‘Celestia’ Comes to Earth By Way of the Vegas Strip


New astral-themed production opens at the STRAT…

Anticipation’s been as high as the massive tent erected on its behalf. An announced January premiere came and went, as did competing tent show Fuerza Bruta. But after many delays and hoopla galore, CELESTIA has finally come to Earth…and landed on the Las Vegas Strip.

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CELESTIA is the first large-scale entertainment offering under the STRAT’s new ownership and name. As the iconic hotel casino continues its evolution from Stratosphere into a decidedly more hip and relevant offering, CELESTIA has become an inadvertent keystone of their new image and business model. Naturally, a lot hinges on its success.

 

Last week’s official premiere was flashy and epic in scope. Celebrities like BMX pro Ricardo Laguna and entertainers from all over the city enjoyed signature cocktails and delicious bites at a pre-show reception. Then guests grabbed boxes of popcorn before heading into the main tent.

 

The cavernous performance space, which is beautifully landscaped on the exterior, looks even larger thanks to colorful motion projections of the cosmos. Stars twinkle in every direction and colorful astral bodies spin and glow. The stage is arranged proscenium-style, an unusual departure from the typical circus-in-the-round.

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But CELESTIA is more than the traditional three-ring spectaculars of your childhood memories. As a live band pumps out the arresting opening number, a large international cast appears from all directions. Still more plunge downward from unseen platforms, filling the air and stage with wonder.

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A threadbare premise follows central character “Celestia”, a star who’s taken the physical form of a young woman. Hoping to learn about artistry and human emotions, Celestia journeys through our world accompanied by a pair of comical sidekicks. Of course, this story line is just an excuse to present a variety of colorful and jaw-dropping acts.

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The fledgling production is beautifully mounted with snappy pacing, memorable costumes and a very attractive athletic cast. Contortionists, aerial artists, archers and knife-throwing wizards fill every square foot of the wide, neon-lit stage. Performers run through the aisles and leap onto platforms scattered throughout the audience, making for great photo-ops along the way (the show is flash-free picture-friendly).

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Fans of The Greatest Showman will enjoy seeing Russian Bar athletes The Sandou Trio. America’s Got Talent finalists Sergey and Sascha bring their stunning head-to-head balancing act to Vegas crowds as well. A spectacular sequence on the Wheel of Death will have you alternately hiding your eyes and raising your voice with cheers. Mounted of a massive scale, this finale rivals anything Cirque du Soleil can offer.

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Speaking of Cirque, you may wonder where CELESTIA fits into an already crowded entertainment landscape. Click here to continue reading… 

Photos: CELESTIA, Sam Novak

 

 

 

 

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Must-Visit Vegas: Q & A with Golden Tiki’s Branden Powers


It’s Disneyland for grownups at Chinatown’s throwback lounge…

Tucked away in charming Las Vegas Chinatown is a magical little place. Fairly hidden between a jewelry store and a Korean BBQ restaurant, the quaint little storefront is deceptively unobtrusive. But one step inside the heavy wooden doors leads you to a world of wonders. Welcome, explorers, to The Golden Tiki.

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Under a fiber-optic sky replete with shooting stars, a three-sided long bar serves visitors a vast array of specialty cocktails from a delightfully-endearing line-up. Bamboo, palm fronds and trickling water enhance the Caribbean-inspired stylings. Behind a team of costumed bartenders, video loops from vintage films will make you feel like you’ve embarked on a three-hour tour of the islands.

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Explore a little further into the dimly-lit corners, behind the giant seashell and beyond the cave-like private booths. There you’ll discover a stunning collection of curiosities, memorabilia…and a cabinet filled with the shrunken heads of numerous Vegas celebrities.

There’s never a cover charge at The Golden Tiki. Nightly live bands fill the air with frivolity like a Don Ho Tribute Happy Hour. Humorous themed events like Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving Dinner have fans returning time after time.

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   Powers (right) presenting the late Robin Leach with his own “shrunken head”…

How Branden Powers‘ salute to kitschy Vegas came to be is a story unto itself. He was more than willing to share the journey in a recent interview:

When did you first come up with the concept for Golden Tiki and how long did it take from inspiration until opening day?

One day in 1992 I stumbled upon a wonderful tiki paradise inside Islands Restaurant and Lounge at the old Hanalei Hotel in Mission Valley San Diego (now home to the yearly Tiki Oasis gathering). I immediately fell in love and began to promote two weekly events under the name “Taboo” and my production company Cocktail Nation. I had thousands of people each week, all dressed to the nines with aloha shirts, Fez hats, smoking jackets and cocktail dresses.

The events, some of the first in America, were instant hits. One day I’m called in for a meeting. I enter to the remnants of what was once paradise to find that all of the priceless artifacts were removed, the walls painted white and the fish that had been there for forty years gone! My heart sank.

