They’re Back! Sizzling Rumors and Facts On Beefcake Revues


Lots of news coming our way as Sin City prepares for its rebirth. A large chunk of this week’s is focused on the big hunks of male stripper shows. Let’s dive right in!

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The biggest story is the unsubstantiated rumor that Caesars Entertainment is intent on moving CHIPPENDALES from their custom showroom at Rio Las Vegas to the now-vacant OMNIA NIghtclub. As you’ve no doubt heard, there will be plenty of large, flashy venues collecting dust in the months ahead. What better way to maximize all that square footage than with social distancing-style audience setups?

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My insider source tells me that powers at Caesars Palace are gung-ho on the idea and are in talks with Chippendales’ New York City office to make it happen. My Chipps contact here in the city is unaware of the supposed negotiations but was excited at the prospect. An on-Strip performance space would be ideal for the gold-standard dance-and-grind, especially now that Caesars has announced the removal of parking fees from all of their hotel-casinos.

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Another advantage of being on Las Vegas Boulevard is that Chippendales could do a literal face-off (chest-off?) with their biggest competitor – Magic Mike Live. The poorly reviewed (at least by me) revue has finally confirmed their new home at Sahara. I have the statement below from SAHARA Las Vegas and MAGIC MIKE LIVE:

Both SAHARA Las Vegas and MAGIC MIKE LIVE! are committed to bringing the show to the property as planned. As phased reopening guidelines for the state are implemented by Governor Steve Sisolak, SAHARA Las Vegas and MAGIC MIKE LIVE! will adjust the show’s opening timeline in its new venue accordingly. We look forward to announcing more details and welcoming back our guests and audiences in the near future.

Despite my prediction that MML was dead in the water after COVID-19, the lastest is that the build-out of their custom venue will resume/continue. Look for a new opening date in perhaps early 2021. Let’s hope the show undergoes that long-needed retooling, too. Keep the guys, but ditch that insufferable female host.

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Aussie Heat is another possible “Phoenix” rising from the ashes. The independent (and superior) challenger to Thunder From Down Under had barely gotten acquainted with their new spot at MOSAIC On The Strip when the shutdown hit. Now they’ve posted a target return date of July 2nd (details here).

Host Adam Barr has confirmed the goal-date but told me that the virus situation will dictate if this plays out. No word yet on how the blatantly hands-on experience would address social-distancing guidelines, but the boys have nearly two months to figure that one out.

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The shutdown has spurred creativity and online performances have taken hold. Chippendales was one first to the scene with Chippendales@Home, a virtual interactive party. Cast members of the show give you and your friends a personal pay-per-view performance using web-conference platforms like ZOOM.

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This Memorial Day weekend saw the debut of Men of Vegas Live, a weekly virtual male striptease. Overseen by Russ White and Garrett Pattiani, Men of Vegas Live features performers from the male members of Spearmint Rhino. Yes, the gentlemen’s club has gotten into men!

For the latest updates and news, be sure to visit/follow Vegas Unfiltered Blog’s official Facebook page

 

COVID-19 Aftermath – Shows Most Likely (and Least Likely) To Return


Taking a hard and painful look at the Vegas entertainment landscape as Sin City’s quarantine drags on…

As a devoted enthusiast of Sin City entertainment, it pains me to think of the hundreds of gifted performers currently out of work during the pandemic shutdown. Devoted to a volatile industry in which success is never guaranteed, many artists work multiple jobs and/or share living expenses just to get by. Combine this with a lack of adequate health care and spotty unemployment compensation, and it wouldn’t be surprising if many struggling entertainers decide to leave the city…or the industry altogether.

Sadly, there’s a likelihood that numerous residencies and production shows will decide to fold (or have their lifeline unceremoniously yanked) once the ramp-up begins. How this plays out is anyone’s guess, but I’ve been doing my own pondering on what changes lie ahead. Keep in mind that my conclusions aren’t in any way a reflection of quality…or lack thereof. Instead, I’ve considered factors such as pre-virus buzz, operation overhead (costs), post-virus marketability, name recognition, longevity, and brand loyalty.

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I might be completely wrong on these predictions or right on the money. Your guess is as good as mine. We won’t know until it actually happens, but here’s my list of shows that might weather the storm. And those that I believe will most certainly blow away.

Very Likely To Return –

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David Saxe Productions – the long and colorful list produced by David Saxe amounts to a well-oiled machine. His self-named theater inside Planet Hollywood’s Miracle Mile Shops and nearby V Theater churn out hits like Vegas! The Show, Zombie Burlesque, V – The Ultimate Variety Show and many more. Saxe is a master of efficiency and knows how to run and market his business. His children will survive just fine.

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ABSINTHESpiegelworld‘s naughty alternative to Cirque du Soleil is an instant hit that would have celebrated its ninth anniversary on April 1st. The bawdy burlesque ABSINTHE has spun off two successful companion productions and shows no sign of slowing down. Relatively low overhead (an outdoor tent, pre-recorded music, and simple props) should help it to last through a sluggish restart (if that’s how things play out, that is).

Other Spiegelworld titles OPIUM and ATOMIC SALOON SHOW might not have it so easy. Their out-of-the-way locations inside expensive Cosmopolitan and Venetian/Palazzo might prove to be a bigger challenge in the long run. Cosmo‘s costly parking fees make OPIUM an easy pass for locals, too. (Update 5/19/20 – Cosmopolitan has announced its intentions to discontinue parking fees)

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“O” at Bellagio – Despite a mountain of debt that Cirque du Soleil is carrying, it’s unlikely that they’ll allow their highest-profile Vegas production to fold. Since “O” is synonymous with the Bellagio image (just like its outdoor fountains and seasonal conservatory displays) it’s easy to envision the resort taking ownership of the show if it came down to that (Steve Wynn did that with Le Reve). “O” is still a very popular draw despite two decades and thousands of performances. Not my cup of tea, but for many tourists, it’s a must-see.

