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. 

 

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dance With The Devil at SATANGO


New musical comedy in the Arts District is one Hell of a great time…

Despite my promises to do otherwise, it’s been way too long since this writer has visited a community theater performance. My last was the outstanding KRAMPUS by Majestic Repertory Theater during the 2018/2019 holiday season. It’s a good thing that dancer/choreographer Alejandro Domingo reached out to me this week and invited me to his latest production. Otherwise I might have missed the brilliantly entertaining SATANGO at downtown’s adorable Cockroach Theatre Company.

I’ll admit a certain weakness to the prospect of seeing Alejandro back in action after the abrupt closure of BAZ in 2018. Despite having kept busy since then, the abs-tastic dancer has been keeping a relatively low profile here in Sin City. Now it’s clear as to why…Domingo has created the choreography and supplies a supporting role in one of the cleverest and most wonderfully naughty new musicals in ages.

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The premise of SATANGO is delightful and delicious. Toby Allen‘s “Old Scratch” is contemplating his eternity of loneliness (Welcome To My Neighborhood, I Was Once An Angel) while fearing that he may have lost his dance grooves. You see, it’s the eve of the All-Souls Ball, a once-in-a-millenium party. On that special night, the barrier between Heaven and Hell dissolves, giving souls the opportunity to lure each other to the opposite side. How? By using tango, the “Dance of Seduction”, of course. Will Lucifer’s dancing impress the other guests…and will he find an eternal companion?

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Fortunately for Satan, a lost innocent named Sofia (played by Savannah Smith) happens to pass through the gates to his fiery lair. She also just happens to be a dance instructor from Pahrump! Using his persuasive charms (“Everyone loves Luci!”, he boasts), Satan manages to strike a deal with Sofia to give him three tango lessons. She asks for one thing in return, which she’ll reveal after the party. What ensues is an amusing and steamy tug of war between the temptations of naughtiness and the rewards of being pure.

 

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Pop-culture references and topical humor fly as fast as the nimble feet in a wild assortment of comical and sexy dance numbers. Vegas locals will enjoy a shout-out to downtown pizza favorite Evel Pie and jabs at parking fees, the High Roller observation wheel and the ill-fated Fontainebleau tower. Supported by a solid five-piece band led by Music Director Keith Thompson, the cast belts out fifteen original songs (music by Stewart D’ Arrietta, book and lyrics by Justin Fleming) that keep the plot moving at just the right pace.

 

Toby Allen absolutely shines in the lead role. Despite his towering physical presence, Allen tends to be the lowest-profile member of Venetian’s long-running Human Nature Jukebox. In SATANGO, he unleashes a maelstrom of emotions and energy coupled with a scathing slice of wit. He’s clearly great at improv, too. An opening-weekend mishap with a prop was splendidly blended into the proceedings by Allen. As luck would have it, a second occurrence of the same gaffe occurred perfectly in sync with lyrics being sung at that moment. Clearly, the Devil had an angel on his shoulder last night.

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Speaking of angels, Savannah Smith (Vegas! The Show) is sheer nirvana as “Sofia”. Whether singing the praises of Pahrump from atop a ladder (My Favorite Place To Eat) or bringing the audience to its feet with her dazzling steps, the popular singer/actress/dancer is clearly having the time of her life.

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Alejandro Domingo, Kate Farrow and Socorro Jones round out the wonderful cast. They portray Satan’s minions along with a variety of other characters including Donald Trump, Kim Kardashian and even a lusty delivery boy. And yes, Domingo doffs his shirt once more to display the legendary abs that earned him a place on my list of the hottest guys in Vegas five years ago.

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Despite the tiny size of Cockroach Theatre Company, every inch of the venue is utilized in this production. Set design and costumes are spot-on, and director Wayne Harrison (ABSINTHE) achieves a polish that belies the indie nature of this production.

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SATANGO is one dance with the Devil that you won’t want to miss. You’ll forget your humble surroundings and be immediately drawn into this den of temptation. That’s the magic of live theater, and SATANGO pulls it off with aplomb.

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Cockroach Theatre Company is located at 1025 South First Street #110 in the Arts District. SATANGO performs Friday through Sunday at 8pm through June 23rd with matinee performances at 2pm on Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $35 ($20 for public servants) and can be ordered here