Three years ago I was approached by Jeff Fine, Joe Cain and Seth Schorr. They owned a bar that needed help. I wasn’t even thinking tiki. That part of my life died in the 90’s. I was wanting to call it Madame Wongs and make it a punk rock bar. Jeff said “How about tiki?” I thought it was a brilliant idea but only if I could build it the right way.

It needed to have multiple layers and a strong back story. I wanted an “adult Disneyland”, so I hired a team of hardworking Tiki tradesmen and we went to work nonstop. Sixty days later we opened our doors to a packed house and a broken air conditioner.

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It was a success but not without the blood, sweat and tears of many GM’s, bartenders and servers who helped mold The Golden Tiki into what was recently awarded The Best Bar in all of Las Vegas. I owe all of them and my patient wonderful partners a debt of gratitude.

We’re celebrating our 3-year anniversary August 26th but we really opened in June 2015. Once we opened we’ve never closed. There are no locks on our doors.

Have you always been a collector of the curiosities that you proudly display there?

I have been. My love is collecting street art, outsider art. A few years ago I gave away over 100 pieces of art on the streets of Las Vegas in what was a city side scavenger hunt. I’m also a huge record collector, but I mostly collect interesting people. I have the most awesome group of friends.

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Did you deliberately model the atmosphere and service to replicate “old Vegas”?

Yes. I have been coming to Vegas since I was a kid in the 70’s. I loved that era. My star-filled ceiling at The Golden Tiki was inspired by my love for Benihana and their ceiling at the former Las Vegas Hilton (now Westgate).

I moved here in 1999 and was saddened that so many icons were shutting down only to be replaced by soulless glass boxes that looked like airports. Our company’s goal is to open many themed environments that bring back the early Vegas visionary magic of Jay Sarno and Steve Wynn.

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I am the creator and managing partner of The Golden Tiki. I have three partners in this venture (Jeff Fine, Seth Schorr and Joe Cain) and our main parent company is High Horse, which we’re changing to Food Fight Inc. 

Tell us about the specialty cocktails that make up your drink menu?

We’re very proud to announce that we just brought on an award-winning USBG mixologist Adam Rains who will be taking our cocktail program to the next level. We want to compete on the world stage. Adam is assembling a team to do just that.

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Do you have a personal other favorite Tiki lounge, past or present

My heart will always be with the Islands Restaurant and Lounge. My giant clam waterfalls are an homage to that tiki bar. I honestly appreciate all tiki bars. I’m a lover of escapism. People try and pit Frankie’s Tiki Room against us but honestly I love them.

We’re two different experiences. They call us Disneyland and that’s okay by me. I think they’re small and dive-y but that’s equally as awesome. Their drinks are great and people should definitely explore them. Why limit yourself or the good times and adventures you can have?

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Who would be your dream celebrity to present with their own shrunken head?

If I could present anyone alive or dead. It would have been….

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The Golden Tiki is located at 3939 Spring Mountain Road in Chinatown. It never closes. For more information call 702-222-3196.

All photos courtesy of The Golden Tiki

 

 

 

 

Postmodern Jukebox Is A Musical Time Machine

 


The group’s vintage remixes are pitch-perfect for Vegas…

You may have heard of Postmodern Jukebox, the genre-busting collective of musicians and singers. But have you actually heard them? One song into Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox Hideway, their new production at The Mirage, and you’ll become a lifelong fan.

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Postmodern Jukebox is a brilliantly entertaining concept. An ever-changing line-up of performers and songs, PMJ (as they’re affectionately known) has become a sensation thanks to the power of YouTube. Founded in Queens just eight years ago by pianist Scott Bradlee, Postmodern Jukebox takes your favorite contemporary songs, puts them into a time-machine blender and gives them a whole new spin.

Imagine hearing a familiar rap single performed in a roaring 20’s style. How about an electronica dance hit re-imagined as swing or Motown? Perhaps a country ballad doled out as a cool jazz session or a doo-wop ditty? That’s what PMJ does…and they do it oh so well.  Every song is a thrill to experience, and you’ll marvel at how well it all works.

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PMJ has been enjoying a love affair with Sin City for quite some time. Their short-term gigs around the city and in a 2016 New Year’s Eve performance at Cosmopolitan were such successes that it was only a matter of time before they landed a residency here. And why not? Las Vegas attracts music lovers of all generations and tastes, as does the group itself.

The new Hideaway stint has already been hailed by Mark Shunock (Rock of Ages, voice of Las Vegas Golden Knights) as “The best show in Las Vegas right now…period!”. Presented as an evening at an early 1900’s nightclub, Hideaway gathers the best singers, dancers and musicians you may ever see on a stage. And each performance is unique to that particular evening.

