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. 

‘The Vegas Room’ Announces Month-Long Christmas Extravaganza

Twenty-part celebration of Peace On Earth To serve stellar musical productions and gorgeous holiday feasts…


One month ago I penned what would end up being the most troubling article I’d ever published. Drained by disturbing events of violence this spring and summer, I closed out this difficult piece with the following statement:

Vegas Unfiltered Blog will be taking an indefinite break. If and when there is a reason to put Sin City back on your to-do list, you might see this site return. Until then…stay safe, stay smart and be well.

In the ensuing four weeks, this writer has monitored all of those troubling incidents and trends on the blog’s corresponding Facebook page. Along the way, I’ve been hoping for something positive to report…anything uplifting enough to justify a return to the keyboard. And it happened this past Thursday after a trip to my beloved new hangout…The Vegas Room.

Since the pandemic caused a total shutdown of dedicated live entertainment, one venue has been a godsend. Glamorous The Vegas Room supper club has preserved and protected the heartbeat of Sin City for everyone to enjoy. All summer and into the fall, this tribute to the Golden Era has safely offered a healing cocktail of music, merriment, and delicious meals to a city split asunder by COVID-19. It’s been an amazing place to share with friends old and new.

Click here and here for my previous write-ups of this amazing destination. 

If it wasn’t for my regular visits to The Vegas Room, this entertainment addict might have gone completely bonkers (instead of just moderately imbalanced). And now that we’re heading into the holiday season, imagine my joy in learning that their team is about to fill the entire month of December with the sights, sounds, and flavors of Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas”!

During a return engagement by Eric Jordan Young (in a salute to Sammy Davis Jr.), I was asked by the proprietors to stay and discuss their upcoming holiday showcase. Surrounded by amazing talent like Michelle Johnson, Phillip Officer and Philip Fortenberry, entertainment director Brent Barrett gave me a little taste of what they had in store. Then Barrett and President Thomas Michel asked if Vegas Unfiltered Blog would be interested in chronicling their showcase from production meetings through the opening night. Ya think???

Throughout the month of December, The Vegas Room will feature rotating casts of four world-class artists, all known for their work in stellar productions. Most have already appeared at the venue or are slated to have their own events in the coming weeks and months. 

I’ve been told that plans are underway to expand the performance space to accommodate a larger production, quite possibly the only month-long Christmas series in Las Vegas this year. General Manager Sean Stephenson is sure to have his hands full with all of the upcoming activities.

Sets and decorations will whisk you away to “Columbia Inn” of Pine Tree, Vermont. That’s the setting of White Christmas, Irving Berlin’s perennial film favorite. Stage Direction will be by Eric Jordan Young, with Musical Direction by Keith Thompson (Jersey Boys, Hairspray).

Talent will be culled from various shows including BAZ, Vegas! The Show, Mayfair Supper Club, Pin-Up, Rock of Ages and Phantom- The Las Vegas Spectacular. While it’s too soon to share further details on the event, it’s definitely one that you’ll want to put on your calendar….and order advance tickets for. 

Chef David James Robinson will be creating memorable five-course meals as part of the heartwarming experience. Known for his daring twists on traditional dishes, Chef David creates everything from scratch in The Vegas Room kitchen:

“We care enormously about the food and service we provide. Our guests at The Vegas Room will see that for themselves when they experience the reality – both in look and taste – that everything we make is handcrafted and made from scratch”.

“For example, all of our salad dressings, soups, and stocks are uniquely ours and made fresh. Additionally, all breads, muffins, and biscuits were baked fresh that day, and every component of every dish was sourced and prepared with great care…and it always will be.”  – Chef David James Robinson

As a personal fan of Chef David’s work, I’ve found great delight in every colorful dish…from ratatouille and a vegan “Southwestern Fiesta” to truffle chicken and slow-roasted beef loin. Even the July 4th appetizer course was “fireworks on a plate”. It’ll be exciting to see what he plans to do with traditional holiday favorites. 

Despite the year we’ve endured, it’s incredible to realize that the holiday season is just around the corner. Thank goodness The Vegas Room is establishing a brand-new tradition of warmth and joy. Plan ahead by securing your reservation now. With all of the hardships this city has faced in 2020, we all deserve some peace on Earth, goodwill to men. And you’re sure to find it “A Vegas Room Christmas”.

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. 

Photos: Sam Novak, The Vegas Room, KTNV

Las Vegas Shutdown Gives Birth to ‘VINdemic’


Not even a killer virus can extinguish the creative supernova of ‘Bronx Wanderers’ own Vin A.

