Small Spaces, Towering Talent

Intimate Venues are the Hottest Ticket to Sin City’s Rebirth…


The times, they are a changing’. Gone for now are the concert tours, superstar residencies and spectacular mega-productions. As Sin City eases into a new comfort zone, the smart money is on smaller spaces, where performers and audiences can connect on an intimate level. In other words, a pure entertainment experience.

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Lounge acts and supper clubs harken a return to the days that put Las Vegas on the map…a time when true talent was the star. Their resurgence is evidence that tourists and locals alike are yearning for live music, despite concerns of gathering in public spaces. Perhaps that’s why The Vegas Room, less than a year old, is already prepping a more elaborate sister club just down the block. Look for The Nevada Room to debut in April.

NOTORIETY Live on Fremont Street is another small performance space experiencing a wave of popularity. Located in a former movie theater at Fremont Street’s NEONOPOLIS complex, NOTORIETY has attracted a number of notable names from a wide variety of Strip productions.

“Tenors of Rock” performed a special July 4th show at NOTORIETY

Spearheaded by Ken Henderson of Best Agency, the colorful NOTORIETY nightspot has been safely hosting magic shows, burlesque revues from Lucie May, rock concerts and comedy acts for months while others have remained shuttered. With its full bar service and available dining options, the 21-and-over clientele have been returning week after week for top-notch excitement (there’s a big-name residency slated to begin there soon, but I’m sworn to secrecy for now).

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While contracted productions are on hiatus, individual performers have been able to create scaled-down solo shows. Bucky Heard of The Righteous Brothers (see my Las Vegas Magazine article here) is launching “The Heart of Rock & Roll”, a concert series. Bucky tells me that it’s an intimate duo presentation with accomplished guitarist John Wedemeyer, who’s worked with legendary acts such as Donny and Marie, Bonnie Raitt, Wayne Newton and Clint Holmes.

Bucky and John’s “The Heart of Rock and Roll” premieres February 17th at Italian American Club on East Sahara Avenue. An amazing dinner is included, which starts at 6:30pm. Showtime is 8pm sharp. Tickets are available by clicking here

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If you’ve never visited Italian American Club, you owe it to yourself to discover it. Thanks to a dear friend, I’ve experienced the joys of this old-school gem and their rotating roster of talent, both established and rising. Stunning hunks like Jonathan Karrant and Chadwick Johnson performed incredible pre-Christmas shows, and they’ll be back on the IAC stage very soon.  Other favorites include Craig Canter, Chase Brown, and Frankie Scinta

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Travis Cloer, best known for his l0ng-running role in the Jersey Boys musical, has been super-busy during the pandemic. He’s had gigs at The Vegas Room and Italian American Club, among others. This weekend he’s at Chianti Restaurant with Christopher Lash for a special Valentine-themed performance. Showtime is 6 pm on February 13th, and tickets can be purchased here

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Crooners, Inc. at THE MINT Lounge…

Also this weekend is the debut of Crooners, Inc. at The Mint Lounge on East Sahara Avenue. Described as “an hour and a half of pure, classic Vegas entertainment on Valentine’s Day with music, mayhem and memories”, the production features a full band and a cast that includes Miss Mala, Tony Felicetta, Jonny Bird, JC Lopez and Dean Perry. Showtimes are 7pm and 9pm, with tickets available here

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Tuscany Resort on East Flamingo Avenue has been another go-to for superb lounge acts. Kenny Davidsen’s Bowtie Cabaret is a weekly Friday event with rotating hosts and guests. Stars like Ruby Lewis, Ian Ward, Anne Martinez, Kelly Vohnn, and Cassie Stone have recently joined Davidsen on stage. Performers Rita Lim, Ashley Fuller and Michael Grimm all have ongoing residencies there as well. 

May be an image of 6 people, people standing, people playing musical instruments and text that says 'Italian American club THE BRONX WANDERERS BUFFET DINNER & HOI LET'S DO IT AGAIN!! As we celebrate Vin A.'s Birthday Bash!! THURSDAY FEBRUARY 18, 2021- Tickets $65.00 We had such great time in January we all said "Let's Do ItAgain." Join us for fun night as we celebrate Vin A. Birthday. Great Food! Great Music! You can't go wrong. It's simply the best bada bang for your buck in Las Vegas! BUFFET DINNER 6:30pm & SHOW 8:00pm For Reservations go to iacvegas.com or call (702) 457-3866'

Harrah’s outdoor lounge Carnival Court has been playing host to a number of familiar faces, albeit under aliases. The father/son duo of Vinny Adinolfi and son Vin A. (The Bronx Wanderers) hit the C.C. stage on the weekends, operating as…well, it seems to depend on the week. Let’s stick with “VINdemic” for now. The guys also hit Italian American Club with the full band in January, and will be back there on February 18th.