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Fans of Palazzo’s glorious BAZ: A Musical Mash-up will be thrilled by the return of its stars Nicci Claspell and Jaclyn McSpadden. Revisiting BAZ’s infectious vintage-pop fusion, Claspell delivers and cool and bouncy take on Portugal The Man’s “Feel It Still”. Dazzling Vegas local McSpadden brings down the house with a torch rendition of Radiohead’s “Creep”.

Lead vocalist/host Ariana Savalas (daughter of Kojak actor Telly Savalas) and award-winning tap dancer Aaron Turner (son of Vegas legend Earl Turner) rip up the floor with a stunning “Bad Romance”. They’re supported by an electrifying five-piece band and a hot cast of dancers that take the excitement to every corner of the club.

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Satisfy Your Inner Foodie at “Vegas Unstripped”


Outdoor festival gathers on-the-rise Chefs for a new take on Sin City dining…

After an extremely unusual winter of snowstorms, downpours and chilly temps, the visitors and citizens of Las Vegas are taking to the streets. What better way to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine than an outdoor food festival?

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In recent years, Downtown Las Vegas and the valley’s surrounding areas have become a hotbed of culinary talent. Places like EDO Gastro, Flock & Fowl, Patrage and Esther’s Kitchen have allowed innovative chefs the opportunity for more daring ventures. They’re able to stretch their creative muscles, free from the confines of mega-resorts and brand names. While those celebrity chefs have done wonders to bring attention to the culinary landscape of Sin City,  at “Vegas Unstripped”, it’s simply all about making and serving great food.

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After a successful inaugural run, “Vegas Unstripped 2019: Second Helping” will again fill the sidewalks of Downtown’s Arts District with a tempting array of dishes, drinks and fun. “Second Helping” boasts nineteen chefs and teams that have been challenged to “create unique dishes for the night reflecting their culinary passions”.

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To enhance an independent spirit, all participants and organizers volunteer their time and efforts. In addition, the announced chefs and restaurateurs have their expenses covered by the event’s ticket sales. The goal is to make Vegas Unstripped as affordable as it is fun. Any remaining proceeds will then be donated to charities that assist the local homeless population.

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Last year’s launch gathered ten culinary teams to strut their stuff. “Second Helping” ups the ante by nearly doubling that number and adding a collaboration from six beloved local bars. Expect unique cocktails from the famed Golden Tiki Lounge, Velveteen Rabbit and Herbs & Rye. Beers will be provided by CraftHaus and Trumer Pils, wines by Bin 702 of Downtown Container Park.

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With all of the activities being planned, Master of Ceremonies Chef Gary Lamorte (founder of Honest Hospitality) will have his talented hands full keeping things flowing smoothly. He’ll be joined onstage by a number of live bands including Super Lemon, Johnny Hazard Trio and The Rhyolite Sound. Socio-political artist Recycled Propaganda will be on hand to present a “live activation” of his intriguing and often controversial work.

The line-up of Vegas Unstripped 2019 chefs is a veritable who’s who of culinary wizards:

  • Oscar Amador (EDO Gastro Tapas & Wine)

  • Brian Howard (Sparrow + Wolf)

  • Chris Decker (Metro Pizza/Lulus Bread & Breakfast)

  • Johnny Church (Cookfast LLC)

  • Geno Bernardo (The Summit Club)

  • Gina Marinelli (La Strega)

  • James Trees (Esther’s Kitchen)

  • Ralph Perrazzo (BBDs)

  • Justin Kingsley Hall (Main St. Provisions)

  • Khai Vu & Tony Nguyen (District One/Le Pho/Mordeo Boutique Wine Bar)

  • Sonia El-Nawal (Rooster Boy Cafe)

  • Marc Marrone (Graffiti Italian, Graffiti Bao)

  • Sheridan Su (Flock & Fowl/Fat Choy)

  • Jamie Tran (The Black Sheep)

  • Michael Stamm & Emily Brubaker (Cured & Whey/MGP)

  • Saipin Chutima (Lotus of Siam)

  • Shaun King (ex-Momofuku Las Vegas)

  • Yuri Szarzewski (Partage/Eatt)

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Photos provided by The Feast of Friends

 

 

 

 

 

Mott 32 – Asian Fusion on a Global Scale


Palazzo’s fine dining experience is a culinary adventure worth embarking on….

What do you get when you combine the centuries-old cuisine of China with 1800’s NYC industrialism, contemporary Hong Kong’s vibrant culture and the whimsical flair of Sin City? The answer is Mott 32, a gorgeous and glorious new addition to Venetian/Palazzo‘s ever-evolving restaurant family. And this one deserves a place at the top of your must-do Vegas adventures.

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Situated on the north side of Palazzo’s casino floor (next to the popular Grand Lux Cafe), Mott 32 may be one of the most visually striking restaurants in the city. Brought to life by famed Hong Kong designer Joyce Wang, the venue is positively teeming with cultural references, subtle nods and innovative touches.