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CELESTIA – my insiders at CELESTIA assure me that the fledgling big-top production is on solid ground. STRAT Hotel Casino has a strong financial stake. which seems to be a common thread in the current make-or-break environment. Four-wallers (independent contractors) will suffer while casino-owned shows are likely to last. It all comes down to money.

Sex Tips For Straight Women from a Gay Man – This is an easy one to envision continuing. An extremely Vegas-y premise, an attractive local cast and very low overhead within an intimate theater setting. What’s not to love?

Solo and Lounge Acts – Our deeply-fractured economy is going to have a ripple effect on both consumers and the products they offer. Returning guests with limited discretionary income will most likely avoid the high-ticket attractions. That’s where one-man/woman shows come to the rescue.

With low overhead and a simple format, solo acts can offer solid entertainment and a retro vibe while passing the savings onto their audiences. Look for returning favorites like Mike Hammer, Murray Sawchuck, Carrot Top, Xavier Mortimer, Jen Kramer and maybe even the once-popular Gordie Brown to shine brighter in the spotlight. I anticipate that bloated, self-serving star vehicles like Criss Angel – Mindfreak Live and Mariah Carey‘s endless residencies will go down in flames, though. Darn.

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Expensive mega-residencies could also feel the same heat. Last year people were forking over a grand or more to StubHub for Lady Gaga tickets. Who has that kind of money now? Even though Paula Abdul‘s lip-syncing stomp-fest at the Flamingo couldn’t warrant a $49 price tag last fall, her short-lived residency now seems like a million years ago. Look for a glut of similar shows (like Derek Hough: No Limit), along with the resurgence of intimate lounge acts, to tide us over until the economy…and Vegas…rebounds.

Say Farewell –

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Blue Man Group (Update 6/30/20 The cast of Blue Man Group has been laid off by parent company Cirque du Soleil)

They’re old, tired, and as cliched as the fanny pack strapped around your cargo shorts. The trio of silent weirdos known as Blue Man Group is as annoying as those outdoor escalators that are constantly “under service”. Luxor‘s long-running production returned to the pyramid a few years ago, after more than a decade at Venetian and Monte Carlo. Now they’re in a much smaller venue and it’s easy to forget that they’re still around. Maybe COVID-19 will be the nudge that gets them to squeeze their final Twinkie.

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Human Nature (Update – permanent closure announced 6/10/20) –

It really upsets me to have this one on the list, but the Aussie quartet known as Human Nature appears to have been struggling for a while. I’ve been to the show a number of times in the past twelve months, and attendance has been anemic during each and every visit. Their live band has been downsized as a cost-cutting measure and the dancers were given a pink slip before that. They’ve also jettisoned the “Jukebox” format and returned to the Motown sound that put them in the U.S. limelight.

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Magic Mike Live (Update – Sahara opening postponed until 2021) –

                               We can wait even longer for this execrable slop to return….

The movie-inspired male revue received a scathing write-up from me upon its debut (deservedly so). Yet, the man-bashing mess, hosted by a shrill, leather-clad harpy who never shuts her f*cking mouth, somehow managed to become a hit. Still, the closure of Hard Rock Hotel sent the strippers dancers off into the sunset last year.

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Audiences were promised a spring relaunch at the newly-rebranded Sahara Hotel, yet an official debut date was never set and tickets have yet to go on sale. The 360-degree format requires a custom-built arena that Sahara didn’t have, so costly construction was required. Alas, an insider told me that the venue’s build-out was halted many weeks before the shutdown, suggesting that the bump-and-grind may actually be over. Today’s visit to the official website reveals that the word “spring” was removed, most likely due to the shutdown. Or are revised negotiations holding things back?

During the interim, MML has gone global with residencies in London, Berlin, Sydney, and Melbourne, so a pricey Vegas space is no longer a top priority for the franchise. Sahara Hotel has yet to prove itself as a hip destination, as demonstrated by the premature shuttering of similar-themed Blanc de Blanc. Combine that with the perpetual postponements of nearby Fontainebleau/The Drew and Resorts World, and things are looking pretty dead for Magic Mike Live.

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Cirque du Soleil 

Update 6/30/20 – Cirque du Soleil announced today that they have filed for bankruptcy protection and have eliminated 3,500 jobs…

I know what you’re thinking – “But you just said that “O” was safe?!?!?!?!”. True enough. But in our new reality, Vegas cannot sustain six (already down from eight) of what is basically the same show…especially at $150 and up for decent seats.

According to FinancialPost.com, Cirque owes more that $1.25 billion to creditors. MGM Resorts operates five of their six Vegas shows and is known to brutally slice away expenses wherever and whenever possible. So who gets their trapezes pulled? I’m looking at KA, The Beatles LOVE, and maybe Michael Jackson ONE.

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Hanging In The Balance/Probably Safe –

MYSTERE – the longest-running Vegas Cirque show follows its own set of rules since Treasure Island operates separately from MGM Resorts. MYSTERE is smaller in scale and has the lowest ticket prices. The others have massive sets, live musicians, huge casts and expensive automation that requires an entire team of technicians to operate and maintain. SO…..overhead…

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ZUMANITY – never a critical darling or fan favorite, but this one might not be in real jeopardy. It has many of the advantages that MYSTERE enjoys (smaller cast, intimate venue, lower ticket prices), and has already trimmed back its musicians and singers. But despite the adult-skewing format, ZUMANITY now pales in comparison to raunchy offerings from Spiegelworld. So once again, your guess is as good as mine.

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Le ReveWynn‘s signature production was never an out-and-out hit (some still believe it’s part of Cirque du Soleil fifteen years in), but it’s a critical darling and those who know it, love it. Le Reve is also owned by Wynn/Encore, which has deep pockets and an image to protect. When Steve Wynn’s own SHOWSTOPPERS was shuttered, massive shockwaves rippled through the entertainment community. That’s unlikely to happen again.

