Love lifts us up where we belong.” (Alejandro)

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BAZ: A Musical Mash-up concludes its two-year run at Palazzo Casino Resort this weekend.

Photos: Alejandro and Sarah Le Clear-Domingo via Facebook, Nicholas Foote, Patrick Rivera, banner photo by David Brenot Photography, video courtesy of Dominick Pepe

SOUNDTRACK Brings Alive The Songs Of Your Life


Legends Clint Holmes and Earl Turner are the heart and soul of a superlative collaboration…

Earl Turner and Clint Holmes, the stars of Westgate’s new SOUNDTRACK production, amusingly carry with them a condition I call “Danny Gans Syndrome“. That is, they’re very well-loved by Vegas audiences but virtually unknown elsewhere. That’s unfortunate, as talent is…and should always be…universally recognized.

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             Clint Holmes (left) and Earl Turner light up the Westgate stage…

Yet Turner and Holmes continue to prosper and thrive on Vegas stages. The two friends have performed separately for many years and are mutual fans of one another. As Clint tells the story “When arriving in Vegas back in 2000, I did what every performer does…I asked “Whose show should I see?”. Everyone told me about Earl Turner…and they were right. He’s terrific”.

These days you’re just as likely to see Earl in the audience for Clint’s solo performances as vice versa. But when these two collaborate for an ongoing series of concerts at Westgate’s International Theater, it’s the fans who will be rejoicing.

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SOUNDTRACK offers a familiar premise – cover versions of songs you know and love…and what they mean for memorable events in your lives and theirs. The target demographic is mainly folks forty and over, yet the gentleman do justice to current hits as well. It’s a well-rounded collection of favorites sure to please every generation.

Much of the fun of this anthology comes from not knowing what’s next, so I’ll try not to spoil things by pounding out a track list. Just know that artists as diverse as Bobby Darin, Stevie Wonder, Prince, Ed Sheeran and The Beatles get the SOUNDTRACK treatment, all done in the inimitable styles of the two leads.

Much like Human Nature JUKEBOX at Venetian, SOUNDTRACK bounces through the decades somewhat randomly, adding to the sense of spontaneity that makes productions like this such a joy. Between the songs are humorous anecdotes that convey a warmth these two have clearly shared through the years…both onstage and off.

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                                                             Serena Henry…

Holmes and Turner fittingly open SOUNDTRACK with “The Boys Are Back In Town”. But this is far from an all-guys night at the theater. Talented back-up singer Serena Henry comes front and center….and owns the stage with a set of classic songs made famous by other female vocalists. It’s almost disappointing when Serena steps back out of the spotlight. Expect to hear lots more from Ms. Henry in the future.

Both stars also have their own moments alone onstage. Clint demonstrates the way he learned to be funky from his African-American father (his mom was a “proper British white woman”, he tells us). Earl shares his evolution from country tunes to a spot-on James Brown impersonation that will have you on your feet and holding your sides with laughter. They come back together for a scatting session that will leave you breathless.

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                                                            Earl Turner…

The eight-piece band led by musical director Christian Tamburr is as attractive as it is talented. Standout saxophonist Rocco Barbato brings a huge slice of “sexy” to several solo moments including a vocal/instrumental jam session with Holmes.

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                                                           Rocco Barbato…

The large International Showroom stage, once home to the likes of Elvis Presley, Barbara Streisand and the returning Barry Manilow, is nicely utilized with simple but effective sets. Lighting, sound and visuals are all what you’d expect from such a well-known venue. Costuming is pretty basic with the band in black suits and the gentleman in shiny pants and sparkly blazers. Ms. Henry dazzles in a series of flattering ensembles.

Clint Holmes Earl Turner Soundtrack

One thing that I’m personally pleased to see is a minimum of sing-alongs and “I can’t hear you!” moments. Those live-performance cliches are so overused…and quite frankly need to be retired. If I wanted karaoke I’d go to Ellis Island Brewery, so thank you SOUNDTRACK for sparing us many of the cornball audience-participation segments.

With Holmes and Turner both having busy solo schedules, the dates for SOUNDTRACK are somewhat limited. A next round of performances will begin July 5th and a full schedule of upcoming shows is available here.

Be sure to stake out a future date and mark this show down on your list of Vegas “musts”. SOUNDTRACK is one memorable playlist that should not be missed.

Clint Holmes Earl Turner Soundtrack

SOUNDTRACK performs on select dates at 7 pm inside Westgate International Showroom. Tickets start at $48 (plus taxes/fees) and are available here. Travelzoo is running a special for seats starting at $24 by following this link.