It’s often said that forest fires are nature’s way of restoring balance. After an inferno, the soil is replenished with vital nutrients, and new life springs forward. Las Vegas entertainment is in the midst of its own conflagration. Once the smoke clears, rotted logs like Mariah Carey, Terry Fator, and Criss Angel will have hopefully dried up and blown away. That’s when the rebirth of Las Vegas will really begin.

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Raw, hungry talent like Colin Cahill and Makenzie Fly (Mak and the Cheese), Dai Richards (Tenors of Rock), Ian Ward, and Andrew Diessner having been yearning to move to the front. But they aren’t waiting for the flames to subside. They’re digging in, planting new seeds, and maximizing their time away from the stage to create, express, and surge forward.

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You might say that Vin A. of The Bronx Wanderers is leading this ambitious youth movement. Driven by the ongoing closure of his family show at Harrah’s, Vin has been working nonstop since mid-March. Music videos, virtual concerts, writing/hosting his own web program, penning new songs, and even launching an offshoot band…all this and more have kept the handsome hunk at the peak of his game.

It’s a mad world, according to our man of the hour. Ask where he gets his boundless motivation and the smart-aleck New Yorker is likely to answer “It’s all about the money, man!”. But don’t believe it for a moment. Vin has the “entertainer gene” ingrained in every cell, fiber, and drop of blood. He lives for music, the rush of creative expression, and the thrill of sharing his vision with the world.

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Vin totally knocked it out of the ballpark early this summer when he debuted the imaginative music video for “Know Where (To Begin)“. A jaw-dropping analysis of God, creation, war, and the fate of our existence, it’s delivered on an epic wave of gripping instrumentals and passionate vocals. Check it out.

Vin has been prepping several follow-ups to 2017’s wonderful “Geology“. One is VINdemic, a solo acoustic album that shares a name with his collaboration with family patriarch Vinny Adinolfi. Carefully following mandated health guidelines, the duo has been performing sold-out shows at E String Bar, an intimate “jazz supper club” in Henderson.

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Another place you may have enjoyed Vin’s music is at Tuscany Suites Resort, where he recently appeared alongside Vegas favorite Kenny Davidsen. Kenny’s “Bowtie Cabaret” is a weekly series highlighting local favorites like Jimmy Denning, Colin Cahill, Cassie Stone, Lorena Peril, and Ashley Fuller.

Are you tired yet? Well, Vincent Adinolfi the third isn’t. He’s also been appearing on programs like Rocking Comedy Show with Jay Bird and Time2Vegas. His own talk show What The Cluck?! started season two this year with a new location at The Space. The daring chat-fest mixes politics, comedy, social commentary and current events in wildly-random doses. You never know where a conversation will lead, just like Vin’s music.

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As a die-hard fan, I truly enjoy the pleasures of Vinny’s compositions. Many of them are styled like an opus, with dramatic shifts in tone, style and direction. He deftly crisscrosses genres within a song, dallying in classic rock, pop, soul and funk along the way. “Know Where (To Begin)” will be one of the singles from his OTHER new album entitled “Mountains of Ignorance“, and yet another Bronx Wanderers recording is on the way. Geesh!!!

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In a normal year, Vin’s fizzy upcoming “Wishing Well” would have been a chart-topping summer hit to cruise the streets by. This week, he and multi-tasking partner Elizabeth Jane Hunt, along with a sizzling team of dancers, filmed a music video for “Wishing Well“. The shoot drew talent from the casts of X Country and Aussie Heat.

Here’s a sneak peek directly from the studio:

You may be wondering at this point if there’s anything left to do. I haven’t even gotten to the biggest undertaking…personalized Bronx Wanderers shows. Since the beginning of August, fans have been able to commission custom live performances. You choose the songs and select either VINdemic (father and son) or the full Bronx Wanderers group. Rates start at only $50 and you can get all the details by clicking here.

Not only will the guys play whatever song(s) you choose from the 130+ song menu, you will watch your performance LIVE and interact with the guys via A private Facebook feed on your phone or computer in real time. THE BEAUTY OF THIS OFFER is you will receive a polished video of the performance via email with great audio AND video quality that you can keep FOREVER.

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While other Vegas shows have been quietly waiting to return…or have permanently folded…Vin A. and The Bronx Wanderers refuse to become a faded memory. You can follow the latest announcements, including their eventual reopening at Harrah’s, through the official Bronx Wanderers page and the dedicated Vin A. Facebook page.

Hot Guys of Vegas: Andrew Diessner, Entertainer Extraordinaire


Multi-hyphenate entertainer is so all-around stunning that ya just wanna…

Do you remember that guy in high school who was seemingly perfect? Everyone loved him, he was the captain of every club and team, and somehow was also the teen that never got a blemish. He didn’t trip in the hallway or drop his books…and he had the body of a young physique model.