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

WOW: The Vegas Spectacular – another budget-friendly production that hung in there despite the competition, WOW could in fact raise its profile and attendance numbers in the months ahead. Room rates at host hotel RIO start at a ridiculously-cheap $10 (plus resort fees/taxes) for the first half of May, so if the city actually opens, expect a pilgrimage to the aging off-Strip resort.

Sister production EXTRAVAGANZA missed its debut date at Bally’s last month and could possibly be in jeopardy. The cast of performers came from Israel and has yet to log a single hour in front of a paying audience. Housing the entire cast during quarantine is no doubt chipping away at the show’s reserves. Whether that could bring WOW down as well involves legalities that aren’t known to me. But from the outside looking in, it’s a pretty grim picture for EXTRAVAGANZA.

What are your thoughts, predictions and opinions? Feel free to add your comments or email me at Sam@VegasUnfiltered.blog.

New ‘AUSSIE HEAT’ Show Debuts at MOSAIC ON THE STRIP


Top-rated male revue brings the fun closer than ever at new venue…

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Click HERE to read the BestOfVegas version of this article on their awesome site.

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They’re fun. They’re flirty. And they’ve never been more within reach. That’s because Aussie Heat, the sizzling hands-on dance revue from Down Under is now delivering their wild, sexy production directly to you…right on the Las Vegas Strip.

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Aussie Heat‘s new location is MOSAIC ON THE STRIP, a historic venue directly across from Park MGM Resort‘s EATALY. Formerly known as the Tommy Wind Theater (and Empire Ballroom before that), MOSAIC ON THE STRIP is an entertainment fan’s dream. The lush, classy venue is ushering in its next era with significant modern upgrades thanks to new management.

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Easily accessible from both sides of the Strip via a brand new pedestrian overpass, the independently-owned MOSAIC is a departure from the ordinary performance space. MOSAIC offers multi-level seating options to complement a nightclub-style vibe. A full-service bar/lounge welcomes guests before the curtain rises and hosts a free meet-and-greet party after every performance. There’s also a dedicated parking lot for easy in-and-out access.

As former contests of Australia’s Got Talent, the boys of Aussie Heat began their Vegas experience in a humble Downtown production called “Aussie Hunks”. Through the ensuing four-plus years, they’ve had a name change, amped up the excitement and outgrown their previous home at Miracle Mile’s V Theater. With hundreds of steamy performances under their loosened belts, Aussie Heat has deservedly earned great reviews and top rankings on both TripAdvisor and Yelp!. 

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Host (and show owner) Adam Barr is excited about the next big step in their quest to be Sin City’s top male revue. “The props and sets are better. The costumes are hotter. Our cast has expanded to take advantage of a bigger stage. We’ve added fantastic new acts and even an aerialist or two. And it’s still all about the audience having fun in ways they can’t at other shows. Thunder From Down Under is great, and Chippendales paved the way for this type of production. But we’re the only show of its kind where all of the members began as trained dancers first.”

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As an independently-produced show, Aussie Heat has the luxury of specifically tailoring sequences to the talents of individual performers. Muscular six-foot-four stuntman Simon will be featured in an action-packed new movie-themed number. Former castmates from Cirque du Soleil have come aboard to show off their gravity-defying skills. And pop-and-lock king Lennie adds his signature moves to the latest chart-topping hits.

As always, Aussie Heat remains interactive, “hands-on”, and trend-setting in their embracing of male guests…and the LGBTQ community as a whole. Unlike at competing shows, guys are encouraged along with the ladies to participate in onstage games, outrageous group photos, and of course…lap dances.

So brace yourself and hang on for a very wild ride through the outback. As Barr succinctly says with a laugh “If you don’t like attention from male dancers, you just might be at the wrong #%!& show!”.

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MOSAIC ON THE STRIP is located at 3765 Las Vegas Blvd. Aussie Heat performs Thursday through Monday at 10pm. Ages 21 and over. Tickets start at $54.99 (plus taxes/fees).

Photos: Sam Novak/Aussie Heat

 

 

 

 

Chippendales Celebrates 40 Years of Sizzling Fun


Click here to read the BestOfVegas version of this article…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photos: Sam Novak, John Cook via Instagram

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AFAN Black & White Party Lights Up The Joint Once More


Epic fundraiser returns to Hard Rock Hotel this summer…

A lot of party-goers will be pleased to know that AFAN Black & White Party is back to its old stomping grounds for 2019. Last year’s move to Daylight Beach Club at Mandalay Bay probably wasn’t the success that organizers had hoped for. Attendance seemed to be lacking over previous installments and the overpowering heat did nothing to encourage attendees to stick around. Plus, it was a freaking marathon hike to the venue.

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The Joint concert venue at Hard Rock Hotel, along with a neighboring ballroom space, is perfectly tailored for the combination party/convention/performance/fundraiser event that everyone has come to know and love. There is ample free parking via two garages, providing easy in-and-out for those wearing elaborate costumes. And mercifully, it’s air conditioned!

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AFAN stands for Aid for AIDS of Nevada, the oldest and largest AIDS service organization in the state. Founded in 1984, the organization provides direct client service programs, food programs, prevention and education programs and community outreach. Their mission is to do so while promoting dignity and improving the quality of life of the individuals they serve. 100% of the proceeds from this event stay in Southern Nevada.

Guests don their best black and white, Credit_ Te Ann Lakeotes

The Black & White Party, now in its 33rd year, encourages attire in just those two colors, wearing as much as you want or as little as you dare. Expect outrageous fashions, group ensembles and themes galore. The 21+ gathering is decidedly “adult” in nature, so much of the live entertainment will skew in that direction.

