‘Piano Man’ at MOSAIC Theater Hits All The Right Notes


Tribute to Elton and Joel is way better than it has any right to be…

Tribute shows rarely get the respect that they deserve. It takes a massive amount of talent to physically transform into a well-known entertainer, then deliver spot-on performances in song and dance. Sometimes tribute shows are even better than the real thing…a joyous experience without the exorbitant prices, ego-fueled antics, or notorious late starts (I’m looking at you, Madonna). 

Celebrity impersonators have been a mainstay in Las Vegas for decades, and LEGENDS IN CONCERT is the longest-running show in the city. In 2019, I named V Theater‘s Gaga/Britney/Madonna tribute Blond Invasion as “the ultimate pop-diva experience” and “Biggest Surprise of the Year”.

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With all that’s happened this year, there’s no telling when concerts and superstar residencies will return. So imagine my joy, in this era of pandemic madness, in discovering a new show that delivers everything the biggest names can…except for a certificate of authenticity. That’s Kyle Martin’s PIANO MAN at Mosaic Theater on the Strip.

You might not be familiar with Mosaic Theater, but you should be. I’ll publish a dedicated column on this unique, COVID-conscious venue very soon. Mosaic has become a shining beacon for show-starved audiences. It currently offers three separate productions, including Queens of Rock and the sexy Aussie Heat, with more on the way.

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You might remember the short-lived PIANO MAN at Planet Hollywood‘s V THEATER. That version featured a quartet of singers that bopped and swayed through a lively medley of Elton John, Billy Joel, and Barry Manilow. Backed by a terrific seven-piece band, stars Brett Pruneau, Russel Francis, Savannah Smith and Sophia Monica winningly delivered the hits, but no actual piano. 

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Mosaic Theater‘s PIANO MAN takes quite a different approach. A grand onstage keyboard is the heart of this production, and star Kyle Martin delivers its soul. The former Californian cut his teeth on Disney stages and as Billy Joel in Broadway’s MOVIN’ OUT. He’s also covered the west coast with JOEL, his own tribute band.

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It’s to the show’s advantage that Martin isn’t necessarily familiar to Vegas audiences yet. He enters the stage in character, and his physical resemblance to the hitmaker is noteworthy. But it’s Martin’s remarkable keyboard skills that might fool you into thinking that you’re in the presence of stardom.

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Pounding out a rapid-fire “Angry Young Man”, Kyle launches on a high note followed by chart-toppers like “We Didn’t Start The Fire” and “Uptown Girl”. “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” provides one of the few mellow moments…the Billy Joel parade rarely slows down.

After such a spot-on first set, I was skeptical that Martin could shift gears to the foppish whimsey of Elton John, but my concerns were unfounded. Donning a pair of flashy goggles and flashier shoulder pads, the beefy singer/songwriter brings the house down with “I’m Still Standing”, “Benny and the Jets” and “Tiny Dancer”.

Martin’s four-piece band is an excellent assemblage. Each member gets their turn in the spotlight. Percussionist Daniel Sia, bass player Steve Bonacci, saxophonist Jeff Teczon, and Liam Hemsworth lookalike Luke Randall on guitar are all flawless. Sexy dancers Sarah Le Clear-Domingo (see profile here) and Nadia Albulet dazzle in costumes created by legendary BAZ alumnus Blair Farrington, who also oversees visuals. The entire team appears to be having one hell of a good time. 

At just the right length, the 75-minute concert winds down with a segment that’s unusual for tribute shows. After two sets performing as the featured headliners, Martin addresses the audience as himself. A charismatic and humble “everyman”, he offers a little insight into his career and shares a few family photos. Then the whole thing comes together in an explosive finale.

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Nothing brings people together like live entertainment, and MOSAIC‘s new show is a labor of love that hits all the right notes. PIANO MAN will send you into the night with a smile on your face and a song or two in your heart.

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PIANO MAN performs Thursday through Monday at 8:30pm. Click here for tickets. MOSAIC THEATER is located at 3765 Las Vegas Blvd, just north of HARD ROCK LIVE and across from PARK MGM Hotel Casino.

‘A VEGAS ROOM CHRISTMAS’ – An Updated Forecast


lastest news on the season’s cheeriest holiday dinner and show…

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It’s often said that in Las Vegas, the only constant is “change”. From entertainment offerings to the temperatures, you never know what to expect from week to week. And so it seems that the winds of change have shuffled the playbook at The Vegas Room. I’ve got the latest updates for fans and newbies alike.

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If you’re just tuning in, you can catch up with A VEGAS ROOM CHRISTMAS show announcement here, then cast bios here and here. As is the norm in the entertainment world, things tend to evolve during creative processes. And so it is that Eric Jordan Young, Brent Barrett, Bernie Blanks and Lisa Marie will no longer be appearing in A VEGAS ROOM CHRISTMAS.

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The announced cast of 20 performers has been revised with additional Las Vegas favorites. Each is a respected entertainer with their own legacy and fan base. Let’s take a look at the gentlemen who will now don stocking caps and mittens to celebrate Irving Berlin‘s WHITE CHRISTMAS:

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CARNELL JOHNSON – Familiar to thousands of Golden Knights fans…and people around the world…as “Mr. Golden Pipes”, Carnell Johnson unifies the nation regularly with his stirring rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner”. Born in Las Vegas, the gentle giant is known for entertaining enormous crowds at T-Mobile Arena and enhancing intimate moments as a singing gondolier at Venetian‘s GRAND CANAL.

A compassionate individual, Mr. Johnson regularly lends his time and talent to Ronald McDonald House and social equality movements.  He also participated in the MaskUpForNevada (#MaskUp4NV) campaign at the Welcome to Las Vegas sign that I covered in June. Carnell spent much of this summer doing small outdoor gigs, and is a professional actor and voice-over artist.