Photos: Sammasseur, Clint Holmes, Serena Henry, Rocco Barbato, Westgate Las Vegas

Video clip courtesy of Curtis Haines, Next Level Media and Entertainment

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MAGIC OF JEN KRAMER Is Delightful, Frothy Fun


Award-winning illusionist brings laughter, surprises and boundless charm to Westgate’s Cabaret Theater…

P.T. Barnum has one of the most memorable legacies in entertainment history. His recent resurgence in popularity, thanks to “The Greatest Showman“, reminds us that despite decades of change in entertainment culture, the master of deception had universal ideas:

“The noblest art is that of making others happy”. – P.T. Barnum

In the world of magic shows, there is an extremely familiar collection of illusions that most entertainers fall back on: card tricks, disappearing/reappearing, nail-biting escapes, “mind reading”, audience predictions and the classic saw-a-lady-in-half are all favorites. What makes or breaks these acts is how they are presented….and whether or not the entertainer is indeed a great showman. Or in this case, show person.

Much has been made in other media about the disproportionate amount of male magicians. I won’t belabor the point other than to say that it’s refreshing to see a lovely young lady front and center as the headliner of a magic show. And Jen Kramer has certainly earned her place on a Las Vegas stage.

Magic of Jen Kramer

Already familiar to fans of television shows like Masters of Illusions and Penn and Teller: Fool Us, Ms. Kramer has risen quickly through the ranks of the magical boys club. Think of her as a “Hermoine Granger” to David Goldrake‘s “Harry Potter”. Despite a young age (she graduated from Yale University in 2014), Jen’s already received honors such as the Merlin Award and Female Magician of the Year 2016 by the International Magicians Society.

Ms. Kramer kicked off her new residency at Westgate Las Vegas just last week. I attended on the second evening of what might be considered a soft opening. Despite a couple of minor technical gaffes, it was a fast-moving and altogether enjoyable 70 minutes. The intimate Westgate Cabaret is the ideal location for Jen’s illusions, many of which rely on detailed sleight of hand.

Magic of Jen Kramer

What Magic of Jen Kramer lacks in large production values is made up for with plenty of comedy, audience participation and charm. Kramer brims with enthusiasm for her craft, drawing the audience into her prestidigitation with a magnetism that Criss Angel could only hope to match.

Kramer’s ability to engage her guests is quite noteworthy. I immediately fell for this young performer, despite know nothing about her background or achievements. What followed that evening was indeed a collection of tried-and-true favorites, but delivered with a next-generation spin.

Magic of Jen Kramer

While the show could actually use some theatrical bombast, it’s off to a solid start. I’ll avoid describing individual illusions (nobody likes review spoilers, anyway). Instead, lets boast about the fact that Jen was able to pull off the near-impossible by stunning me with a few tricks that I’d never seen before (the Rubik’s Cube is still haunting me). That in itself makes this production worthy of the admission price.

The family-friendly show is suitable for all ages and an early start time makes it a perfect pairing for dinner at one of Westgate‘s adjacent restaurants (yes, that’s a blatant plug since I’m a known fan of their dining offerings).

Magic of Jen Kramer

Surprise me once and you can consider me a fan. Do it twice and I’ll call you amazing. Jen Kramer astounded me numerous times in her new residency. So I guess you can label me a “groupie”. Being a fan of Vegas magic acts, that can be considered high praise.

Magic of Jen Kramer performs Wednesday through Saturday at 6pm. Tickets start at $19.99 (plus taxes/fees) and can be ordered here or purchased at the Westgate Box Office. 

Photos: Jen Kramer, Westgate Las Vegas, Beckett Studios, Sammasseur

 

 

 

Spiegelworld’s OPIUM is a Space Voyage from Uranus (sorry) to your Heart


Absinthe’s new cousin is the schlocky 70’s sci-fi variety show that never was….

Imagine that you’re scanning the channels and come across TV Land, the cable network specializing in beloved 60’s and 70’s programs. They’re airing a weird science-fiction variety show that you don’t remember at all…and you can’t look away.

Opium Spiegelworld Cosmopolitan

The wacky neon-and-spandex-clad passengers and crew of the starship OPIUM are headed towards Earth. For some reason they perform musical and acrobatic acts when not doing naughty things on and with each other. No, it’s not an episode of The Twilight Zone or the super-bizarre Brady Bunch Variety Hour (yes, that was really a thing!). It’s Spiegelworld’s OPIUM…and the ship of fools has landed at Cosmopolitan.