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Emcees Greg Chase and Norma Llyaman have great energy together and are loved by the Vegas LGBTQ community. Announced performers include the casts of both Chippendales and Magic Mike Live, Australian quartet Human Nature, Westgate’s SEXXY, Rio’s WOW – World of Wonder, Little Miss Nasty, Tenors of Rock, Legends in Concert and Celestia. Longtime AFAN supporters Penn and Teller will be on hand as well.

General admission ($35) begins at 9pm on Saturday August 10th. Food will be provided by Pink Taco, Oyster Bar, BonaBatiste, Caked Cupcakes, Dunkin’ Donuts and The Hard Rock Pastry Department. Refreshments of the liquid variety will be poured by Tito’s Vodka, Ambros Banana Whiskey, Malibu, Beefeater, Altos Tequila, and The Long Drink Gin.

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VIP ticket-holders ($85) will be admitted one hour earlier and gain access to a reception of intimate entertainment, two drink tickets, champagne toast by Moet & Chandon, a complimentary souvenir photo by Most Organic Productions, and “VIP-only” bar access. Extra perks include photo ops and interactive décor from ByDzign, LV Photo, and Balloons with a Twist.

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The dance floor should be a swirl of black and white bliss thanks to the music of DJ Axis. Nearby Piranha Nightclub will host the official post-event festivities. And don’t worry about partying too hard. LYFT rideshare service has offered discount round trips to attendees by using promo code “BWPARTY19”, good for 15 percent off two Lux Black Rides.

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33rd annual Black & White Party will take place inside The Joint at Hard Rock Hotel Casino Saturday, Aug. 10 from 8pm to 1am. Tickets start at $35 and can be purchased at afanlv.org.

Photos: AFAN, Piranha Nightclub via Facebook

 

‘Aussie Heat’ Fires Up the Strip


The “other” Down-Under male revue is faster/hotter/better than you’d ever expect…

In the world of sexy productions, male revues get very little respect. Audiences unfamiliar with these productions may have had their perceptions tarnished by cheesy appearances on 90’s daytime talk shows. But today’s male revues are polished, contemporary and well-mounted stage productions. And they’re enjoyable by all adult audiences, not just breathless bachelorette parties.

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Naturally, their are noticeable differences in what they have to offer. Chippendales remains the gold standard with a cast of towering, beefy clean-cut hardbodies. Magic Mike Live wraps their slim young pretty-boys in a ribbon of female-empowerment with the unusual addition of a female host. Black Magic Live offers an African-American cast direct from Lifetime Television Network. Then there’s Thunder From Down Under, the long-running production at Excalibur packed with sweaty wild boys from “Oz”.

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If you’re wondering why Sin City would need another Australia-based male revue, then you haven’t seen Aussie Heat.  Two minutes into this daring production and you’ll know that it’s completely different from anything else in the city. You owe it to yourself and your friends to head over to V Theater inside Planet Hollywood Miracle Mile Shops and experience this stunning show right away.

While other male revues tend to recruit guys based on their looks/physique then teach them how to groove, the Aussie Heat hunks are established dancers and acrobats. Break dancing, flips, pop-lock moves and sensual grinds were already in their blood long before joining the troupe. It’s just so happens that their athletic bodies and handsome faces match their amazing abilities. It’s a surefire combination delivering thrills that can’t be topped anywhere. 

When not raising temperatures onstage, the Aussie Heat cast is actively involved in a number of charitable causes. The guys conduct dance classes and an annual fundraising show at Opportunity Village, a local organization dedicated to enriching the lives of disabled adults. They actively support the American Cancer Society via an ongoing “Real Men Wear Pink” fundraiser and participate at numerous events like AFAN‘s annual AIDS Walk and Black and White Parties.

Aussie Heat also carries the distinction of welcoming men to participate in their show. They promote equality for everyone and actively invite members of the LGBTQ community in their advertisements. They’re regulars at Pride events and have partnered with a variety of gay and gay-friendly organizations like QLife, a Vegas-based media firm now in its 41st year.

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Another thing that sets Aussie Heat apart from their comrades-in-bulging-arms is audience interaction. Billed as “The Most Hands-On Show In Vegas”, Aussie Heat is far from a “stand and model” production. Audience members vie for prizes via body-shot competitions and blindfolded lap dances inside the intimate showroom.

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Click HERE to continue reading…

 

 

The SAHARA Is Back – But Is It Too Late?


The iconic hotel gets yet another chance after the SLS debacle…

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The Sahara Hotel was one of the first casino resorts I stayed at when the Vegas love affair began. This was back in 2005, just when the landmark property was about to plummet to its lowest depths. Once a legendary destination, Sahara had become a place of despair. That being said, it still had its purpose as a value destination for those on a budget.

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In 2007, Sam Nazarian and Stockbridge Real Estate Group purchased the Sahara…and quickly ran it into the ground. My final stay in the summer of 2009 was so awful that I vowed it would be my last. Exposed electrical wiring, broken lamps, cigarette burns in the carpeting and furniture, golf ball-sized hole in the shower stall, broken bed frame, filthy casino restrooms….well, you get the idea.

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Nazarian locked the Sahara’s doors on May 16th, 2011, taping up a handwritten sign as his final farewell. To those of us who knew what he’d done to the place, this served more as a threat than a beacon of hope:

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When the property’s liquidation sale was announced, I flew in from Oregon to attend. We bargain-hunters and nostalgia-seekers were escorted onto the property in controlled groups, required to listen to a presentation before being unleashed to go exploring. Our guide told us that the hotel would eventually be re-opening under the name “SLS”. The fellow next to me said “S.O.S.? What kind of name is that for a hotel?”. If he only knew how prescient his question was…

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SLS Las Vegas opened three years and three months later. I was one of the first guests to check in on opening day….and just about everything went awry. No elevators in the parking garage, malfunctioning elevators in the hotel towers, being assigned a room that was already occupied, problems with the TV and more. Of course, all of these things were growing pains and could be easily forgiven for a newly-opened establishment.