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Robert Hyatt

ROBERT HYATT – Who could ever guess that the gondolas floating on Venetian‘s canals could deliver so much talent. Such is the case with Oregonian Robert Hyatt. Like castmate Carnell Johnson, Hyatt also spent time on the fabled waters, serenading the city’s visitors in his own unique style.

Rob is just as skilled at music arranging as he is on the microphone. The husband and father is founder of the amazing Fifth Avenue jazz quartet, a managing member of E3 Digital Entertainment and was musical director/pianist for Riviera Hotel‘s long-running Barbra and Frank: The Concert That Never Was.

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IAN WARD – Regular readers of Vegas Unfiltered Blog know my admiration for California boy Ian Ward. Check out this profile piece to see what I mean. It’s rare to find such explosive talent in someone so young. Poised to detonate the national scene any day now, Ian had a featured showcase at The Vegas Room in August. Naturally, I attended every evening.

For the past three weeks, he and partner Ruby Lewis (who also appears in A VEGAS ROOM CHRISTMAS) presented a musical journey highlighting their ability to blend, harmonize and compliment one another. Here’s just one of the unforgettable moments:

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Ben Tucker

In addition to casting changes, dancer/choreographer Benjamin Tucker has taken on the role of Stage Director. Ben told me that he plans an immersive experience that will evoke the warmth of a holiday ski lodge. Guests will briefly leave Las Vegas behind and enter the world of White Christmas. Once you’ve enjoyed a bountiful Christmas-style dinner, The Vegas Room cast will commemorate the perennial movie classic via song and dance.

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Throughout December, guests of The Vegas Room will experience the fragrances and tastes of the season, too. Chef David James Robinson has crafted a glorious holiday menu to compliment and accompany the onstage presentation:

Savory Gingerbread with Vanilla Butter

Mini Lobster Quiche

Borscht with Sour Cream

Holiday Salad with Homemade Ranch Dressing

Roast Beef with Yorkshire Pudding or 

Turkey and Sage Dressing with Green Beans & Pomegranate or 

Roasted Acorn Squash with Sage Dressing and Sweet Potato Puree (vegan)

Egg Nog and Peppermint Shortbread Cookies

The Vegas Room Dessert That Snows!

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In preparation for upcoming festivities and to allow patrons to remain safely at home during increased COVID-19 concerns, The Vegas Room will be dark through November 26th (Thanksgiving). Shows will return on November 27th and 28th with dinner performances by Travis Cloer (Jersey Boys).

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Sunday brunch returns on Sunday, November 29th with international dazzler Nieve Malandra. Chef Robinson has prepared a multi-course brunch to accompany Nieve’s songs from Japan, Spain, Italy, France, and Portugal.

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A VEGAS ROOM CHRISTMAS launches its first of 20 performances on December 2nd. Join them for what is sure to become an annual holiday tradition. Click here for reservations to any performance at The Vegas Room.

The Vegas Room is located at 953 East Sahara Avenue E-18. Phone (725) 206-7059 for more information.

‘EXTRAVAGANZA- THE LAS VEGAS SPECTACULAR’ Will Be Sin City’s First New Show In….Forever…


Long-delayed variety production finally debuts at fabled JUBILEE showroom November 23rd…

The famed Bally’s Showroom on the Strip is often referred to as the birthplace of the iconic Las Vegas showgirl. Whether that’s true or not can be debated, but the classic Donn Arden production JUBILEE! performed there for an incredible 35 years. Now, the spirit of that famed revue and the showgirls themselves are set to return in a new variety show called EXTRAVAGANZA – The Vegas Spectacular.

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Set to premiere on November 23rd after one preview performance in March (thanks for nothing COVID-19), EXTRAVAGANZA – The Vegas Spectacular will feature an international cast of more than 30 artists and performers. It’s directed by Hanoch Rosènn, the creative force behind WOW – The Vegas Spectacular at Rio Hotel Casino. And while the two share similar DNA, EXTRAVAGANZA will lean a little less towards “family-friendly” and a bit more towards the sensual and passionate.

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Advance buzz on EXTRAVAGANZA has centered around an extremely sexy cast of athletic and graceful performers. Guests can expect to be mesmerized by thrill-inducing acts that feature aerialists, acrobats, comedians, ventriloquists, and dancers. Some of the most astonishing feats of Sin City’s entertainment heyday will return, too, including the infamous “Globe of Death”.

Fans of Downtown’s Fremont Street Experience will surely remember the terrifying “Globe of Death”, a gasp-worthy stunt in which several high-speed motorcyclists roar around at top speeds while inside a spherical cage. The “Globe of Death” ranks with CELESTIA‘s “Wheel of Death” as one of the most popular and frightening daredevil acts ever to be performed in the city on a regular basis.

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EXTRAVAGANZA will also include a salute to Vegas icons like Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra, this time via state-of-the-art hologram technology. LED video screen backdrops, elaborate costumes, and large-scale sets will transport guests through several decades of songs, dances, and variety acts that laid the foundation for contemporary epic productions like Le Reve – The Dream and Michael Jackson ONE.

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Director Rosènn was inspired by the success of WOW – The Vegas Spectacular (two years, over 1,000 performances and counting) to create EXTRAVAGANZA as a tribute to Las Vegas and its legacy of entertainment.  “The show is my homage to this amazing city – bringing not only tremendous and unique performers from all over the world – but, also, some of the most iconic and thrilling acts, as well as, the return of the classic showgirls, who made the Jubilee Theatre home for so many decades.”

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EXTRAVAGANZA – The Vegas Spectacular,” resumes performances on the iconic stage at the Jubilee Theater inside Bally’s Las Vegas on Monday, Nov. 23, 2020. The show will perform to a socially-distanced audience capped at 250 guests.

In addition, for a limited time, the production will feature special guest stars and America’s Got Talent finalist and crossbow superstar Silvia Silvia and husband Victor Ponce, two of the stars from Extravaganza’s sister show, WOW – The Vegas Spectacular at Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino.