Opium Spiegelworld Cosmopolitan

OPIUM takes over the space once occupied by Vegas Nocturne, another Spiegelworld creation. That lamented masterpiece of hysteria now lives on through OPIUM, which infuses the spirit of Vegas Nocturne with a psychedelic vibe all its own.

Opium Spiegelworld Cosmopolitan

An ethereal mood is instantly established when you enter through Rose.Rabbit.Lie‘s ring of mysterious doors and head for the bar. The lounge is bathed in pink and purple neon tubes and 70’s kitsch like lava lamps and portable televisions (who didn’t have one of those?) line the walls. There, under a shower of electronic bleeps and Moog synthesizer music, you can peruse a 3D menu of specialty cocktails via an authentic View-Master reel.

Opium Spiegelworld Cosmopolitan

Comparisons to Absinthe will be unavoidable, but as my guest at a recent performance noted, OPIUM is the exact opposite of the nearby production. While that long-running hit at Caesars is back-to-back acts of world-class quality, OPIUM deliberately revels in its own awfulness. It’s pure camp and overacting on an epic scale.

Opium Spiegelworld Cosmopolitan

It would be unfair to give away the plot or tell you too much about the characters. They’re pure delight and half the joy is in discovering them. Instead I’ll focus on some of the variety segments, which don’t all achieve the stellar heights of Absinthe but soar on their own plane of existence.

Opium Spiegelworld Cosmopolitan

Opium Spiegelworld Cosmopolitan

“Dusty Moonboots” is the songbird of Starship Opium’s crew. She (or he…I can’t be totally certain) belts out ballads and pop numbers with aplomb, sporting an outlandish series of costumes that seem re-purposed from a roadshow version of Priscilla – Queen of the Desert.

Opium Spiegelworld Cosmopolitan

Vegas Nocturne returning performer Brett Loudermilk is unrecognizable as the ship’s resident sword swallower. His risque oral act is exactly what you might be thinking. Armed with a suitcase full of swords of varying shapes and sizes (along with a rather large “personal item”), Brett’s stunts will shock, nauseate and have you holding your aching sides from the laughter.

Opium Spiegelworld Cosmopolitan

The ship’s all-purpose handyman “Scottie” seems determined to fly his inner rainbow flag through the solar system. Armed with dozens of bright pink hula hoops and streamers trailing behind his go-go shorts, the chubby crew member amazes with his balance, flexibility and grace.

Opium Spiegelworld Cosmopolitan

By far my favorite sequence involved America’s Got Talent duo Christian Stoinev and Scooby. The hunky shirtless young strongman and his faithful chihuahua are so entertaining that they alone are worth the ticket price. This video clip from the performance I attended is a real treat:

Despite the seeming randomness of OPIUM’s concept, it really is cohesive…and surprisingly touching. There’s a story arc, character development, audience interaction and some pretty kick-ass music from a live band. If you’re a Freddy Mercury fan, you’ll love the Queen sing-alongs that form a framework of universal love and acceptance.

Opium Spiegelworld Cosmopolitan

OPIUM’s goal is to amuse, titillate, revolt, befuddle and entertain. Most of all, it’s about delivering the unexpected. On that OPIUM succeeds beyond your imagination. It might not reach the heights of either of its Spiegelworld relatives, but OPIUM is one schlocky sci-fi tale that deserves to run for at least a five-year mission. William Shatner would be proud.

Opium Spiegelworld Cosmopolitan

OPIUM performs nightly (except Tuesdays) at Cosmopolitan Las Vegas. Ticket are available online or at the OPIUM box office on the second level. Click here for show schedule and times. Discounts of 25% on select seats are available courtesy of our friend at VegasFool by clicking here

 

The Many Sides of Savannah Cross


Palazzo’s infectious dancer brings razzle-dazzle to BAZ: A Musical Mash-up

Ever since its humble beginnings inside a small Los Angeles nightspot, BAZ: A Musical Mash-up has boasted a fluid cast. Performers and celebrity guests regularly step into and out of six iconic and several supporting roles. They often swap characters and lines…sometimes within the same performance, making each night a unique experience.

The genre-bending BAZ musical, a creation by LA-based For The Record, recently celebrated its 500th performance inside a custom-designed venue at Palazzo Resort. Although its tradition of rotating casts continues, one performer has been there through four different dance partners. Her name is Savannah Cross…and she’s someone you’ll want to experience on your next trip to the Strip.