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Another effect of the pandemic has been the formation of “super groups”. What you get is a superlative combination of artists from various other productions working together under a new moniker. ORIGINAL CHAOS boasts TENORS OF ROCK members Dai Richards, Chris Cicchino and Tim Sorbs (The Black Donnellys), along with vocalist Colin Cahill (Atomic Saloon Show). Together they’ve been doing gigs at Carnival Court, along with the two Vin’s

NOTORIETY Live hit the ground running in November with Vin and Jimmy’s DOWNTOWN HOOTENANY. An irreverent collection of music, comedy, and hysterical video segments, the show featured Jimmy Denning of TENORS OF ROCK, Vin A. (him again), Tim Sorbs on drums, and guest stars Bucky Heard and Colin Cahill (do you see a trend here?). Expect another edition of DOWNTOWN HOOTENANY in the coming months.

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Broadway stage and screen star Ruby Lewis, a recurring guest at The Vegas Room, will have her own showcase at NOTORIETY on February 25th. The one-night performance will celebrate both her birthday and the release of her first original song “Shock Value“. Tickets are $40 and can be reserved here

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Speaking of The Vegas Room, the classy supper club has a great line-up of acts in the coming weeks. Entertainment director Jassen Allen has booked The Doo-Wop Kings, Christopher Lash, Savannah Smith, Elisa Fiorillo (with Barry Manilow’s musical director Joey Melotti), Skye Dee Miles and many more. Click here for performance schedules and to make reservations. 

 

THE JETS BRING NOSTALGIC ‘80’S AND ‘90’S FUN TO V THEATER


The unforgettable 80’s family band brings their own top hits and many more to PHo’s V Theater…

Click HERE to read this article and purchase tickets through the awesome BestOfVegas site.

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UPDATE 6/9/20 – I’ve received word from band member Vannessa Naeta that The JETS are planning to return in July, possibly August of this year. Follow Vegas Unfiltered Blog on Facebook for updates. 

No matter what era you grew up in, chances are that you’re a fan of 80’s and 90’s music. Even today’s teens know how great the era was, thanks to the lasting influences of Tina Turner, Queen, Elton John, and boy bands like NKOTB. Now you can groove, funk and jive through the greatest years of pop music with the breakout band that made it real…The Jets.

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Now playing at Miracle Mile’s V Theater, THE JETS – The 80’s & 90’s Experience is a fast-paced jukebox of the songs you know and love. Original members LeRoy, Haini and Rudy Wolfgramm are joined by sister Etivise Haunga, cousin Vannessa Naeata, LeRoy’s 18-year-old son Evan and keyboardist Mychael Pollard.

The Jets were originally comprised of the eight eldest of seventeen siblings from the Wolfgramm family. They were the first breakthrough entertainers from the island kingdom of Tonga. Gifted with natural talent and great looks, their incredible family dynamic shines through every set. The group pumps out memorable covers of dance, rock, pop and that unmistakable Minneapolis funk made famous by Prince and Morris Day.

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The 80’s and 90’s Experience opens with a lengthy medley of The Jets‘ own favorites and those made famous by C + C Music Factory, Grammy winner Jody Watley and Madonna. Barely pausing to catch a breath, they dance through the material of Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, TLC, Fugees, Will Smith, Destiny’s Child…even Vanilla Ice.

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Of course, the show truly shines when The Jets revisit their own smash singles. With eight top-ten hits and three certified Gold and Platinum albums, the music of The Jets seemed to be everywhere at their peak. They appeared in the soundtracks for movies like Beverly Hills Cop II, Karate Kid Part 3 and Whoopi Goldberg’s Burglar, and their songs continue in rotation on many Adult Contemporary stations today.

It’ll be hard to believe that three decades have passed when The Jets deliver such classics as “Cross My Broken Heart”, “You Got It All”, “Make It Real” and of course “I’ve Got A Crush On You”. Decked out in colorful outfits that evoke the 80’s, they provide their own musical accompaniment, playing drums, guitar and keyboards while dancing across the stage and up and down the aisles.

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The boundless enthusiasm The Jets maintain during their performances is absolutely contagious. If there really is a fountain of youth, it exists back on those Polynesian islands of the Wolfgramm family tree. And you’ll feel like a teenager, too, when you see The Jets – The 80’s and 90’s Experience. It’s a soaring time capsule you’ll want to open again and again.

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The Jets perform Tuesday through Saturday at 7pm. Save up to $50 on tickets now with Best of Vegas.

Photos: Sam Novak, The Jets

‘Cherry Boom Boom’ Makes Triumphant Vegas Return


Bawdy skin-fest opens at HOOTERS August 15th…..