“We are excited to reopen ‘EXTRAVAGANZA’ in Las Vegas” says creator and director, Hanoch Rosènn. “We are also thrilled to have two of our WOW stars, Silvia Silvia and Victor Ponce, join our cast until we are able to reopen WOW at the Rio.”

“EXTRAVAGANZA – The Vegas Spectacular” Performance Schedule:
“EXTRAVAGANZA – The Vegas Spectacular” will perform nightly at the Jubilee Theatre inside Bally’s Las Vegas at 6:30 pm and 9:30 pm (dark Wednesdays except for Nov. 25, Dec. 23, 30, 2020 and Jan. 6, 2021).

Tickets are on sale now and prices range from $49.99 to $109.99 + taxes and fees and can be purchased at Extravaganza-Vegas.com, the Bally’s Las Vegas Box Office, Ticketmaster, BalllysLasVegas.com or by calling 702-777-7776.

Photos: Caprio Media Design for EXTRAVAGANZA – The Las Vegas Spectacular

MAYA CINEMAS Brings Unique Entertainment to North Las Vegas


Unconventional theater chain favors quirky gems over mainstream hits… 

With so little live entertainment currently available in Las Vegas, some of us who yearn for something to do have been rediscovering the cinemas. Alas, the only apparent winner from a business perspective has been West Wind Las Vegas drive-in, which I’ve reported on several times. But a gorgeous new indoor multiplex on the north side is shaking things up. And it’s definitely worth a visit.

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As an avid movie buff (and former manager for AMC Theaters) who attends film screenings at least three times per week, it pains me to admit that the expansion of MAYA Cinemas to Las Vegas escaped me. The high-tech complex began operations in early 2019, but was apparently overshadowed by the hype surrounding downtown’s ECLIPSE Theaters. That pricey restaurant/bar/cinema hybrid reportedly failed to connect with movie-goers, and remains dark for the eight month. Expensive $18 movie tickets certainly didn’t help.

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MAYA Cinemas, on the other hand, is a more economical alternative. While their ticket prices are in line with bigger brands like Regal and Cinemark, snack prices are remarkably reasonable. For instance, a large drink/popcorn combo runs $10 at MAYA, compared to over $16 at AMC Town Square. And before you complain about snack prices, keep in mind that food and beverage sales are what keep your local movie house in business, not ticket sales. The vast percentage of your admission price goes back to the studios who make the movies. So…no concession sales equals no movie theater. Period.

MAYA Cinemas is based in California. The Las Vegas location is their first in Nevada. It’s only a few minutes from the NEON Museum, and next to old-time locals casinos Silver Nugget and Jerry’s Nugget. While the location might seem puzzling to some, it was deliberately chosen in keeping with the company’s mission statement.


Maya Cinemas was chartered in 2000 with a mission to develop, build, own and operate modern, first-run, megaplex movie theaters in under-served, family oriented, Latino-dominant communities. In January 2019, Maya Cinemas North Las Vegas opened its doors bringing state-of-the-art movie-going to an area of Las Vegas seeing rapid growth of new business. 

Maya Cinemas offers first-run Hollywood movies in high-end theaters focused on quality of design, state-of-the-art film presentation technology, and superior customer service.


It’s hard to downplay the visual appeal of MAYA Cinemas N. Las Vegas. The massive modern structure features a spacious parking lot that’s landscaped beautifully with thoughtful accent lighting. Inside, touchscreen podiums allow you to reserve your tickets, or you can pre-order them online. All seats are assigned, and physical distancing protocols are automatically implemented.

An enormous lobby houses Energi Gaming arcade, a dining area, and Maya Cantina, which serves alcoholic beverages that you can take into the auditorium. Snacks, meals, and drinks can be ordered via the MAYA Cinemas App, which also includes MAYA Rewards loyalty program. Sign up to receive a free small popcorn and accrue points towards future discounts. You’ll be eligible for periodic email deals, too.

Throughout the week, you can take advantage of discounts like “Date Night Mondays”, “Family Day Tuesdays”, and “Senior Day Wednesdays”. Specially-scheduled presentations are targeted towards guests with sensory sensitivities, and the theater is available for private rentals and birthday parties.  

The wonderful design of MAYA Cinemas continues into the corridors and auditoriums, which are decorated with mellow earth tones and vibrant yellows. Plush electronic recliner seats are equipped with dining tables that easily swing into position and back out of the way. There is ample spacing between rows, once again ideal for physical distancing. Auditoriums are thoroughly sanitized between each showtime, and extra precautions are regularly implemented by the staff to protect your health. 

If you’re a techie, you’ll appreciate the presence of DOLBY ATMOS sound systems, D-BOX motion seats (in select auditoriums), and MPX, Maya’s own large-screen premium format.

MPX is the most immersive movie experience yet! Be engulfed in our large silver screen with the clearest and brightest 2D and 3D images from our projection technology. And hear every detail in amazing clarity with a true 360-degree sound!  MPX clarity of sound effects is phenomenal and delivers total immersion into the film.


Attention to detail is even evident in MAYA Cinemas restroom facilities. Family restrooms are ideal for those with small children or special needs. There are environmentally-friendly waterless fixtures for the gentlemen, and all-in-one sinks have high-speed blade dryers that instantly dry hands without paper towel waste or mess.

The best thing about MAYA Cinemas, aside from the unbelievably-delicious popcorn, is their unique approach to programming. As I mentioned in yesterday’s article on the release of STEALING CHAPLAIN, theaters have been impacted by a drought of Hollywood product. Of course, this was caused by the pandemic that shut down all film and television production this year. In place of new titles, theaters have been relying on classics, mostly from the 80s, with a few major studio releases peppered in.

MAYA Cinemas has taken that business model one step further. They’re featuring low-budget indies, urban-appeal thrillers, film festival favs, and genre-busters that might have otherwise gone straight to video. But let’s face facts…no matter how high-end your home system is, nothing beats the massive screens, booming sound, delicious smells, mouth-watering tastes, and captivating atmosphere of a real movie house. 