Savannah Cross BAZ Dancer Palazzo

Savannah grew up in Sandy, Utah, just south of Great Salt Lake. She spent her earliest years learning to dance at several studios around her home state.

I started dancing at the age of 6.  Watching my older cousin compete is really what drew me into dance.  I remember thinking to myself, this is it, this is what I want to do.  From the time I started training at 6, I just never stopped and got even more immersed into dance.

During my first couple years of dancing, I saw the movie Center Stage and fell in love.  I loved the idea that dance was something I could make a career out of and watching this movie made it all even more real.  I also loved the work, energy and sacrifice that the dancers in the movie put into this crazy art form.

During high school, the ambitious teen traveled around the country with Hollywood Connection, a company dedicated to preparing dancers for their commercial careers. Despite her young age, Savannah performed in a variety of productions that displayed skills in hip-hop, contemporary and ballroom styles.

Savannah Cross BAZ Dancer Palazzo

Savannah Cross BAZ Dancer Palazzo

After graduating from high school, the dynamic young lady enrolled at the University of Utah‘s College of Fine Arts. While there, Savannah was member of their Performing Dance Company, which gave her the opportunity to work with several famed choreographers. As a result of her hard work and the enormous potential she displayed, Savannah received the prestigious Dizzy Feet Foundation Scholarship for her 2014-2015 year.

Savannah Cross BAZ Dancer Palazzo

While less ambitious college students were spending their summers sipping margaritas on Mexican beaches, Ms. Cross was in Leeds, England, receiving intensive training at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance. And somewhere in those college years she managed to become a finalist on Paula Abdul‘s Live To Dance and appeared in a music video for singer Shaun Barrowes.

Savannah Cross BAZ Dancer Palazzo

After earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Modern Dance, Savannah became an instructor at Utah’s Elite Academy, a unique dance studio that teaches children as young as preschool age.  There she inspired other up-and-coming dancers and shared the knowledge she’d gained from an already extensive background.

Aside from dancing, I have really found a passion in teaching.  I started teaching dance when I was 18 and instantly fell in love. I was so lucky to have such incredible and diverse teachers growing up and because of this I felt very informed when I first started teaching.

Savannah Cross BAZ Dancer Palazzo

It was obvious that the girl from a small town in Utah was destined to accomplish great things. With the unending support of her loving mom…and her father as a faithful companion/escort to countless auditions, Savannah’s determination would soon pay off.

Savannah Cross BAZ Dancer Palazzo

I have the most amazing support system and especially wouldn’t be where I am today without my mom and dad. They sacrificed so much to let me follow my dreams.  Every vacation we ever took as a family was always for dance.  A large part of me sticking with this art that can be so hard and grueling is because of those two.  They never gave up on me and every second of everyday, they believed in me.

I have one sibling, a 12 year old sister named Dylann.  She is now starting to dance and train heavily and it makes my heart so happy.  Watching her flourish makes me want to be the absolute best version of myself each day.

As with so many other promising artists, Savannah Cross decided to try her luck in New York City. Although she had success there, a turn of luck would lead her to the bright lights and neon of the Las Vegas Strip.

Savannah Cross BAZ Dancer Palazzo

The innovative Los Angeles-based cabaret troupe For The Record Live was catching on like wildfire. Their musical interpretations of the film works from directors  Quentin Tarantino and John Hughes were drawing raves…and crowds. Their biggest hit so far was For the Record: BAZ, built around the scenes and music of avante-garde Aussie filmmaker Baz Luhrmann.

The production, interweaving love stories from Luhrmann’s contemporary re-imaginings of The Great Gatsby, Moulin Rouge and Romeo & Juliet was given a short stint at Mandalay Bay’s LIGHT Nightclub. Plagued by problems with the venue and its relationship with Cirque du Soleil, BAZ closed prematurely…but refused to die.

In 2016, Palazzo Resort announced a relaunch of the newly-named BAZ: Star Crossed Love. Cirque was now out of the picture and Venetian/Palazzo pledged full support of the acclaimed musical. This latest version of the long-evolving production would open with a mostly-new cast, a reworking of songs and scenes and a custom theater designed to showcase its cabaret-style roots.

