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.

Chippendales Celebrates 40 Years of Sizzling Fun


Click here to read the BestOfVegas version of this article…

Some gentlemen are so eager to please that they’re willing to give you the shirts from their backs. At Chippendales, that’s just a normal day at the office. The hard-bodies dance troupe has been entertaining audiences for over four decades and continues to be the gold standard for Las Vegas male revues.

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What started out as an idea in a small Los Angeles nightclub has grown into a cultural phenomenon. The Chippendales brand has reached all corners of the globe with tours, merchandise, intimate accessories and a line of clothing. Of course, the annual Chippendales calendar and their signature cuffs, collar, and bowtie are as famous as the show itself.

Today’s Chippendales is far removed from the greasy bump-and-grind appearances on 80’s daytime TV that made them famous. Gone are the campy dance moves, glitter, tassels, and neon spandex. In their place is a fully-choreographed presentation with trained dancers, live singing, and large-scale production values.

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Chippendales launched the Las Vegas male revue craze way back in February, 2002. Since then, others like Magic Mike Live and Thunder From Down Under have come along to challenge the crown, but Chippendales still reigns supreme as both “Best Male Revue” and “Best Bachelorette Party”.

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The show performs every night (twice on weekends) in a custom-designed theater at Rio Hotel Casino. It’s been seen by thousands from around the world, with diehard followers returning time after time. Some fans even plan their trips to Vegas with Chippendales as the main event.

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A night out at Chippendales is a truly immersive experience. Stop at the Chippendales Boutique for a calendar, then make your way to FLIRT LOUNGE for one of their signature cocktails like Blood Orange Margarita or Chippendales Rum Punch. After the performance, join the men on stage for a group photo, grab a drink with the cast, get your memorabilia autographed…and maybe exchange social media information (It is called “Flirt Lounge”, after all). By the way, your ticket stub entitles you to free admission at Voodoo Rooftop Nightclub, where you can dance the rest of the night away with one of the best views of the city.

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The past few years have seen a number of upgrades to the Vegas residency. High-tech video backdrops were added and new songs, hot new guys and set pieces are regularly integrated. Artistic Director John Cook infuses the choreography with heightened energy and a rousing soundtrack of top hits. A longtime Chippendales cast member and Managing Director of Summerlin Dance Academy, Cook has created a spectacular finale that raises the bar for male revues.

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Dance Captain Ryan Kelsey is a Las Vegas native who’s performed in a number of Strip productions like Vegas! The Show and Pin-Up. Under his guidance, the cast astonishes with a variety of hip-hop, contemporary and performance moves. Kelsey’s boundless energy and talent are showcased in searing guitar solos and hosting duties.

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                 Artistic director John Cook (far right) and cast welcome Tony Dovolani…

Chippendales is the place to see some of the hottest stars. Tony Dovolani and Nyle DiMarco (Dancing With The Stars), Jeff Timmons (98 Degrees), Joey Lawrence, Ian Ziering (90210), Tyson Beckford, Antonio Sabato Jr. (Melrose Place) and Vinny Guadagnino (Jersey Shore) have all strapped on the collars and cuffs to guest-host. Previous members of Chippendales have risen to fame in places like The Talk, The Amazing Race and Celebrity TV.

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                Zach Zoufaly and Miguel Rivera are two of the newest members…

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               Zoufaly and Pat Taski (r) are towering mountains of muscle and talent…

This year has seen the addition of stellar, jaw-dropping talent like longtime Le Reve dancer Miguel Rivera. Major-league beefcake Zachary Zoufaly joined the troupe just this month. Zoufaly is a 6 foot 4-inch former bodybuilder, biochemist, and minor-league ballplayer making his stage debut. Bearded behemoth Pat Tanski is a full-time jokester, Trump/Stallone impersonator and dog lover with what may well be the most chiseled body to ever grace the stage.

More than just a sizzling group of hunks, the Men of Chippendales are pillars of the community. They spend much of their free time supporting charitable causes and frequently escort Mayor Carolyn Goodman to major events. They’re also involved in LGBTQ causes and welcome male audience members to the show. The guys may be a little naughty on stage, but you’d still be proud to bring one of them home to meet your mom.

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                 Ryan Stuart (left) became the only Aussie ever to perform and host… 

Other male revues may come and go, but Chippendales will always be on top. So grab your friends and head to the Rio for a 75-minute multi-media experience like no other. It’ll melt your inhibitions…and the ice in your glass.

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The Chippendales perform nightly at 8:30pm with an additional 10:30pm show Friday and Saturday. Audience members must be 18 and over. Tickets start at $38 (plus taxes/fees) and can be ordered via this link at BestOfVegas. 