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Yeah, every class has at least one of those, then we get older and those guys turn into “one of us”. Unless your name is Andrew Diessner…then you just keep getting better looking…and better at everything…with each passing year. Where do these people come from, anyway?

Well, in Andrew Diessner’s case, the answer is “humble beginnings”. The sizzling gentleman whom you see in the clip above is far removed from the overweight child who was bullied by his peers. It was through internal motivation that the multi-octave hunk who’s equally impressive in jazz, opera, pop, soul, and rock music was once an insecure boy who disliked his own reflection.

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“I was bullied relentlessly because I carried a little more weight than most. Being a “husky” kid was brutal. Children don’t hold back from telling each other how they feel and digging it in with a double-edged sword. I will never forget how uncomfortable I always felt in my skin. I never had the Nike Jordans, or the cool baggy pants (which were TERRIBLE, by the way, lol).”

“I didn’t really fit in any specific circle in school, so I bounced around a lot. I was sort of the class clown for each clique. Unfortunately, the words and the actions of those kids stuck with me for a very long time.”

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That’s why the Denver, Colorado native is drawn to causes that assist depression, addiction, suicide prevention, and childhood bullying.

“I still see that 12-year-old me in the mirror sometimes. I don’t want any child to have to go through that. I know it gave me thick skin, but some kids don’t ever pull out of it. That leads to substance abuse, depression, anxiety, and so many other terrible things. If I can start a program, a charity, SOMETHING to get the word out and make a difference, I would give it everything I got.”

“Giving it all” is the fiber that seemingly holds this 34-year-old, 5-foot 10-inch hunk together. Those in the Vegas entertainment field have had it especially rough, as the unpredictable nature of their work has been infinitely compounded by COVID-19. But Andrew once again looked inside, gathered his strength, and came out better in a variety of ways.

“During the beginning of the pandemic, I sort of let myself go. Sort of is an understatement. I gained 16 lbs. (172lbs to 188lbs). I got sick of looking at myself in the mirror and feeling sorry for myself because I was uninspired and out of work, so I joined a transformation competition that I saw posted on Instagram. It was with a newish app called Fitness Culture Training.”

“I always like a good old-fashioned competition, and I am pretty competitive by nature, so I figured, why not make some money while simultaneously getting my physique back? It was a no brainer for me. I ended up doing really well and probably making one of the best transformations I have had to date. I wanted to be ready for when the city came back…mentally as well as physically. I wanted to be hireable NOW…being confident in my skin and having a Vegas-ready body was imperative.”

With the amount of uncertainty ahead in the entertainment field, many performers have been looking into alternate and additional careers. It’s our harsh current reality where only the smart and pro-active may be able to cover their expenses while still pursuing their passions.

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“Man, this pandemic has been relentless. I honestly didn’t imagine it was going to last this long. I lost all my contracts at sea, as I am a guest entertainer that travels with two 45-minute shows. I had plans of buying a house in May when all my contracts at sea were done. I wanted to start building solid roots here in Vegas and become more involved in the entertainment scene here. I had two weeks scheduled to fill in for Colin Cahill at Atomic Saloon Show that I was really looking forward to performing in as well.”

“Pretty much every opportunity was stripped from me overnight. I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I knew that I would just have to keep a strong mental state. I haven’t been able to the entire time, but getting heavily involved in my transformation and digging into my passion for fitness, pulled me out of it. It was the healthiest option, and I was tired of feeling mentally and physically ill all the time. I knew I was better than that.”

“I am now starting online classes to become a certified personal trainer with ISSA, as well as a certified sports nutritionist, and transformation specialist. This has been a path I’ve wanted to explore for a long time, and there is no better time than now. It is something that I am very passionate about, and I am really looking forward to helping people change their lives.”

“To all the friendly people who laughed, pointed fingers and called me a fatty in middle school…love ya 😊 If you struggle with getting back into shape and you need some help and motivation…pm me. Helping you achieve your best self is my passion. Let’s do this together!”

I mentioned that Colin (Cahill) is known around town as “The Shirtless Singer”, yet Andrew is more of a white-shirt-and-bow-tie guy. I couldn’t help wondering if that was about to change now that the two of them are on a level playing field in the physique department.

Colin Cahill and Andrew Diessner (as “Blue Jackson”)

“Haha…Colin is the Man…and a dear friend of mine. He definitely has the reputation of losing the shirt on the stage, and I could never blame him. He looks fantastic! I have always been performing for a bit of a different demographic, so the bow tie and white collared shirt were necessary.”

“But it’s funny you mention that specifically because in my current desert photoshoot, I am walking with an open white collared shirt while removing a bow tie…sort of funny you mentioned it. So I guess you could say, that IS changing. I have worked hard for what I have, why not show it off more? Hard bodies sell. That’s just a fact.”