What would eventually become my 2017 Best Production Show in Las Vegas was about to gain a brand-new ballroom star. This time, Savannah would be required to sing, act and play characters in addition to swirling around the stage. Here’s how she became a part of BAZ…in her own words:

I really never imagined I would be a part of a show like BAZ. Before I joined the cast, I was dancing for two contemporary companies in New York and I really thought that was my path. When I initially joined the show, I was somewhat hesitant having to sing and act, but now have come to realize that I have such a passion for the two. I do strongly believe that my background in dance and immense training that I did all over the world and in different styles, informed and directed me as a strong actor.  

Savannah Cross BAZ Dancer Palazzo

My initial start into the show was such a whirlwind! I received a phone call from a fellow dancer/friend who I hadn’t heard from in years. She started the conversation totally casual, and a few minutes into the conversation asked me if I would be interested in BAZ. I fell in love with the structure of the show and the incredible talent she described to me. Within days, I got a phone call that I was chosen for the role of Fran! I felt so incredibility lucky to be cast in the show without For the Record and the management team ever seeing me in person.

Savannah Cross BAZ Dancer Palazzo

Everything happened so quickly, with only 3 days to learn the entire show, I became the first new cast member to come into BAZ. I instantly knew that I was meant to be here doing this amazing show. As of now, Scorsese: American Crime Requiem (based on the mafia films of Martin Scorcese) is the only other For the Record show I have seen, but it absolutely blew me away!!! I saw the show in Los Angeles with some others members of BAZ and I sat there thinking to myself, how lucky am I to be part of such an insanely talented family.

Savannah Cross BAZ Dancer Palazzo

I have now had four different partners in the show and I will say that I have really been lucky with each boy. Two of the four partners are also from Utah and we actually grew up dancing together, which made the transition pretty simple. But I will say that there is an emotional toll when a partner leaves.

You end up building such a connection and relationship with each other in which you fully trust each other. I do think that it often feels like a “break up” to some extent and can take a minute to rebuild an entirely new connection with someone else.

Being able to build a connection between herself and others is definitely one of Savannah’s gifts. Whether it’s with her fellow performers, the people in the audience or her own students, Miss Cross is magnetic, energetic and completely mesmerizing.

Savannah Cross BAZ Dancer Palazzo

This writer was fortunate enough to have once been Savannah’s student…for a day. As a member of the media, I was invited to participate in BAZ Boot Camp last summer, an event that allowed members of the press to live a day as a performer at the Palazzo Theater.

Savannah Cross BAZ Dancer Palazzo

Savannah Cross BAZ Dancer Palazzo

  Savannah (center, rear) keeps a watchful eye on yours truly during rehearsal…

Despite my having two left feet and a pair of wobbly legs, Savannah and her dance partner Marcquet Hill rallied and turned us into dancers in a few short hours. Savannah’s positive reinforcement and patience were especially memorable.

Savannah Cross BAZ Dancer Palazzo

Savannah Cross BAZ Dancer Palazzo

Fortunately, the next round of students Savannah and cast mate Patrick Ortiz shared the BAZ experience with were fledgling local youth performers. During the past two years, the show’s team has partnered with Positively Arts Foundation to provide mentorship, collaboration and inspiration for students intent on pursuing a career in performance.

Savannah Cross BAZ Dancer Palazzo

The cast of BAZ also put on the Positively Arts Holiday Spectacular at the Palazzo Theater last December. Featuring more than sixty Positively Arts students, the show brought performances of seasonal songs like “Silent Night,” “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” “This Christmas,” “Carol of the Bells” and “Let There Be Peace on Earth” to the stage with all proceeds benefiting the Foundation. For Savannah, teaching and performing on the same stage is something she will no doubt always relish:

I think its beyond amazing that I get to share something I love so dearly with others and help them find their own passion within the art.  Watching my students grow is the most inspiring and informative lesson for myself.

Now that BAZ: A Musical Mash-up has surpasseded the 500th-performance mark and is about to celebrate its two-year anniversary on the Strip, it’s clear that something special is going on inside the Palazzo Theater. With people like Savannah Cross to teach, inspire and entertain, here’s hoping that she and the cast of BAZ reach for the stars with five hundred more…and beyond.

Savannah Cross BAZ Dancer Palazzo

BAZ: A Musical Mash-up performs Tuesdays through Sundays at 8 pm. Tickets start at $64 (plus taxes/fees) and can be ordered here. VegasFool is currently offering discounted seats starting at $39(plus taxes/fees). Access that offer by clicking here.

Photos: Whitney Lauren Photography, Richard Brusky, Post Productions Photography, Marc Reynolds, Abe Larmas Photography, Erik Kabik, KTNV Morning Blend, Sands Corp.