Photos: Sam Novak, John Cook via Instagram

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

JOHN CAPARULO BRINGS BLUE-COLLAR COMEDY TO VEGAS


The founders of Blue Collar Comedy Tour might want to take a look over their shoulders. Hot on the heels of the legendary troupe is loveable John Caparulo. With his trademark baseball cap, schlubby t-shirt, and boyish good looks, the “Under-dressed Everyman” has been conquering every media outlet from animated series to satellite radio, sitcoms and podcasts to Netflix specials. Now the no-collar funny guy is having a blast with his ongoing residency at Harrah’s Las Vegas.

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Currently enjoying a second year at the Strip’s popular hotel-casino, Caparulo has been entertaining Sin City audiences for a very long time. His frequent appearances at South Point Casino were a favorite with locals and visitors for many years. It was only a matter of time before he secured a permanent gig at the heart of the Strip.

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The humble Ohio native previously resided in Los Angeles while touring the nation (and the world). As you might imagine, he mines those experiences for comedy gold. Omaha’s freezing climate, the rah-rah patriotism of Texans and the aggravation of airline security measures all wind up in his crosshairs.

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                                John with wife Jamie Marie (left) and Madden Jae….

In recent years, the one-time slacker has gone from “couch potato” to “husband and father”. Never imagining himself in a role of responsibility, John’s awkward transition to maturity and subsequent move to Las Vegas provide some of his funniest material to date.

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                                “Watch out for strange men lurking behind trees….”

Even an outdoor game of hide-and-seek with daughter Madden Jae gets a cringe-inducing reenactment. Hiding behind a tree in a park filled with children, Caparulo quips “Oh, this doesn’t look good”.

Click HERE to continue reading…

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John Caparulo – MAD CAP COMEDY performs nightly at 9:30 pm (dark Tuesdays). It is recommended for mature audiences. Complimentary meet-and-greets take place after every show.

Photos: Sam Novak, John Caparulo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Look! Up In the Air! It’s…Davide Zongoli!

 


Sin City’s high-flying new aerialist won’t be satisfied until you know his name…

“People think they know who I am…they don’t. ‘AcroDave’ is a character. ‘The Outlaw’ is a character. My name is Davide Zongoli.” So begins my conversation with Sin City’s newest aerialist/acrobat. And it’s one discussion that I won’t soon forget.

Davide may or may not be the “The Abdominal Outlaw”, the flamboyant flying cowboy who sails over the audience in a state of near-total nudity at Venetian’s Atomic Saloon Show. If that statement confuses you, click here to bring yourself up to speed.

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As we settled in for drinks at a coffee shop on the city’s west side, I couldn’t help noticing the stares when Davide (pronounced DAH-vee-dah) unzipped his jacket and released his tight, beefy frame from captivity. A barely-there tank top did nothing to hide the Italian hunk’s extraordinary physique.

But even when fully clad, Mr. Zongoli strikes an imposing figure. With his thick flowing hair, carefully-manicured scruff and chiseled cheekbones, he’d turn heads in any environment…even in Las Vegas, where pretty people are “a dime a dozen”.

So what makes Davide Zongoli worthy of a profile article and heaps of praise from his 329,000 followers? Well, that’s an answer many years in the making, built on a foundation of adversity and determination. And everyone loves a success story achieved through hard work.

Prior to being cast in the ATOMIC SALOON SHOW, the acrobat has been caught performing his jaw-dropping acrobatics in circuses across Europe, as master of the aerial pole, and was a 2018 finalist on Spain’s Got Talent. And as if that wasn’t impressive enough, The Abdominal Outlaw is also a swimwear and underwear model with more than 300,000 Instagram followers. If you follow him, you’ll understand how he got his moniker. – Jena Pugh, BestOfVegas.com

Long before Zongoli was the impressive specimen I saw before me on this sunny afternoon, he was a six-year-old boy suffering from scoliosis. As part of his treatment regime, doctors advised him to swim regularly. Taking an active part in his conditioning and therapy was something Davide became fully immersed in, so much so that he became a competitive swimmer until he was sixteen. This established a lifetime of discipline which segued into professional success in the world of dance.

After signing up for ballet, modern and contemporary classes at the urging of his friend, instructor Antonella Mita, the 17-year-old proved to be a natural. Within a year he had a contract to perform in Ivano Festival della Valle d’Itria and appeared in the televised musical “A Voice In The Sun” with popular Italian singer/actor Al Bano. In 2010 he was asked to participate in Leona Lewis‘s first international tour.