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What couldn’t be overlooked was that the concept of turning a rundown north-Strip relic into an expensive knockoff of a Los Angeles hit was a fool’s errand. Nazarian and team had entertained the idea that LA residents would come to Vegas to experience what they already had at home. They packed the SLS with not one but SEVEN Hollywood-based Fred Segal shops, taking up every retail outlet within the resort. Within a year, they were all gone.

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Some things vanished even quicker that the Segal stores. An excellent new second-floor buffet was shuttered after only three months. LA-based Griddle Cafe lasted an entire five months before pulling out. Foxtail Nightclub was quickly shut down and LIFE Nightclub was gutted/converted into The Foundation Room (allowing for Foxtail’s pool club to reopen at night).

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The musical chairs within the building were shuffled as frequently as the execs in the boardroom. SLS Las Vegas was, without a doubt, a resounding flop from every perspective. All because it tried to be something it wasn’t and deliver something the city never needed.

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What Sahara really needed was another chance to be the Sahara again. Refreshed, revitalized, reborn as “The New Sahara”, perhaps….but NOT re-branded into an expensive luxury destination built on a rickety old foundation. The little nods to Sahara’s past had been peppered into the SLS decor, but this was essentially lip service to people like me…those who continue to embrace Sin City’s past.

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But the Sahara’s soul had been ripped out along with the theme, camels and that unforgettable neon porte cochere. It was replaced by bare concrete and a nearly-colorless, white/grey/black palette with bare ceilings, exposed duct work and a bar that looked like a boardroom full of monkeys. An artistic representation of reality, perhaps?

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Last week’s announcement that current owners Meruelo Group would be restoring the Sahara name was met with great fanfare (Scott Roeben’s VitalVegas.com readers knew quite awhile ago that this was in the works). It’s the hottest topic on Vegas message boards, Facebook pages and blogs like mine right now, so there’s interest in the old property after all.

Mostly everyone seems to like what’s been happening at the old/new Sahara. Meruelo has re-acquired a tower that had been taken over by W Hotels. They’ve restored full in-house operations and are putting a reported $100 million or more into additional renovations, much of them to address the despised flaws in the SLS room redesigns. Even the Casbar Lounge is back in a modern incarnation!

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             Sahara owner Alex Meruelo and wife Liset and name-reveal gala…

The company’s founder Alex Meruelo had this to say last week about the property’s future:

The SAHARA played an important role in the evolution of the destination. And, we are now responsible for shaping a new narrative. We are writing the next chapter in the city’s evolution, for the love of Vegas.
We are committed to delivering an intimate, unexpected and memorable visit for our guests. We want people who stay with us to say, ‘My God what an experience!’ because experience leads to memories. And, that’s what we want to create, memories and experiences you won’t forget.
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                                               Casbar Lounge then…
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                           …and now…(photo by Scott Roeben, Vital Vegas)
You can watch a video of the announcement by clicking here. The press release went on to say:
Alex Meruelo’s debut comes at a time when there are few sole proprietors left along the Las Vegas Strip. As a life-long entrepreneur with a track record of business success, Meruelo expressed his commitment to continual improvement and investment in SAHARA Las Vegas ensuring the resort remains both timeless yet modern so that guests will want to return time and time again.

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So yes, there’s plenty to be excited about The Sahara’s return. All signs point towards things being done correctly this time. But is it too late to matter? That depends on the final product and where it fits into the 2019 market.

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    World Tower room at SLS. Super-boring, oddly arranged, claustrophobic…

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                               New color scheme on current Story Tower room…

I have no problem in admitting that, just because of the name, I’m much more inclined to book or recommend a hotel called “Sahara” than “SLS”. After all, there is a major road and several current businesses in the area that are named after it. Sahara IS Vegas…it evokes the desert, a rich history and promises of an experience that “SLS” (that nonsensical clump of letters) never could.

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Many of us have complained about the removal of themes from Strip resorts. Then we lost our cool when office-bland City Center bleached out any hope of their restoration in the future. So if Sahara dares to restore its past Moroccan motif, even just a little, we owe it to Meruelo Group to support their audacity and daring.

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It’s reassuring to know that the new owners have already done a great job of returning Reno’s Grand Sierra Resort to relevancy. They’ve wisely appealed to a variety of guests from the frugal to the elite, managing to modernize that hotel/casino while acknowledging its rich 41-year history. That’s exactly what The Sahara needed to do all along.

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There are plenty of reasons to give the new Sahara a try. Resorts World and The Strat are drawing much-needed attention to those few blocks of the Strip. Sahara has its own monorail station, tying with Westgate for the most accessible of any stop on the line. Vital Vegas broke the news that foodie-favorite Bazaar Meats will remain and get expanded. He also reported they’re gaining an established resident production (the nauseating-yet-inexplicably-popular Magic Mike Live) that is sure to draw traffic back into the resort.

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So let’s hope that Meruelo Group continues their current audacious path for The Sahara. They’ve been running reduced booking rates, “No Resort Fee” and “Half-off Resort Fee” specials since taking over, have maintained free parking, attracted a variety of hip comedians and made the casino layout more appealing.

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With the right mixture of value, service and dining/entertainment/gaming offerings, The Sahara could become a standout destination that the current Las Vegas is sorely lacking…a fun affordable Sin City resort worth returning to over and over.

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Sahara fans are invited to witness its rebirth and transformation via a newly-launched website. Follow the excitement and sign up for updates by clicking here

Photos: Sam Novak, Greg C., SLS/Sahara, Vital Vegas, KVVU-TV, Pinterest, The Publicity Lab, Denise Truscello

 

 

Inside “The NAKED MAGICIANS” at MGM Grand


Genre-bending illusionists reveal more than magic tricks….