Thanks to my partner-in-crime at VegasFool.com, I just learned that the uproarious burlesque musical ‘Cherry Boom Boom’ is coming back to Vegas. Its original run at TROPICANA in 2016 was prematurely clipped at the cowboy boots after only a few short weeks. But that was due to plenty of behind-the-scenes drama at the long-troubled Tropicana Showroom and not the fault of the show itself. 

While it’s likely that the smaller showroom and stage at Hooters Hotel Casino will require an overhaul of the production, there’s no question in my mind that the heart of ‘Cherry Boom Boom’ will still beat hard, strong and bright red, So in anticipation of its second helping of sweetness, here’s my review as published during the initial Tropicana run. Get tickets for the Hooters relaunch by visiting Vegas Fool through this LINK. Prices start at only $37 plus taxes/fees. 

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WTF did I just see? I can’t really say for sure, but it was enjoyable to the max. Yes, a T & A girl-power topless revue getting a positive review from a male member of the LGBTQ community. Is that an impressive endorsement? I would have to say “yes.” And you’ll be saying “Oh, yes” if you make it to Tropicana to check out Cherry Boom Boom.

I’m going to be absolutely direct here – Cherry Boom Boom is effing crazy. It makes no real sense, despite offering some semblance of a love-story plot. Does it take place in a brothel? A Coyote Ugly-style roadhouse? Perhaps a surreal make-believe world where men barely exist and gorgeous women dance and get intimate together in various types of fetish gear and hard-rocking costumes? Honestly, I couldn’t tell you…not that it matters.

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The goal of a burlesque show, either traditional or in one of its many recent re-imaginings (like Absinthe), is to stimulate and entertain. The cast of Cherry Boom Boom does so in spades. It’s worth mentioning that the number of performers is surprisingly large for a production of this nature. But since Cherry has avoided the burlesque moniker in favor of “Rock ‘n Roll A Go-Go”, it’s clear that they’re intent on re-writing the rules for Vegas topless revues.

Tropicana‘s main showroom has a wide, deep stage, which CBB (let’s stick to that abbreviation for awhile) utilizes to the max. The lone two-level set is massive, adorned with chains, large video screens, parallel bars…and a stripper pole road sign. Production numbers fill every corner, zipping around to dizzying effect. It’s the antithesis of Jubilee‘s slow-strolling showgirls of Vegas past.

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High above the stage and to the left is a boudoir decorated in vivid pinks. An aerial acrobatic ring descends from the ceiling on occasion, and various props are wheeled out to accommodate specialty acts. They include a mechanical bull and a human-sized bird cage.

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Hosted by the androgynous “P*ssy Control” (perhaps named after the song by Prince, whose catalog gets a visit in the soundtrack), the central romance is basically a flimsy coat-hanger on which to hang libido-stimulating production numbers. It’s played out in a world of rock music, bullwhips, lingerie and cowboy boots.

A pair of small-town innocents (Rock of Ages, cough-cough) take jobs at “Cherry Boom Boom”, the brothel/nightclub/whatever of the title. Their first meeting and subsequent romance are mostly mimed wordlessly while naughty action swirls around them. Naturally, they’re drawn into this fantasy lifestyle and decide to explore their own desires. Eventually, they get back together and things wrap up in a finale reminiscent of Grease.

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If it wasn’t for the charm of the two principals and their amusing explorations of lust, the plotline could easily be eliminated, and CBB would still be a solid, satisfying production. The performers are some of the most physically attractive women on the Strip. There’s also a hard-bodied juggling aerial cowboy tossed in for girls (and gays).

Costuming is top-notch, the choreography is consistently impressive, and some sequences are downright breathtaking….especially one using wheeled mirror panels and another involving cafe chairs.

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Then there’s the soundtrack. Much like Rock of AgesCBB is a jukebox of hits, but this one crosses genres and spans decades of heart-pounding favorites. I had a hard time staying still in my seat. The songbook includes favorites from artists like AC/DC, Joan Jett, Led Zeppelin, Lenny Kravitz, Elvis Presley, Foo Fighters, Melissa Etheridge and Heart. Almost all are the original recordings, mixed and arranged for maximum impact. I noticed only one cover version (“Darling Nikki” by the omnisexual Prince).

Tropicana has had a rough go of it for the last few years, at least with their entertainment offerings. When the rare hit comes along, fate intervenes and things still go awry. Here’s hoping that Cherry Boom Boom is the one that breaks the Tropicana Showroom curse. It truly is a blast…and one that deserves to last.

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‘Cherry Boom Boom’ is scheduled to perform 11pm Thursday through Saturday at Hooters Hotel Casino starting August 15th. Tickets start at $37 plus taxes/fees and can be ordered here

Photos: Sam Novak, Diane L., Cherry Boom Boom

Prince Lives Through THE REVOLUTION

“The Revolution has done the unimaginable and reformed to honor their front man”.