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Despite demonstrating remarkable talent and aptitude, Davide faced resistance from nearly every direction. School instructors, peers, and even his family made it difficult for him to pursue what he loved (“Boys don’t dance!”). Bullied and pressured, he continued to learn the craft with the support of counterparts in the entertainment field. Zongoli’s parents had hoped for him to achieve a degree in law and initially resisted in supporting him, but eventually, they became strong allies too.

Perhaps it was the fact that dancing allowed him to appear on television with celebrities that won them over. Or touring the world in prestigious productions. Most likely it was the fact that their son was fully committed to being the best in his field. Whatever the reason, Zongoli was making his own rules and succeeding quite wonderfully at them. And he was thrilled that his parents were now attending his performances from Venice to Madrid.

As we were about to discuss his transition from dance to acrobatics, Davide’s phone rang. During the next few moments, I got to witness the qualities that made this performer worthy of being lured to Vegas from overseas. Sure, I’d already seen the stunning things he could do on stage and in the air…but what goes on behind the scenes is just as vital when you’ve reached this level.

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It turns out that one of Zongoli’s fellow acrobats had been sidelined from an injury and would be out for a while. Davide was being summoned to the theater to cover that performer’s absence and to rework some transitions. “They want me to come in at three. I told them I’d be there at five. It will only take thirty minutes to fix this and it will be perfect”.

Witnessing his confidence, I fully believed that the evening’s show would be flawless. With all of his experience and previous gigs, situations like this one become routine. Still, I was shocked at his candor with the party on the other end of the line. “That was pretty gutsy” I gushed. Davide just laughed. But what some might view as arrogance is actually earned. “This is why they hire me. I’m good at what I do. I’m a professional and will take care of this. Nobody will realize that someone is missing”.

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I asked Davide what the audition process was like for Atomic Saloon Show and once again he chuckled. “I don’t audition for parts. People can see what I do on the internet. It’s all there. If it’s something that I’m interested in, I send a video.”

For many Vegas performers, the genres of acrobatics, dance and competitive sports frequently intersect. This allows them to become more commercially attractive and useful in the field of entertainment. Davide found himself transitioning from traditional dancing into pole dancing, a talent that drew him national attention on Spain’s Got Talent. It’s also a skill that’s highly featured in Atomic Saloon Show.

                                Wowing the judges in Spain’s Got Talent 2018

As with swimming and dancing, Zongoli quickly took to pole dancing and once again rose to the top. From his bio:

In July 2011, Davide began practicing pole dance with Titty Tamantini (his coach) and within 3 months he had won the Italian National Championship, becoming the country’s first national male Italian pole dance champion. This enabled him to enter other high ranking prestigious competitions where he was a finalist: European Championships, International Pole Championships, World Pole Championships and World Pole Sport Championship.

He again won the Italian Pole Championship in 2012 and in 2013 and on September 29th he won the European Pole Sport Championship 2012 and the Silver Medalist at the 2013 World Pole Sports Championships.

At this point, our conversation bounced around from relationships (he’s single) to recreational activities (all I do is train, eat, work and sometimes go to Piranha), and of course, sexuality. Anyone who follows Zongoli’s Instagram page is aware that he’s a brazen, no-apologies member of the gay community. Then there’s OnlyFans, where he shows just about every asset. His stage character shares that bold sexuality, so I asked Davide if Spiegelworld had any concerns about his personal and social media activities.

“Not at all. They’re supportive of my ideas and they’re great to work with. They allowed me to be myself and even let me add in a kiss with _______ (I won’t spoil the surprise here). It was my idea to bring the nuns into my act, too. People love it and it works great.”

Considering the current, volatile state of live entertainment in Vegas, I wondered if Davide had fears about relocating here for a brand new show. “No. I already spent enough money to stay for a while. I have a car, furniture, an apartment. Five years is the plan. I can always get another job if I needed to, but I love my show and working for Spiegelworld.”

While Davide doesn’t necessarily have intentions of making Las Vegas a permanent home, he’s up for being flexible. “Where I came from, everything is within a few blocks. Your friends are all around you and everything you need is near. Here, you drive drive drive. Everyone knows each other but they’re over here, over there. But, you make plans and life changes them.” So…who knows?

                  Underwear: Modus Vivendi Photographer: Joan Crisol @joancrisolphoto

Planning and self-awareness are traits that have allowed Zongoli to curate a perfectly polished image known as “AcroDave”. That’s the name he goes by on Instagram. Much more than a public display of selfies, the account represents another facet of his business, one that generates brand association and of course, income.