Click HERE to read this article at BestOfVegas.com

There are some who say that Sin City doesn’t always live up to its name. Perhaps there is no such thing as shock value anymore? Well, don’t be so sure of that. A pair of bawdy Australian illusionists has arrived at MGM Grand and they plan to rip the roof off the resort by tearing away their top hats and tails.

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Unless you’re Mariah Carey, most performers would rather focus on their craft than how much skin they put on display But for Mike Tyler and Christopher Wayne, fans of The Naked Magicians wouldn’t have it any other way. These two handsome hunks are constantly goaded by audience members to “take it off”. And eventually, they do!

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Australian men are already recognized as some of the hottest on the planet – for proof, look no further than the success of Thunder From Down Under at the Excalibur. Add in the resurgence of the popularity of magic shows and Criss Angel’s sex appeal with the bawdiness of Absinthe and Opium, and it’s clear that the time is right for The Naked Magicians.

Let’s be clear about one thing: Despite a similar-sounding name, this is no Magic Mike LiveThe Naked Magicians actually have more in common with Mike Hammer’s Comedy Magic than any male revue. But where Hammer’s humor is insult-based, the Aussie boys’ focuses on sexual innuendo and in-your-face mayhem.

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Tyler and Wayne were perfecting jaw-dropping feats of illusion long before they decided to pair up and drop their trousers. When the boys went full-frontal and took their family jewels on the road, the response was unexpectedly overwhelming. Venues sold out in over two hundred cities around the world, and rave reviews poured in, ensuring that The Naked Magicians would eventually take their hit sensation to Sin City.

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If you haven’t already guessed, The Naked Magicians is an adults-only production. Brad Garrett’s Comedy Club blends the perfect amount of late-night intimacy to the proceedings – double entendre intended. An opening-night crowd on February 13th filled the venue, which is located at “The Underground” inside MGM Grand. A large percentage of attendees was gentlemen, a fact the duo joked about as they took to the stage.

Surprisingly, the magicians began their performance fully clothed, sporting flashy tailored suits that showed off their chiseled physiques. Despite a conservative entrance, their first illusion –  which involved a six-foot representation of male genitalia sailing through the crowd – shattered any concerns that these performers would play it safe.

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The rapid-fire performance is heavy on comedy, nearly all of it laced with some form of wink-wink humor. Bits involving a blow-up doll, cell phone hook-up apps, a crowd-made porno film, a “gay” straight jacket and other R-rated material fill the 90-minute show. It’s not long before the guys strip off their shirts, doing a little bump-and-grind to thaw out those chilly libidos.

As the guys’ off-the-chart charms electrify the crowd, more clothes fall away, and so do any apprehensions or uptight conventions. It’s safe to say that even straight-laced husbands in the crowd found this unusual form of entertainment to be “cool.”

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It’s worth noting that even though The Naked Magicians have gone “full-throttle” in places as tame as Salem, Oregon and Grand Rapids, Michigan, they’ve actually been forced to tone things down a bit for their Sin City run, as local laws prohibit total nudity in establishments that serve alcohol.

So, if encountering the “Full Monty” might have kept you from seeing the show, your worries have been covered. Just know that The Naked Magicians have found a new way to use a magician’s hat – and it doesn’t involve a rabbit.

To learn more about Mike Tyler’s magical talents, visit his website by clicking here

 

 

 

Vegas 2018 – Best of the Best, Worst of the Worst in Smaller Shows


Which one ones to rush to…and a few to steer clear of…

Earlier this week I put the spotlight on a few of the more spectacular resident productions on the Strip (read here). But for every grand-scale shows there are a dozen or more economical choices vying for your entertainment dollar. These little guys must survive without massive advertising budgets or big-name stars. The casts have to work that much harder to please their audience, often making for a surprisingly enjoyable experience.

Let’s take a look at a few of these lesser-known and more intimate shows…and sort out the gems from the lumps of coal.

MOST OUTRAGEOUS – Miss Behave Gameshow

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Sometimes you just need to do something a little crazy. And that madness is even more intoxicating when there are dozens of like-minded guys and girls taking the same trip down the rabbit hole with you.

Miss Behave Gameshow is offbeat, raunchy, free-wheeling fun from creator Amy Saunders. Accompanied by a curious fellow named Tiffany, Saunders (as Miss Behave) guides you through a game whose primary rule is “There Are No Rules”. It’s part improv, part avante-garde performance and a heaping helping of audience participation.

Miss Behave Gameshow earns every laugh in the best way possible…by being genuinely entertaining. And there’s a heartwarming philosophy at its core that will send you out into the casino with a smile on your face. For something you can’t do at home, put this one on your next Vegas “must-list”. Full review here.

Runner Up – Sex Tips for Straight Women from a Gay Man

MOST IN NEED OF A FACELIFT – Carrot Top at Luxor

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Let’s be clear right away…I’m referring to Carrot Top’s act, not his actual face. And while I adore the orange-haired comic both personally and professionally, his act has become quite stale. It’s still hysterical for those who haven’t seen it in the past, but he’s been performing the exact same jokes and gags for over a decade now.

When I first started visiting Vegas in 2006, Carrot Top at Luxor‘s Atrium Theater was a must. As the years wore on, so did the jokes. Even his props look old and dirty now. The Hooters application. Rosie O’Donnell’s buffet tray. A-Rod’s steroid-filled bat…all past their prime. We love ya dude, but give us something new. And once again, I’m not talking about your face.

BEST DOWNTOWN SHOW – Mike Hammer Comedy Magic

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Mike Hammer shares his name with a fictional detective character, but you don’t need to be a sleuth to figure out why he’s such a success. The Chicago-born multi-hyphenate is good-looking, suave, a little bit raunchy and a whole lotta funny.