My first visit to MAYA Las Vegas was for LOVE AND MONSTERS, a critically-acclaimed (90% on Rotten Tomatoes) post-apocalyptic romantic adventure starring Dylan O’Brien of the MAZE RUNNER trilogy. Also showing were SPELL, a voodoo chiller featuring an African-American cast, JUNGLELAND, a boxing drama with SONS OF ANARCHY‘s Charlie Hunnam, and THE INFORMER with Joel Kinnaman. None of these titles are playing anywhere else in the city.

Previous discoveries include SAVE YOURSELVES, a riotous comedy of two city-slickers stranded in a rustic cabin during an alien invasion. Horror film favorites Tobin Bell (SAW) and Lin Shaye (INSIDIOUS) teamed up for THE CALL, a nail-biter from the creator of FINAL DESTINATION. Coming soon are SPIRAL, the latest in the SAW franchise, and MURDER IN THE WOODS with Danny Trejo (MACHETE). 

Of course, with over a dozen auditoriums to fill, major Hollywood releases like HONEST THIEF and older classics get their fair share of screen time. Ongoing series include family favorites like THE WIZARD OF OZ and BACK TO THE FUTURE, musicals like GREASE and FOOTLOOSE, and the entire HARRY POTTER series.

Retro titles are only $3.00 for adults and $1.00 for children, so pack up the kids and allow them to experience TOY STORY, CHRISTMAS VACATION and more on the big screen for the first time. It’s time to get out of the house and rediscover the pleasures of going to the movies.

MAYA Cinemas Las Vegas is located at 2195 North Las Vegas Boulevard North Las Vegas, NV 89030. Click here for showtimes, ticket prices and more information.

Photos: Sam Novak

‘Stealing Chaplain’ – Las Vegas Indie Headed for the Big Screen

Locally-produced comedy benefits from sHortage of Hollywood theatrical releases…


“Keep digging. Otherwise the next grave we’re digging is our own”. So says ‘Cal’, a con man desperate to stay alive while embroiled in a daring Las Vegas scam. That’s the premise of STEALING CHAPLAIN, a brand-new comedy filmed on location in Sin City.

STEALING CHAPLAIN is an independent production that’s about to hit big screens across the country. It’s being released at a time when theater chains are starving for new titles. For local producer Ken Bressers of Dystopian Films, this came as a stroke of luck, one that he swiftly pounced upon.

After the relative failure of director Christopher Nolan’s expensive (and downright awful, IMHO) TENET on U.S. screens, tentpole features like Pixar’s SOUL, Disney’s MULAN remake, WONDER WOMAN 84 and the latest James Bond film have either been postponed or diverted to streaming services. As a result, chains like AMC, Cinemark and Regal have relied on running retro classic titles…or have shut down altogether.

“Knowing we’ve got a quality movie ready to deliver and that theaters are drying up, we approached several theater chains directly, and they loved the idea” said Bressers. “Beginning November 13, we will be opening in over a hundred movie theaters across six major chains, and we’re still in talks with several others.” Stealing Chaplain is currently in theatrical release in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Stealing Chaplin is a comic caper focused on two British con men who dig up and ransom the corpse of legendary comic actor Charlie Chaplin. It’s inspired by the true story of a pair of crooks actually exhuming and stealing the body of the silent comedy star. Ken oversaw a production also starring The Sopranos star Al Sapienza and The Patriot actor Peter Woodward.

Eagle-eyed viewers will recognize a number of local performers who are featured in Stealing Chaplain. It even includes a cameo appearance from “Mr. Las Vegas” himself, Wayne Newton. Dani Elizabeth, fiance of comedic magician Murray SawChuck, is the popular emcee of CRAZY GIRLS at Planet Hollywood. Handsome Brent Barret of PHANTOM – The Las Vegas Spectacular (and former entertainment director for THE VEGAS ROOM) is on hand, as is sultry Cheryl Prater, a frequent host and guest at ROCKING COMEDY SHOW with Jay Bird

  Cheryl Prater has been in numerous Vegas-centric films and TV series

It was at a Halloween day private screening of the 1984 classic Nightmare on Elm Street (hosted by Jay) that Cheryl Prater first told me the STEALING CHAPLAIN news. She was undoubtedly excited by the chance to reach a large-scale audience in her latest role. In a year filled with endless bad news, this was a solid reason for cast, crew and friends to celebrate.

Bressers echoed those sentiments: “If Charlie Chaplin taught us anything; it was that laughing in times of difficulty sometimes is the best medicine. In light of everything going on in the world at the moment, we are very pleased to be partnering with Cinemark Theatres, Marcus Theatres, Malco, Starlights, and more to deliver Stealing Chaplin to an audience in need of an escape!”

Escaping to movie theaters has long been a popular Las Vegas pastime. Fremont Street’s historic El Portal Theater, built in the 1920s, was the city’s very first air-conditioned structure. Casinos throughout the valley have multi-screen theaters under their roofs, and the West Wind 6 Drive-in is filled with hundreds of cars every evening.

Several local movie producers and directors have turned Las Vegas into their own private Hollywood. Directors Joe Lujan and brothers Sonny and Michael Mahal use local talent and locations for outrageous cult horror films like Art of the Dead, Bus Party to Hell and the Immortal Wars franchise. Along with Sharknado actress Tara Reid, their films feature handsome future stars like Mark Justice, Ben Stobber, and burlesque performer Ronnie Nanos.

Even Gregory Popovich of David Saxe‘s POPOVICH COMEDY PET THEATER got bit by the movie-making bug. His endearing “Popovich and the Voice of the Fabled American West” had an exclusive run at Brenden Theaters at The Palms Casino Hotel. So, it’s no surprise that Stealing Chaplain benefits from the talent of many Las Vegas entertainers.

With all of the new precautions that have been standardized to make your movie-going experience safe and enjoyable, there’s no better time to head out and experience a new film. Enjoy this trailer for STEALING CHAPLAIN and see it on theater screens beginning November 13th. Visit the official Facebook page for more information and showtimes. 