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From a film tribute to Anna Wong (Hollywood’s first Chinese-American starlet) to a giant metal abacus and artworks of stunning detail and significance, diners could easily get lost exploring the massive 11,400 square foot space. There’s even an exclusive Boom Boom Room private dining area where guests can request a special “Red Menu” designed to conjure joy, happiness and good fortune.

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The name Mott 32 is a nod to New York City’s first Chinese convenience store, which opened at 32 Mott Street in 1891. The fact that the original Hong Kong location took its name from a NYC Chinatown business demonstrates the global scope of their vision. It’s enhanced by a commitment to ethical sourcing and using organic, sustainable ingredients.

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Of course the real reason that you should visit…and will want to return…is for the food, cocktails and service. As you might imagine, all are world-class and exemplary. Recipes are primarily of Cantonese style, with influences from both Beijing and Szechaun cooking.

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After enjoying a couple of Mott 32 Mules from the lounge (more on that later), my party settled into a secluded booth beyond the main dining room. There we had the pleasure of sampling a presentation of dishes selected for us by the Chef.

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We began with a refreshing plate of Marinated Cucumber and Garlic ($9). The Starter Menu includes a wide variety of vegetables and meats like Wild Mushrooms with Black Truffle Sauce in a lettuce cup ($20), Sesame Prawn Toast with Autumn Sauce ($18) and Cubed Australian Wagyu Beef with mustard sauce ($22).

Heading over to the lengthy Dim Sum section, we sampled the unusual but stunning Hot & Sour Iberico Pork Shanghainese Soup Dumplings ($14 for 4 pieces)an absolute must. They were followed by Crispy Sugar Coated BBQ Iberico Pork Buns ($13 for 3), whose tangy flavor offered a marvelous hint of sweetness. If your taste buds long for Chinese barbecue, try BBQ Pluma Iberico Pork ($39). It’s amazingly tender and sweet thanks to a layer of Yellow Mountain honey.

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Mott 32’s astounding meat and seafood dishes are carefully prepared using generations-old cooking methods, seasonings and recipes. The house specialty is Mott Duck, a Peking duck that is air-dried in a special refrigerator, marinated then applewood-smoked in a custom oven.

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The entire preparation of Mott Duck takes two days, requiring that you order well in advance of your meal.

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The Bronx Wanderers Premiere New Show at the LINQ Hotel


Inside the family band’s new production…

There’s something about the music and culture of late 1950’s/early 1960’s Bronx New York that strikes a chord in music fans. The 1979 cult film The Wanderers and songs by Franki Valli and the Four Seasons continue to entertain audiences as a new generation discovers that special time and place.

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The Bronx Wanderers are a part of that timeless legacy. This Italian family band has its roots in the Jersey Boys era but with their feet firmly planted in contemporary Las Vegas. A veritable living jukebox of legendary hits, this handsome and talented collection of musicians and singers brings down the house with every performance.

Patriarch Vinny Adinolf worked behind the scenes in the music industry for decades. A successful record producer and label executive, he was instrumental in the careers of Dion and the Belmonts, Jim Croce, Alabama, Reba McEntire and many more. Despite his enormous success spearheading other artists, Adinolfi had always wanted to have his own act.

By the mid-2000’s, Vinny’s two sons had mastered several instruments and exhibited an enormous amount of musical talent. So the time was right to form a family band and take that “Jersey Boys” sound out on the road. That’s how The Bronx Wanderers was born.

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Esther’s Kitchen Turns Brunch Into Art


Farm-to-table cafe brings “seasonal Italian soul food” to the Arts District…

Sometimes the best new offerings in any city are ones that spring up in gentrified areas. For Las Vegas, the eighteen-block region now known as the Art District was once a collection of run-down warehouses and abandoned shops. These days, a new vibe of hipster-cool is drawing both young and old back to the area.

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Nestled in among the graffiti-style wall murals, art galleries and coffee shops is a grand little place named Esther’s Kitchen. While technically located at 1130 S. Casino Blvd, the cafe physically faces E. California Avenue, unit #110. So while it may be a bit tricky to find, Esther’s Kitchen is definitely worth seeking.

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Esther’s Kitchen is the brainchild of Chef James Trees, whose late great-aunt Esther bequeathed him the funds to make the restaurant possible. A protege of sorts of the world-famous Michael Mina, Trees made his mark in countless establishments on and around the Strip before venturing out on his own.

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Esther’s Kitchen is the culmination of Chef Trees’ storied career…and a wonderful reflection of his upbringing. His goal is for every guest to feel welcome and cared for. The open kitchen, whimsical decor and friendly staff may remind you of visits to a favorite relative, but it’s with the food that Esther’s Kitchen really shines.

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