Davide may not have gotten that law degree, but he would have certainly excelled at marketing. As he explained it, every product, location or photographer he collaborates with is expected to have a similar or greater level of public presence. Every choice is one that can offer growth and a heightened degree of exposure. He’s currently a brand ambassador for both JJ Malibu and Andrew Christian undergarments and is about to launch his own line of clothing.

“I’m not a model. I’m not that tall and not that young. But I know how to look good in pictures.” Every photoshoot takes several days of planning. It’s unusual for a fitness/physique model to have body hair, but Davide said that Atomic Saloon Show wants that look for his character. So when a session is coming up, he’ll trim his body hair a few days beforehand, allowing time for any skin irritation to subside. Then he meticulously grooms and shapes it.

Nothing is left to chance when it comes to a photoshoot. Photographers must enter an agreement to immediately download a copy of each raw photo taken before he’ll leave the studio or location. Then Davide will retouch the final shots after they’ve already been edited by the photographer. “Those photos will be around forever. This won’t be” he says, pointing to a blemish on his bicep. “We get pimples. We have scars fade that will fade. I want everything to be perfect.”

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Perfection is what sets apart the best from the rest. And scars, both emotional and physical, will indeed fade with time. But for performers like Davide Zongoli, who respect their craft and the audience that pays to see them, the impact of their talents will remain long after the final curtain falls.

Photos provided by Davide Zongoli

 

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


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

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

 

 

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


Tone-deaf stunt show-cum-blockbuster confuses vulgarity and violence for action…

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UPDATE 1/7/20 VitalVegas.com has reported that ticket sales for R.U.N have been suspended beyond 4/30/20. It is not known at this time whether the show is being permanently closed or shut down for retooling. But it’s worth noting that all other Cirque du Soleil shows in Las Vegas are currently offering tickets through the end of December 2020. This doesn’t bode well for R.U.N, but then again, the show must NOT go on in its current state of “fiasco”.

If we can applaud entertainment companies for expanding outside of their comfort zone, then we’re surely entitled to speak up when they cross the line. That’s what’s been happening since Cirque du Soleil premiered R.U.N: The First Live Action Thriller at Luxor a few weeks ago. The public reaction has been overwhelmingly negative.

The outcry towards R.U.N has gotten so strong that I was bashed on Twitter for penning an opinion-free article describing the structure and content of the show for a freelance gig:

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Just how bad is it when readers DEMAND a negative review? Well…pretty darn bad indeed. R.U.N could have easily fallen into the category of “So awful that you have to see it”. Which is amusing when you consider that those very words described the previous occupant of Luxor’s theater – Criss Angel BeLIEve. That smelly heap of garbage somehow made it through ten long and miserable years (and several major overhauls) before Cirque could bleach away the stench and move forward with their next offering.

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But this is what they came up with for their newest show? I couldn’t for the life of me recommend R.U.N to anyone in good conscience…not even an enemy. It’s an ugly, inconsistent, poorly-planned and sloppily-executed mess that lies there like a dead body in a ditch. That is, except when characters are shouting F-bombs, being wheeled through the audience strapped to a torture device, having a syringe of drugs pumped into their arm or suspended over the audience by a metal claw driven into the face.

Yes, those things really happen in a Cirque du Soleil show….and people get up and walk out during these revolting sequences night after night (or so I’ve been told). It certainly happened during a Saturday 7pm timeslot that I attended. It’s also worth noting that despite plenty of nationwide advertisements and billboards all over the city, the auditorium was shockingly empty…..perhaps 25 percent of the seats were taken, and that’s not counting the two upper sections that are blocked off and covered with canvas. Ouch.

So how could something so awful make it past a brainstorming session, let alone twice-a-night performances on the Vegas Strip? Your guess is as good as mine. But let’s be real here….Cirque‘s reputation as a top provider of entertainment isn’t what it used to be. Viva Elvis did so poorly for ARIA that they ripped out their gorgeous theater when replacement production ZARKANA tanked there, too.

There have been numerous other missteps in the past few years that have allowed Spiegelworld (Absinthe, Opium and Atomic Saloon Show) to take away and put a new shine on Cirque’s tarnished crown. And the failing attendance of Cirque’s six other resident productions has led to rumors of them pulling out of Vegas altogether in the next few years. That’s what happens when you glut the market on a worldwide scale. You’re forced to eat your own tail just to survive.

Does anyone remember IRIS, the $100 million Cirque du Soleil resident show in Hollywood that closed after only 16 months? How about Paramour, the New York-based musical which did so poorly that Broadway’s LYRIC Theater paid Cirque $23 million just to close up and leave? There were other high-profile flops like Zaia in Macau, Zed in Tokyo, Banana Schpeel (New York/Chicago) and the first attempt to launch BAZ in Las Vegas (yes, it was Cirque that brought BAZ to Mandalay Bay before pulling out mere weeks into the run).