Worth The Wait: EDGE Steakhouse Returns to Westgate Las Vegas

The city’s top-rated steak restaurant is ready to sizzle once more…

If you’re a regular reader of this column, then chances are that you’ve visited Las Vegas more than once. Perhaps you have a favorite hotel and some must-do activities that accompany your list of new adventures. When you get to the point where staff members remember your name and preferences, then Sin City begins to feel a little bit like home.

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EDGE Steakhouse of Westgate Las Vegas understands how rare it is these days to feel like a valued guest. They treasure each and every visitor, going beyond expectations to earn your business…both today and in the future. That’s why dozens of devoted patrons turned out for the reopening of the city’s top-rated steakhouse on October 22nd. Thanks to COVID-19, that hiatus was an astounding seven months. 

You might recall my series on the culinary greats of Westgate. Or perhaps you read my salute to the iconic property’s 50th Anniversary, which appeared in Las Vegas Magazine. It’s clear that I have a deep affection for the resort and the hundreds of dedicated individuals who keep it operating like a fine, beloved timepiece. 

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“I’m not going to lie, Sammy” said Head Bartender Mike Thompson. “I’ve got goosebumps after all these months of being away. As professionals, we’ve got to nail it”. And nail it, he did. The handsome and charismatic mixologist, whom I profiled here, was in perfect form last Friday evening when I arrived for a pre-dinner cocktail. 

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As expected, loyal patrons had already lined up for 5pm dinner reservations before I arrived. Hostess Cheryl P. was welcoming guests with her usual warmth, and the familiar smells of seafood and dry-aged beef made it seem as though the doors had never closed.  

Seated at the bar for a solo meal, I had the pleasure of watching Mikey at work. Equally skilled at the fine arts of mixology and conversation (and one of the current faces of EDGE…see video above) Mikey was clearly pleased at the opportunity to greet his regulars. They came from as far away as New York City…and as close as Turnberry Towers…to share an hour or two on opening weekend with the famed bartender and self-professed “Court Jester”. 

Of course, any fine-dining establishment is only as good as its team in the kitchen. That’s where EDGE has the….er…edge, as Executive Chef Steve Young (read my profile here) is a true master of his craft. It’s easy to crow about the accomplishments of this youthful culinary genius, given his ability to elevate both EDGE and adjacent Fresco Italiano to the top of their respective TripAdvisor rankings. Perhaps that’s why the great-looking chef is frequently welcomed to local news programs to discuss his latest creations. 

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Since EDGE‘s reopening coincides with the fall season, Chef Young is excited to bring back Sunchoke Agnolotti ($16). This seasonal offering combines the root of sunflower plants, King trumpet mushrooms, black truffles and parmesan with a ravioli-style pasta. The dish was featured at New York’s James Beard House in 2017, and returns to EDGE every year at this time.

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Despite this being a steakhouse, my palate was yearning for seafood. So, I started with an appetizer of Spicy Shrimp (above, $17), along with one of their famed, buttery popovers. Lightly fried and drizzled with a delicious spicy-sweet chile reduction, Spicy Shrimp is a favorite that seemed to be at nearly every table.

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For my entrée, I went with Sea Scallops ($38), a beautifully delicious choice served with butternut squash puree, pine nuts, pomegranate and brussels sprouts. I paired it with a massive salt-baked Loaded Potato ($12) smothered in a smoky Nueske bacon, white cheddar, sour cream and chives.

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You might find it tough to pass on an EDGE dessert, but my hearty dinner portion left me more than satisfied. So, I ordered another of Mikey’s riff on a vodka sour and settled in for some light conversation. That’s easy to do in the elegant yet comfortable atmosphere that EDGE Steakhouse is famous for.

thumbnail_116758It’s not my forte to elaborate on the wealth of tastes at EDGE, as I’m not a food critic. But I can tell you that whatever you desire from a steakhouse, you’ll find it here with the best possible preparation, presentation and atmosphere. You can peruse the EDGE Steakhouse menu by clicking this link. The array of choices is sure to stimulate your senses and make your mouth water.

There are hundreds of restaurants throughout Las Vegas, and each resort would have you believing that theirs are the best. But only one steakhouse can hold the top spot in the city, and Westgate has the EDGE.

Chef Steve Young Edge Steakhouse

EDGE Steakhouse is located at 3000 Paradise Road inside Westgate Las Vegas. Their current hours are Thursday through Saturday from 5pm through 10pm. The restaurant is operating under advance safety and sanitation protocols.  Enjoy a limited-time offer of one cocktail with each dinner entrée. Click here to make reservations through OpenTable

Photos: Sam Novak, Westgate Las Vegas. Videos provided by Westgate Las Vegas

Take to the Skies With 5 Star Helicopter Tours

Top-Rated aerial company offers affordable excursions over the strip and to grand canyon…


Of all the bucket-list things to do in and around Las Vegas, two of the most popular are helicopter rides and trips to the Grand Canyon. 5-Star Helicopter Tours offers both with reasonable prices, professional service and plenty of options.

Regular readers might remember my amazing sunset dinner within the Grand Canyon, courtesy of Serenity Helicopters. I also penned a piece for Las Vegas Magazine on Grand Canyon West and their amazing Skywalk, which you can access here. Nighttime aerial trips over the Strip are one of those popular activities that has eluded this writer…until this week. And I’m glad that I chose 5 Star Helicopters as my tour guide for this particular adventure.

A note from this tour provider: This is not a private flight. The aircraft seats six (6) passengers plus the Pilot. Social distancing is not practiced during your 15 minute flight. Face masks must be worn at all times.

5 Star Helicopters has two locations to serve its guests. Those heading for the Grand Canyon depart from their air terminal in Boulder City. Strip-view excursions take off from a heliport in North Las Vegas, just around the corner from West Wind Las Vegas Drive-In Theater, my favorite hangout since the pandemic.