You might be thinking “Great, another cheesy magic act” but Mike Hammer Comedy Magic is a lot more Don Rickles than David Copperfield. Sure, his illusions are sharp and frequently earn gasps from the audience, but it’s his jokes that you’ll remember long after you leave.

There’s a lot going on when you watch Mike Hammer. The guy is clearly at the top of his game, mixing topicality with wit, sarcasm, unforgettable facial expressions and wonderful sleight of hand. It doesn’t hurt that he’s ridiculously handsome, stylish and more fit than guys half his age, too.

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                                            Little guy. Big entertainment…

Dollar for dollar, you won’t find a better entertainment value Downtown…or anywhere else in Las Vegas. If you’re heading down to Fremont Street, be sure to start your adventure at the showroom of Four Queens. And be sure to stick around after the performance to chat (or flex) with Mike. Sometimes that’s the best part of the night.

Honorable mention – Spirit of the King (also at Four Queens)

BEST VINTAGE VEGAS VIBE – Cocktail Cabaret at Caesars Palace

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For awhile it seemed like this little treasure was gone for good, then it returned a few months ago to Cleopatra’s Barge at Caesars. Nobody seems to know exactly how or why, but what matters is that Cocktail Cabaret is back.

The concept here is simple…a traditional early-evening lounge act overflowing with superb local celebs doing their finest standards and witty repartee. Backed by the wonderful Philip Fortenberry band, this foursome strolls throughout the audience, encouraging you to imbibe as they dance, sing and tell jokes.

Of the three times I’ve attended Cocktail Cabaret, lovelies Maren Wade (The Morning Blend), Niki Scalera and Eric Jordan Young (Vegas! The Show) have been constants. Guest performers include Ron Remke (BAZ), Travis Cloer (Jersey Boys), Daniel Emmet (America’s Got Talent), Shai Yammanee (Jubilee) and James D. Gish.

Whatever the line-up, the talent will be top notch and you’re certain to be entertained. Cocktail Cabaret is the type of show that put Las Vegas entertainment on the map. It’s vintage Vegas at its finest. Don’t miss it.

BIGGEST SNOOZE – Mat Franco: Magic Reinvented Nightly

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Vegas has become a bit of a sanctuary for America’s Got Talent contestants. Some hit it big (Terry Fator), others fade away quickly (Paul Zerdin). In the case of Mat Franco, there was a lot at stake.

If the gossip is to be believed, NBC put a chunk of their own bucks into renovating the Linq Hotel showroom for their latest AGT winner. The desire to solidify their brand in Vegas caused a riff between the hotel and Frank Marino’s DIVAS, which was being pushed to the side in favor of Franco. Few know it, but the long-running DIVAS was already in the crosshairs before a financial scandal slammed the door on the drag queen’s closet.

As for Magic Reinvented Nightly, nothing could be further from the truth. Good luck trying to spot something that you haven’t seen before. The production relies heavily on the star’s charisma to make it exciting. Sadly, Mat Franco is about as dull as a dead rabbit. His boyish grin is the only thing the magician has to offer, so you’re left with…..well, not much else.

Tickets to Magic Reinvented Nightly should come with a complimentary dose of No Doz.

FAVORITE TOPLESS REVUE – Chippendales/SEXXY (tie)

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In this era of equality, why should beefcake and T&A be separated into their own categories? Not at Vegas Unfiltered, where I’ll crow about the assets of Rio’s Chippendales and Westgate’s SEXXY in equal measure. Both are held in small-ish cabaret venues, feature a nice blend of traditional and cutting-edge sequences…and have a broad range of ages and ethnicities. In other words, there’s something here to curl everyone’s toes.

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Despite their naughty nature, Chippendales and SEXXY casts are quite akin to angels. Tirelessly working to raise funds and awareness for charitable causes, the topless performers of Chipps and SEXXY are as admirable as they are breathtaking. Read about Chippendales’ charity work by clicking here.

Runner Up – Zombie Burlesque

MOST PROMISING NEWCOMER – Opium at Cosmopolitan

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I hesitated to include OPIUM in the small-production category, as it really could go either way. It may have the backing of Spiegelword entertainment group….and a huge financial push courtesy of a big marketing campaign. But at its heart, OPIUM is very much a quirky little independent production.

Using a re-purposed showroom and sets from their previous flop Vegas Nocturne, the folks at Spiegelworld have fashioned a balls-to-the-wall variety show that wears its cheapness on its sleeves. Not to say that the costumes themselves aren’t fantastic, but any production whose central prop is an old Mattel Simon game…well, I’m sure you catch my drift.

Drenched in the type of naughty nastiness that you might expect to find at an underground avante garde show, Opium will do anything to make you gasp and bellow with laughter. A live band and vocalists, up-close acrobatics, a horny android and the cutest dog act you’ll ever see make Opium a great addition to the Strip. Read my full review here.

SADDEST CAREER PATH – Gordie Brown (Hooters)

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Pity poor Gordie Brown, a textbook example of a career in free-fall. The one-time Venetian headliner has been on a downward slide for over a decade. After leaving the Strip, this singer/impersonator settled in nicely at his own Golden Nugget showroom. As tickets sales continued to dwindle, Brown was shown the door. That led to a series of continually-smaller showrooms at Planet Hollywood and now the little-known Night Owl Showroom at Hooters.

It doesn’t help that Gordie’s material is as weathered and shop-worn as his voice. He tries his best, working up a messy sweat while attempting to get the most out of tired George Burns, Nicholson and DeNiro bits…all between gasps of air. You know you’ve hit rock bottom when you have to identify the characters to your audience….but since they all sound the same, does it even matter?

It’s worth noting that Mr. Brown is quite a beloved member of the local community. He’s a fixture at just about every fundraiser you can mention. He’s well-respected by his colleagues and fellow performers.