For some reason, Cirque du Soleil has been obsessed with Hollywood as of late. They seem to think that people want to pay over $100 to see a movie salute…at a time when people are skipping the cinemas and doing Netflix-and-chill at home. Besides film-centric IRIS and Paramour, they collaborated with director James Cameron on Worlds Away, a fantasy film that barely made a blip at the 2012 box office. Then Cirque produced TORUK – The First Flight, a poorly-reviewed touring show (based on Cameron’s AVATAR) that one magazine called “A troubling, redface spectacle”.

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                 R.U.N has guns, cars, drug dealers and LOTS of cardboard boxes…

Cirque even considered doing a Quentin Tarantino musical, but chose BAZ instead…because Tarantino films are so dark and violent! In an interview for Los Angeles Magazine in 2015, Cirque Theatrical‘s Scott Zeiger had this to say:

For the Record: Tarantino was going to be playing in Montreal. I went and loved it. I brought all of the top dogs from Cirque parent to see it. While all of them liked it, they were afraid for Cirque to get involved with this brand because the content of [Tarantino’s] films is pretty violent and deals with subject matter that might not be on the same wavelength with Cirque du Soleil’s more spiritual, love-oriented, happier themes.”

Yet here we are with a brand new $63 million production written by film director Robert Rodriguez, the man behind super-violent films like Planet Terror, Machete, Machete Kills and From Dusk Til Dawn. Somehow the company that once brought you glorious productions like Mystere and The Beatles LOVE thinks you want to spend an evening…and your hard-earned cash…watching the kind of show you’d slip into at Universal Studios for free to get out of the heat.

And as the photo below shows, people just didn’t care about the characters or what was going on all around them in the theater.

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                  Some people would rather stare at their phones than watch R.U.N…

That in itself shows just how tone-deaf Cirque has become to our current culture. And R.U.N lacks any kind of wink-wink fun that audiences might expect from the show’s advertisements. People are depicted as being tortured, killed and burned alive. One character has his arms and legs pulled out of joint and broken (with the sound of bone cracks amplified by Luxor’s megawatt sound system).

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Speaking of the sound system, this show is absolutely deafening. About five minutes in, my ears were literally hurting and my head began to throb. Fortunately, I’d read some online reviews warning about the extreme decibel level and brought along a pair of earplugs that stayed in place until the lights came up.

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So can this show be saved? Yes, it can. When Le Reve premiered at WYNN back in 2006, it was received so poorly that performances were cut and the production received a major retooling. Now it’s considered one of the best shows on the Strip…because audience reaction was analyzed and changes were made. And that HAS to happen with R.U.N, too.

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                   You’d have more fun playing a video game in a dark, creepy alley….

I predict a full closure for this show and a massive gutting. Costumes and sequences will be tossed out and the torture depictions have to go. Right now. There is no charismatic leading man to cheer for, no emotional investment in the fates of the characters, and even the plot (“retrieve a necklace to win” belongs in a video game, not a stage) will need to be refashioned into something people care about. A kidnapped child, perhaps? A damsel in distress? Anything but a pendant holding some secret data.

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The opening sequence, which is an actual film, goes on for far too long. From the get-go, people will be wondering “Did I just pay $300 to take my date to a movie?”. When flesh-and-blood characters actually appear, their performances and stunts will have you shrugging. Gang fights are so choreographed and punches so fake that you’ll think you’ve wandered into a high school production of “West Side Story”, despite silvery mylar costumes and moon boots that belong in a 90’s boyband video.

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Imagine if this show was built around an actual, heroic movie star! How cool would it be to watch the likes of Van Damme, Stallone, Chris Pratt or Dwayne Johnson doing their best stunt work before your eyes?  Even a live-action version of a familiar movie would be a cool idea…perhaps Rodriguez’s own SIN CITY, a hit film based on the works of Frank Miller. Now THAT is something I might recommend, not this violent, rambling and ugly excuse for a show.

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And yes, there were children in attendance despite a disclaimer stating that the material is intended for mature audiences 13 and up. I questioned a box office attendant as to whether they enforce this policy and she told me that they do not…it is a recommendation, not a restriction.

R.U.N is not a show for kids. Or teens. Or adults…or anyone, for that matter. Run as far away from R.U.N as you can…and don’t look back. Sorry, Cirque, but you’ve lost it…and heads are certainly going to roll.

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Normally I’d put ticketing information and showtimes here, but that’s not going to happen this time. See anything else (except for Mariah Carey or Criss Angel) but skip this bomb.

Photos: Sam Novak