The north location has the advantage of a longer flight time (approximately fifteen minutes) than those companies located at or near McCarran International Airport. You’ll approach the Strip from beyond downtown, taking in a sneak peak of Fremont Street before heading over Palms Casino and the Rio. I was surprised at the number of rooftop pools that Rio offers in its Sky Villas. It’s a vantage point that I’d never encountered in my endless passenger flights into and from the city.

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Our Pilot, Jimmy, gave us an excellent look at Allegiant Stadium. Then he looped around the Mandalay Bay/Delano resorts and gave us our first bird’s-eye view of the entire Strip. If you can recall Captain Kirk’s dramatic flight towards a dry-docked Starship Enterprise in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, then perhaps you can appreciate the emotional scope of this moment. 

The aircraft used by 5 Star Helicopters offer excellent panoramic views to the left, right and forward. The cabins are climate-controlled, and all six passenger seats face forward. During the ride, you’ll be wearing sanitized headsets that drown out noise and allow you to clearly hear the narration provided by your pilot/guide.

Captain Jimmy pointed out landmarks like the Luxor beam, T-Mobile Arena, High Roller Observation Wheel and more. We took a path over the east side of the Strip, nestled between Wynn/Encore and the massive Westgate Resort before a close flyby of The Strat (aka Stratosphere) and its famed Skypod

Finally, we followed the north end of Las Vegas Boulevard into Downtown and Fremont Street Experience. This was my first opportunity to get a close-up aerial view of brand-new Circa Hotel Casino. The highly-anticipated Stadium Swim was brightly lit, and appeared ready to welcome guests when the resort opens its doors for the first time on October 28th. 

From there we headed back to the North Las Vegas base of operations, once again skirting West Wind Drive-in. The entire flight was smooth, comfortable and secure. You should be aware that 5 Star Helicopters boasts a stellar record for safety. You can read about their protocols, equipment and view a safety video by clicking here. 

As mentioned above, there are a variety of services, prices levels, excursions and add-0ns to choose from. These include dinner packages, private flights and other thrilling adventures like zip lines and exotic track driving. Being that I reside in Las Vegas, I chose to drive to the heliport, which saves you money. Tourists can opt for a luxurious passenger service to and from their hotel. 

Like most airborne activities, you’ll be expected to weigh in before departure, sign a waiver and watch a pre-flight safety instruction video. After doing so, you can sip a flute of bubbly or a bottle of water, included with your ticket, before heading outside.

Be aware that you’re allowed to take your own photos and videos during the trip, but flash must be disabled and all devices must be set in “airplane” mode. A professional photographer is present to take photos on the ground prior to your adventure, and they will be waiting for you when you return. They’re housed in a gorgeously-emblazoned 3D book. 

5 Star Helicopters offers unique ways to make your special event unforgettable. You can get married in the air, on the floor of the Grand Canyon and even at the Valley of Fire. A low-cost option allows you to tie the knot over the Las Vegas Strip after sunset, and the fleet is available for charters and groups. Whatever you dream, 5 Star Helicopters can make it a reality. 

To see the latest specials available through the official 5 Star Helicopters website, click here. The excursion described above is currently priced at $89.99 per person as of this writing (10/22/20), available via this link at Viator.com.

Chestnuts, Snowfall and Stars: ‘A Vegas Room Christmas Cast’ Pt. 2


Conclusion of my two-part look at casting the brightest event of the holiday season….


Remember that feeling you had as a child? All through the month of December you stared at the calendar, counting down the days until Christmas vacation. Then came the unbearable anticipation of the big morning under the tree, with all of gifts, hugs from family and friends…and of course, a fabulous meal.

Now that we’ve gotten older, those emotions tend to be forgotten. But this year, more than ever before, our inner child is longing for those feelings of joy, comfort, and celebration. The one place in Las Vegas that you’re sure to find them this holiday season is at The Vegas Room.

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If you’ve missed my previous articles on A Vegas Room Christmas, you can read them by clicking here and here. You’ll learn about this magnificent production and the fabulous brunch or dinner that accompanies each performance. But let’s continue with the remaining members of the stellar cast, picking up where we left off last week.

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                                                                      Ruby Lewis

RUBY LEWIS – Is it unfair of me to state in this section that Ruby Lewis is one of my favorite performers of all time? Probably….but there are really no words to describe my affection for this gifted young woman. No matter where she goes or what she’s doing, you’ll most likely see me in the audience.

In a city full of inflated egos and self-importance, only a performer as humble and genuine as Ruby Lewis would prepare a pre-show feast of home-cooked greens, black-eyed peas and ham for her fans. This is one southern gal whose mama raised her right (thanks, Eve).

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                 I had the honor of sharing the BAZ stage with Ms. Lewis for a day…

I first encountered Ms. Lewis when she came to Mandalay Bay for the brief initial run of BAZ. Ruby’s stunning vocals brought audiences to their feet through her portrayal of “Daisy Buchanan”, debutante and heartbroken soulmate of one “Jay Gatsby”. I challenge you to watch this clip without getting goosebumps…and some tears in your eyes.

After a stunning leap to Broadway, Ms. Lewis returned to BAZ at Palazzo, played the lead in Marilyn! The New Musical at Paris Hotel Casino and hosted her one-woman show at The Space. You can catch Ruby and partner Ian Ward when they grace The Vegas Room stage for three consecutive Thursdays beginning October 29th.

Luke Striffler

Luke Striffler – If Ruby Lewis is the star atop the Vegas Room Christmas tree, then actor/singer/comedian Luke Striffler is the holiday eggnog. Smooth and bright with great body and a little kick, this is one Christmas cocktail you’ll want to sip all season long.

Luke charmed audience at Fremont Street’s D Hotel Casino in the popular Friends: The Musical Parody. He’s also created excitement with roles in Hairspray, Avenue Q. and Forever Plaid. Although born Stateside, Luke’s career took hold when he moved to London, where he starred in the featurette The Morning After with husband Joshua Berg. Two of Luke’s biggest breakthroughs were a role in the famed EastEnders BBC series and a semi-final placing on Britain’s Got Talent as part of The Kingdom Tenors.