Watching Andrew perform, I was reminded of another handsome hunk with powerful vocals and a swaggering style…Grammy-nominated singer/actor/songwriter Cheyenne Jackson (Glee/American Horror Story/Descendants). I’ve spoken to Jackson several times, both in New York City and Las Vegas’ own Smith Center for the Performing Arts. I pointed out that he’d be great at playing Andrew in a biopic…and Diessner seemed to enjoy the comparison.

 Andrew and Cheyenne Jackson follow similar career paths…

“OMG this is too funny. It’s like you’re calling out everything in my life as it has happened haha…Cheyenne Jackson is one of my favorites. He did a show called Xanadu on broadway, and I played the same character, Sonny Malone, in the show when a theater did it in Colorado. I had a good friend of mine tell me that I should just follow his career moves because we were so similar.”

“I take it as such a huge compliment because Cheyenne is a major talent and a great looking guy. So, I would choose Cheyenne or Henry Cavil (to play me). Cavil has that steel jaw, great physique, and heaps of talent. Though, both of them have more hair than I do at this point. I may be going down a Statham/Willis/Johnson/Diesel route these days.”

With Halloween creeping up on us quickly, I inquired if that finely-tuned physique would get some exposure in the form of a gratuitous skin-baring costume. Perhaps something along the lines of Rambo or a superhero?

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“Those are all really great costume Ideas. Rambo would be fun because I could put on a wig with a bandana, dirty up the face and chest, throw some ammo over my shoulder, and a cigar in my mouth. I have always enjoyed action flicks and have the dream of one day being able to star in a few of my own. That is why Captain America would be a close second…Marvel…HINT HINT COUGH COUGH…next superhero? What a blast that would be!”

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And what would he be wearing under those camouflage pants or tights? “Boxer briefs….always”.

After you’ve gotten on the subject of a guy’s undies and realize that you haven’t even covered some of the basics, it was time to backtrack a little. So I threw out some of those traditional interview questions about his background, stats and likes/dislikes.

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“I have been in Vegas for 4 years now. Originally, a relationship brought me out here 😬 Turned out, It was the best thing even though we are not together anymore (he’s currently single). There are so many performance opportunities for me here. I can’t wait until the city comes back.” 

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Dogs or Cats: “I grew up with both cats and dogs.  My preference has to be with dogs though. They are loyal, always happy to be beside you and be the companion you need. I prefer medium to large dogs, though I do have soft spot for the little ones. Cats turn on a dime and you never know what the hell they’re thinking…except you can guarantee they think they’re better than you lol I do, however, love watching cats get into trouble due to their curiosity.”

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Hobbies: “Snowboarding, fishing, cooking, writing music, craft beer connoisseur, hiking, Jeeping, lake adventures (paddleboarding, boating, wakeboarding), raveling, being close to the ocean (snorkeling, jet skiing, scuba diving), trying new foods and drink, bar games (pool, darts), Texas Hold em…”

Charitable causes:Three Square (a Food Bank) is my favorite place to volunteer, Mondays Dark, and I am currently looking for more opportunities!”

Apparently, those opportunities include an audition video for Magic Mike Live, which I happened to discover on YouTube. And yes, he strips the shirt off at the end:

Dream role and collaboration: “A show I would love to star in…if we are talking about the stage, I would have to say Sweeney Todd. I LOVE the music and the character. It’s dark, it’s witty, and playing a loveable villain is always a good time. Duet partner…hmmmmm that’s a tough one…but I do love Anna Kendrick. So if you have some connections, throw them my info haha.”

“Otherwise, I would love to co-write a song with Brandi Carlile…What an incredible songwriter and singer she is. I can’t help but get emotional when I listen to her music. If we are talking here in Vegas…I really really really want to sing with Lorena Peril from FANTASY. She has a stunning voice, is downright beautiful, and has a heart of pure gold.”

As we brought our time together to a close, I mentioned that I found Andrew’s voice to be unexpectedly powerful. I inquired as to whether he felt that was due to physical or emotional traits.

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“I believe it to be both. I use the emotions that connect me to the song to emote power, volume, nuance, finesse, and whatever else is required of me vocally. And I’m lucky to have a voice that is versatile and can deliver different sizes of voice, as well as warmth and color. I studied opera theater in school, and I believe it gave me the training to be able to sing many different genres healthily.”

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As we soldier through the most trying time of our lives, being healthy is indeed at the top of everyone’s list. Thank goodness that awesome hunks like Andrew Diessner and fellow members of “Hot Guys of Vegas” can inspire us…while adding a much-needed helping of eye candy to our recipe for overall wellness.

Photos courtesy of Andrew Diessner social media, clips via YouTube…