But as for his career, the once-promising star on the rise is now just bargain-basement filler. Even at $24.99 via Groupon, you’ll still feel cheated. Give Gordie Brown a hard pass.

BEST LOCALS SHOW – Mondays Dark at The Space

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Mondays Dark gets its name from the fact that most ongoing shows are “dark” on Monday, the slowest day of the week in Sin City. That frees up performers to do their own thing…and many of them still long to be onstage.

With that in mind, creator Mark Shunock (Rock of Ages and the miserable Magic Mike Live) gathers his show-biz friends a couple of times a month to “put on a show”. Then they donate all the proceeds to charity. Each event is absolutely unique from the others…and so are the casts. Each December, stars and the year’s charity reps gather at The Joint inside Hard Rock Hotel to celebrate their success and announce the next year’s charities.

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A humble concept has grown into one of the biggest little secrets in Las Vegas. I’ll be publishing a full article on Mondays Dark in an upcoming piece for BestOfVegas.com. But if you’re interested in learning more right now, follow this link.

Stay tuned for my next entry in 2018’s “Best of/Worst of”. Thanks for being a reader in 2018 and I hope to see you around town.

Thunder From Down Under: Time To Toss Out This Outback Throwback


Long-running male revue needs to desperately up its game plan…

Maybe it’s just an off-season phenomenon. Perhaps it’s the temporary venue being utilized during their theater renovation. But more likely, being covered in dust has more to do with neglect than construction debris.

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Whatever the reason, Excalibur’s THUNDER FROM DOWN UNDER is a relic in need of a serious upgrade. Out of touch with the times and suffering from a complete lack of production values, this by-the-numbers slog is about as erotic as a post-Halloween jack-o-lantern that’s left sitting on the porch to rot.

Much of the blame rests squarely on the muscular shoulders of Marcus Deegan, the host of this sad little time capsule. Abrasive and short-tempered, Deegan seems to take delight in belittling rowdy audience members. That’s totally unacceptable, especially in the type of show where getting wild is typically not only welcomed but encouraged.

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           Host Marcus Deegan will put you in your place. No fun allowed…

The past two times that I’ve seen THUNDER, Deegan’s stopped the show dead in its tracks to berate rowdy women. He’s gone so far as to blatantly tell them to “Shut the f*ck up”. On one occasion, he even came out during final bows to flip his middle finger at an audience member while mouthing “F*ck you!”…and it wasn’t done with a wink.

Such obnoxious treatment of guests might be tolerable if the show itself was a must-see. Unfortunately, this isn’t 1974 and Excalibur isn’t in remote Tonopah Nevada. Contemporary visitors to Sin City have every reason to expect flashy high-tech glitz but that just ain’t happening inside this sad little showroom at The Castle.

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Despite being currently housed in an abandoned casino-side location once home to the bankrupt Lynyrd Skynryd BBQ (which itself has been collecting cobwebs behind a wall for six years) the show is virtually unchanged from its usual upstairs location. With a plain black-canvas backdrop, awkward tables that resemble balance beams and rows of uncomfortable bar stools, it’s clear that no expense has been…er, spent to elevate your experience.

As for the show itself, it’s everything that the equally awful Magic Mike Live ridicules male revues for being. Packed with rote production numbers, Thunder will have you mentally scratching off each item from the list of cliches as it plays out on a cheap plywood stage. Erotic vampires? Yep. Law enforcement and military officers? Of course. George of the Jungle and a gorilla? Unfortunately, that’s here too.

Then there is the requisite songbook that every male revue includes: “Uptown Funk”, “Save A Horse – Ride A Cowboy” and a Michael Jackson number all get spun by the DJ, along with that brain-piercing Beyonce earworm “Run The World – Girls”.  The costumes are cheap, there are no sets to speak of and props are at a bare minimum. Choreography is decent but certainly not innovative.

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As for the performers, they’re an unremarkable lot that actually seem quite bored. Going through very basic movements with a minimum of energy or attention to synchronization, the cast projects a complete absence of sincerity…and a clear lack of engagement. These guys seem more interested in their gym memberships than creating a memorable experience for the audience.

One notable exception is Chad Homan, formerly of the far superior Aussie Heat at Planet Hollywood. The youngest member of Thunder, Chad’s also the best dancer by far. Smiling from ear to ear, he spins and sails through the air in ways the other guys could only hope to pull off. He also brings inclusive energy and audience interaction from his previous gig, even hugging male audience members (apparently a no-no here).

Speaking of that matter, THUNDER flounders next-to-last on my published ranking of male revues for their treatment of men. Guys are barely acknowledged here and host Deegan even says something to the effect of “This night is for ladies only…you won’t see your guys here”. Take away from that what you will. But in this era of inclusion, saying “Ladies ladies ladies” is another example of just how dated the Outback boys really are.

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                    Free tickets abound yet the showroom is nearly empty…

Perhaps it’s rather telling that, despite the proliferation of free tickets on MyVegas (the online game that awards real prizes) and various fill-a-seat services, Thunder From Down Under was roughly 75 percent empty last night. You’d think that with the current tidal wave of cowgirls here for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, the venue would have been overflowing. Instead, it resembled a dried-up lake during a severe Aussie drought.

Let’s hope that when a newly-renovated theater debuts at Excalibur, the shopworn Thunder From Down Under also unleashes a fresh new version. Until then, it’ll continue to be a great big middle finger to the audience. So save your discretionary income for genuine grade-A beef like the Chippendales. Or maybe just a bargain cut of steak at your local Outback restaurant.

If you’re going: Thunder From Down Under performs nightly at 9 pm with an additional 11 pm show on Fridays and Saturdays. Tickets start at $50.95 (plus taxes/fees) and can be purchased here

Photos/video: Sam Novak, Marcus Deegan/Thunder From Down Under via Facebook