Sin City gained more than just another handsome face when the multi-talented activist returned to the U.S. Once the pandemic shut down all live entertainment, it was Luke who created Performers Outlet: Covid-19, a support group for entertainers. The initiative provides encouragement, ideas, and opportunities for artistic collaboration while weathering this seemingly endless pandemic.

Janien Valentine

Janien Valentine – You know that you’ve achieved “entertainment royalty” when you’ve been immortalized by artist Neal Portnoy. That’s why people around the Valley wake up to a cup of Janien Valentine every day. Janien was “Portnoyed” by the famed caricaturist artist, who created a line of fundraising products to assist out-of-work entertainers (learn more by clicking here).

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Ms. Valentine plants her boots firmly in a variety of musical periods. She can belt out today’s top hits, pay tribute to ballads of years past, then roar back in time to the Strip’s Golden Era. An all-around entertainer with incredible dynamic range, Janien blends the flavors of Ann-Margaret and Celine Dion with a sprinkle of Lola Falana and a dash of Tina Turner.

The native of East Amherst, NY is well-known to audiences through her work with The Scintas. She’s the principal vocalist of the musical trio Poperazzi, and you can drink in her scintillating energy at Bellagio‘s Mayfair Supper Club. Ms. Valentine returns this Christmas season to The Vegas Room after a splendid showcase in August. 

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                                                                 Michelle Johnson

Michelle Johnson – If the warm, fuzzy feelings of the holidays could take human form, I suspect they’d look a lot like Michelle Johnson. There’s something about the style, elegance, and comforting voice of the “First Lady of Jazz” that makes you want to reach for a brandy snifter and settle in by the fireplace for a crackling-good show.

The multi-award winner has graced Broadway stages, television screens and venues throughout Las Vegas. She’s collaborated with artists as varied as Barbra Streisand, Sheena Easton, Elton John, Clint Holmes, PM Dawn and Josh Groban. 

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For many, a Michelle Johnson performance is synonymous with the holiday season. That’s why her “Vintage Christmas” at The Smith Center quickly sold out last December. Alas, that amazing venue for the arts has been shuttered indefinitely due to the pandemic. Fortunately, fans can still get their Christmas fix of the starlet at The Vegas Room all through December.

A self-described “introvert” who confesses to wrestling with stage fright, the accomplished singer/songwriter/producer/author nevertheless exudes confidence and charisma with every pitch-perfect note. Ms. Johnson’s solo shows are teeming with  humorous anecdotes and honest reflection that somehow make her feel like an old friend. In other words, she’s exactly the kind of person that you’d want to spend the holidays with.

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Ben Tucker and Emma McGirr –

What’s a musical production without a pair of professional dancers? The Vegas Room has broadened their vision for “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas” with the addition of Emma McGirr and Ben Tucker. The real-life couple is part of Nevada Ballet Theatre, and have performed “The Nutcracker” both locally and for the Schrader Youth Ballet Company in Parkersburg, WV.

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Two years ago, McGirr and Tucker founded Ballet 120, an innovative dance company whose goal is to make the artform of dance accessible to larger audiences via social media platform. They do so by creating brief, innovative video performances like the one below.

Emma and Ben plan to marry on January 2nd of next year. A Vegas Room Christmas marks their first professional appearance at the venue.

Check back with Vegas Unfiltered Blog in the weeks ahead for more information on A Vegas Room Christmas, including community efforts related to the event. Follow this link for complete information on pricing, schedules and reservations. The Vegas Room is located at 953 East Sahara Avenue E-18 in the historic Commercial Center complex. 

October Horror-Fest at Las Vegas Drive-in Theater

Retro outdoor theater screens dozens of spooky comedies, bloody shockers and romantic chillers for safe Halloween fun…

The effort to successfully reopen indoor theaters has been such a struggle that eleven movie theaters in the Las Vegas valley closed once more this month. Some, like Eclipse Theaters in the downtown area and Tropicana Cinemas, a second-run bargain house, never unlocked their doors. Nevertheless, West Wind Drive-ins have been thriving!

West Wind Las Vegas is one of seven in California and Nevada operated by their parent company. I told you about this six-screen outdoor theater here. With budget-friendly prices on tickets and snacks, you can pack up the family (or a hot date) into your car and have a fun night out without breaking the bank. Even better, physical distancing is NEVER a concern at a drive-in, since you’re in control of your environment. You don’t have to interact with anyone if you choose not to (online ticketing is coming soon). 

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Modern conveniences like digital picture and stereo FM sound enhance the movie-going experience. Snacks and meals can be ordered from your smartphone for quick pick-up at the concession stand. You can smoke, bring your own food, turn up the volume as loud as you like on your car’s sound system and chat about the movie if you want to. It’s your own private universe under the stars.

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All of those advantages are why the drive-in theater has surged in popularity this year. Not only has the retro concept become a place to rediscover classics on the big screen, but locations around the country have been showing new concerts and hosted comedy and drag shows. Even Jennifer Romas and the cast of Westgate’s SEXXY revue performed drive-in shows this summer at a special location.

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COVID-19 is still affecting seasonal activities like sporting events and holiday parties. Depending on your neighborhood, even trick-or-treat might not happen. But nothing is tastier than freshly-buttered movie popcorn, and you can still dress the kids (or yourself) in costumes to see a great Halloween hit, double-feature, or even a trilogy….all for one low price.

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From now through October 31st, West Wind is lighting up their six massive screen with dozens of horror titles. From franchise hits of the 80’s to the latest spooky titles. there’s something for EVERYONE.

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Click here for the latest schedule, and check back often. 