The funkmeister’s original Minneapolis band rocks Brooklyn Bowl Las Vegas…

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We’re just the band, okay? We’ll never replace him…we’ll never be him…we’ll never try. We’re just going to be The Revolution.

Last year, in my review of Westgate‘s resident show Purple Reign, I had this to say:

Reign is as close as you could get…and ever will again…to a genuine Prince concert”. And while that production still sizzles with jaw-dropping authenticity and onstage talent galore, the original band from Purple Rain has made a bit of a liar out of me.

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The Revolution has done the unimaginable and gotten back together to honor their front man. The reunion show, currently touring nationwide, brings the gift of their music back to the stage for a landmark evening.

Having lived the songs and experiences as they happened, only The Revolution is able to deliver the early songs of Prince to fans in a way that no tribute show ever could.

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A somewhat anonymous backup group from their beginnings through the double-length album 1999, The Revolution officially received its name and identity via Purple Rain. That iconic 1984 movie highlighted their memorable talents and personalities. It also depicted the real-life struggle that Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman had in getting the Purple One to recognize their own compositions.

After his death in 2016, guitarist Melvoin, keyboardists Coleman and Matt (Doctor) Fink, bassist BrownMark and drummer Bobby Z performed a series of sold-out shows at First Avenue Nightclub in Minneapolis. Returning to the actual setting of Purple Rain inspired them and healed them. So, they decided to take that therapy on the road.

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Wendy recently told Billboard Magazine “We all sort of had this moment where it felt like this was almost too much. But at the same time we made people smile and they felt good and they got to grab onto at least the legacy of him so that his death didn’t feel so permanent.”

BrownMark added “We have the ability now to give people a glimpse of what we experienced with him, and I think that’s a powerful thing. I know it helped me heal.”

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One of the biggest live-entertainment regrets this writer has carried through the years is that I’d never gotten to see Prince and The Revolution performing together. The many Prince concerts I’d attended were subsequent to their disbanding in October of 1986.

Prince had constantly reinvented himself throughout his career and changed (or lost) backup performers with regularity. So it was with great pleasure that I got the opportunity to witness The Revolution at Brooklyn Bowl on June 21st.

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Still shot from the 1984 film (above)….                 

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…and at Brooklyn Bowl on June 21, 2017…                            

The Brooklyn Bowl concert venue, bathed in purple floodlights and a light veil of fog, was the perfect place to recreate the legacy of First Avenue. Of course, Wendy, Lisa and the others made the illusion a reality, performing with precision and plenty of heart.

Opening with the infamous “Wendy…is the water warm enough?” line from “Computer Blue” and seguing into the politically-charged anthem “America” (from Around The World In A Day), it was clear that the 80’s lyrics resonated just as strongly today. Next came the euphoric “Mountains” from Parade (aka the Under The Cherry Moon soundtrack), followed by 1999‘s “Automatic”.

With that quartet of opening numbers, the band had already visited four massively successful albums in as many years, spanning multiple genres with ease. But there was plenty more to come in the nearly two-and-a-half hour show.

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Eschewing their trademark frills, make-up and lace for conservative slacks and jackets (Dr. Fink rocked the scrubs and stethoscope), The Revolution delivered that rare reunion performance that didn’t feel like an obligatory money grab.

They also left behind the posturing and characterizations that once provided memorable foils to their flamboyant leader. With Prince now looking down from the Heavens, what remained was a very genuine group of friends…who touched the audience with sentiment, appreciation and love.

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The band was joined on several numbers by Stokley Williams, lead singer of Mint Condition. Rather than mimic the vocals and stylings of Prince, Williams gave them his own flair, infused with energy and plenty of funk.

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At one point the venue felt silent as Melvoin delivered an emotional tribute via “Sometimes It Snows In April” (also from Parade). As she approached the mic, an electronic thump boomed from the speakers. “Is that you, Prince?”, she mused.

Always cry for love…never cry for pain. 

He used to say so strong unafraid to die.
Unafraid of the death that left me hypnotized.  

Sometimes it snows in April.
Sometimes I feel so bad, so bad.
Sometimes I wish that life was never ending.
But all good things, they say, never last….

The guitarist took several opportunities to remind the audience that all of these great songs now belonged to the fans. Through them, Prince and The Revolution would live to sing another day.

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It’s important to know when you leave here tonight that these songs really belong to you guys. If you wondered “Who’s singing these tracks?”… if you came here going “Who’s gonna do this? Who’s gonna do that?” YOU guys are!  Wendy Melvoin of The Revolution

The Revolution continues their tour of North America through August 11th. Cities and dates are available by clicking here

Photos and video: [Sammasseur]