Family-friendly Spookers – 

Romantic Vampire Films – 

Franchise Horror Films – 

Tim Burton Favorites – 

John Carpenter Classics –

Low-Budget Shockers –

Big-Budget Titles –

Groundbreaking Classics –

There are plenty more films to be added to the list, and the festival runs through Halloween night. Click here for updates, and check back often. 

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West Wind Las Vegas Drive-in Theater is open year-round, rain or shine. They’re located at 4150 West Carey Avenue, northwest of downtown. Call  (702) 646-3565 OR (702) 647-1379 for more information.

 

Chestnuts, Snowfall and Stars: ‘A VEGAS ROOM CHRISTMAS’ Cast Revealed

A powerhouse roster promises the brightest holiday event of the season…


Last week I shared the exciting news that The Vegas Room would be producing a month-long salute to the sights, sounds and flavors of Irving Berlin’s “WHITE CHRISTMAS”. In our current state of shutdowns…along with the latest blow of Broadway being shuttered until mid-2021…an announcement of this magnitude was most welcome.

The dream team that’s been assembled for A Vegas Room Christmas is nothing short of amazing. Entertainment Director Brent Barrett (Chicago, Annie Get Your Gun, Kiss Me, Kate), Stage Director Eric Jordan Young (BAZ, Cocktail Cabaret) and Musical Director Keith Thompson (Jesus Christ Superstar, Hairspray, We Will Rock You) have decades of experience and thousands of performances to draw on. So with everyone that A Vegas Room Christmas already has in place, the production was sure to attract an incredible line-up of singers and dancers. And indeed it has. 

In a follow-up meeting with the creative team this weekend, I was able to get an advance peek at the official cast announcement, along with the performance schedule of each player. As mentioned in the previous article, A Vegas Room Christmas will feature four rotating casts of top-caliber artists. 

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

Anne Martinez – The crimson-haired goddess known as Anne Martinez has been a personal favorite of mine for many years. I became acquainted with Anne when she joined the cast of BAZ at Palazzo, taking on the Moulin Rouge role of “Satine” made famous by Nicole Kidman. A long list of Vegas productions includes World’s Greatest Rock Show, Showstoppers, FANTASYZombie Burlesque and her own remarkable creation Alice: A Steampunk Concert Fantasy

Anne and husband John Martinez (Cirque du Soleil’s “O”) are very active in the community, especially when it comes to animal charities and rescue. She fronts the band Red Penny Arcade which can currently be seen at The Venetian and downtown’s NOTORIETY LIVE. Click here for my profile on Ms. Martinez from 2017. 

Sam Holder – If I’m going to comment on the glamour of the ladies in this cast, then it’s only fair to point out the “heartthrob status” of Sam Holder. The square-jawed, broad-shouldered Mississippi native is poised to set hearts aflutter at The Vegas Room with his matinee-idol looks and sexy swagger.

Equally at home performing classic rock, Motown-era standards and sultry jazz, Mr. Holder combines pop sensibilities and wit with the classic stylings of Sin City’s Golden Era. Sam’s powerful showmanship comes through even when his tongue is firmly planted in his cheek. I’m eager to see what the rugged hunk has in store for White Christmas roles made famous by Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye.

Amanda King – There’s a reason why visitors to The Vegas Room return time and again for Amanda King. The vibrant songstress from Indiana always has something new for devoted fans…and a dazzling showcase for those discovering Ms. King for the very first time.

A classically-trained actor and singer, Ms. King wraps her arms tightly around the “Great American Songbook”, embracing the works of pioneers like Sophie Tucker, Eartha Kitt and Lena Horne. This month, the glamorous chanteuse debuted an ambitious two-part salute to legends of the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s at The Vegas Room.

Randal Keith – If vocals could be harnessed for energy, the powerful voice of Randal Keith would light up every neon sign and LED screen on the Strip. At the age of 13, Randal’s unique timbre was already striking, and he continues to astound audiences today. A favorite at The Vegas Room, Mr. Keith has performed two weekend showcases there and continues to draw in dedicated fans.

Mr. Keith spent several years on Broadway and on tour with iconic roles in Les Miserables, Spamalot, Man of La Mancha and Sunset Boulevard. Currently residing in Las Vegas, the handsome star delighted Sin City audiences with roles in Phantom – The Vegas Spectacular, BAZ, Marilyn, and Showstoppers.

Lisa Marie – Sexy, sassy, modern and classy…all words to describe the sultry Lisa Marie. Like our other red-tressed beauty Anne Martinez, Ms. Marie also graced the Palazzo stage for BAZ. Before that, her retro-chic persona was perfectly featured in the long-running musical Pin-Up at Stratosphere.

When not performing at Bellagio‘s Mayfair Supper Club, Lisa Marie spends some of her rare free time in the recording studio. Her songs are available on iTunes, YouTube, and Spotify. She’s also a staple at Kenny Davidsen‘s Bowtie Cabaret and numerous charitable events at The Space

Bernie Blanks – “Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in.” – Michael Corleone, The Godfather III

Bernie Blanks might have convinced himself at some point that he’d left show business behind. After a long run in the legendary Starlight Express, Mr. Blanks became involved in numerous productions before undertaking a career in healthcare and aesthetic medicine. Of course, the call of the stage becomes louder once you’ve married back into the business. 

On Labor Day Weekend, the husband of The Vegas Room‘s Entertainment Director Brent Barrett joined his spouse onstage for “Islands In the Stream”, a personal evening of duets and reflection. Mr. Barrett referred to their show as “Sonny and Cher…but with two men. And since I’m taller, guess who gets to play Cher?”.

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The happy couple will team up once more for A Vegas Room Christmas. This writer can’t help but wonder if either of these gentlemen plans to take on Rosemary Clooney or Vera-Ellen…that would definitely put an  uproarious twist on White Christmas. You’ll have to order your tickets early to find out. 

Next week I’ll tell you about the rest of the Vegas Room Christmas cast, including Michelle Johnson, Ruby Lewis, Luke Striffler and dancers Ben Tucker and Emma McGirr. With luck, there might be some behind-the-scenes photos on the way…