INFERNO’s Magician Goes Up In Flames

Visually-spectacular production is a victim of its own star performer…

A few years back, the handlers for Britney Spears were faced with an unusual dilemma…what to do when the star of your production is a washed-up tabloid punchline with an inexplicably-strong fan base. Their answer was simple yet effective: launch her residency with a circus of hoopla, stick her onstage with all the pyrotechnics and distractions that money could buy and hope for the best.

As fate would have it, Britney: Piece of Me was indeed an unqualified hit. The mentally-troubled pop tart flapped her arms and silently moved her lips while a small army of gorgeous dancers did the heavy lifting, both literally and figuratively. They carried her around like a mannequin accompanied by prerecorded audio tracks and propped her up in whatever area of the stage that the choreography required. Think of it as “Weekend at Bernie’s: The Musical”.


                         Joe Labero thanks Britney Spears for her #1 idea…

The minds behind INFERNO: The Fire Spectacular (now playing at Paris Hotel Casino) seem to have taken a similar route. Their featured performer is Joe Labero, an obscure illusionist (at least to American audiences) who’s apparently a big name in Europe. He’s also a former recipient of Illusionist of the Decade. Raise your hand if you’ve heard of him.


Labero’s version of smoke-and-mirrors distractions comes courtesy of a London pyrotechnic troupe known as The Fuel Girls. You may know them from the UK tour of rock group Fall Out Boy….or maybe not. The resultant pairing is the most uncomfortable seen on a Vegas stage since Criss Angel crawled into bed with Cirque du Soleil nearly a decade ago.


On their own, The Fuel Girls could easily warrant their own show. Stunts, flame throwers, explosions, choreography and visual effects are all top notch. Ramped up and fleshed out, INFERNO could be to fire what Le Reve and WOW – World of Wonder are to water.


Alas, the show is hostage to Labero and his magic routines. The illusionist does everything he can to remain front and center, despite being the weak link. Like an annoying uncle who laughs at his own jokes then repeats the punchline a second time, Labero attempts to milk every last clap from the audience.


Walking to the edge of the stage after each bit, Labero stretches out his arms in a “Ta Dah!” pose that he holds far too long…before dashing into the audience to repeat it in the aisles. There were frequent snickers from people seated all around me. Yes, it’s that embarrassing.


Labero’s stage presence is hampered by a strong Swedish accent that makes it quite difficult to understand what he’s saying much of the time. Also distracting is that the 54-year-old host is frequently out of breath, heaving heavily and sweating…even in the quieter moments of the show.


As for the illusions themselves, expect the requisite “person sliced into pieces”, sleight of hand, card tricks and people disappearing/reappearing. Two illusions that do have merit are one where Labero seems to walk right through a person stretched between two supports and another where he passes through a mirror.

Aside from that, there isn’t anything truly special about the magic acts in INFERNO: The Fire Spectacular. With the likes of David Copperfield, David Goldrake, Masters of Illusions, Criss Angel, Matt Franco and many more filling the Strip showrooms with this type of entertainment, was there really a need for another? Of course not, especially when one European import in particular is already doing it so much better (David Goldrake’s IMAGINARIUM was my choice for Best New Production of 2017).


What makes the show worthy of your consideration are all the sequences without Labero. Pyrotechnics are always jaw-dropping in any medium, but feeling the heat, hearing the sizzle and being bombarded with loud blasts are a visceral experience. In this case, the flames are deftly used through aerial stunts, physically-demanding choreography and handling of fiery objects like batons, whips and an umbrella frame.


Other saving graces are the elaborate production design and costumes. Stylist collaborators Georgia Richardson and Jeffrey DeBarathy (ALICE: A Steampunk Concert Fantasy) bring a distinctive “Mad Max” look to the performers that’s a perfect match for the Fuel Girls’ visuals. The character of “Animal” is clearly inspired by The Road Warrior.


Unfortunately, Labero’s attempt to associate his magic acts with the far superior fire aspect are truly cringe-inducing. The two just do not overlap well. It’s clear that the magician has taken his existing acts and awkwardly grafted them onto this new production with wildly uneven results.

Joe frequently breaks from what he’s doing to grab a large vase on the side of the stage and dump its contents into a nearby barrel. “We need more gasoline. Lots and LOTS of GAS O LEEEEEEN!” he exclaims time after time before returning to the business at hand.


Amidst more hushed chuckling from nearby patrons (several of whom had walked out at this point), my companion leaned in and said “Am I missing something here?”. No, my friend…it’s just the sound of another expensive Strip production going up in flames.

INFERNO: The Fire Spectacular performs Wednesday through Sunday inside the Paris Theater. Tickets start at $65.77 (plus taxes/fees) and can be ordered here. is offering a $20 discount on INFERNO by following this link. Discounts on additional shows and hotels can be combined/increased by visiting here.

Photos: INFERNO: The Fire Spectacular, Joe Labero

“WOW” is Wet Outlandish Whimsy on a Grand Scale

Rio’s water-themed production salutes the heyday of Vegas variety….

If you’ve read my show reviews and columns through the years, you’re probably aware that I’m not a fan of the direction the Vegas entertainment has headed. You know the kind I mean…manufactured talents clogging up enormous venues with their auto-tune warbling. Has-been “divas” sleep-walking and lip-syncing through high-ticket residencies for an enormous paycheck. So-called “celebrity DJs” with their creepy mugshot-style billboards peppering the main roads of the city. It’s all garbage!

Sorry, folks, but Vegas was built on the backs of real talent. If you don’t know or don’t remember what that is, you can check out the amazing musical BAZ at Palazzo, where singers can dance and dancers can sing. And they combine their complex roles with superb acting, offering wide-spectrum talent from every member of the cast.

In recent years, an assortment of variety shows have sprung up that remind us of the glorious era of Vegas. Dancers, singers, circus acts and comics zipping on and off the stage in a constant barrage of whimsy to thrill and dazzle. WOW – World of Wonder is the latest of these, and it’s definitely on my list of must-see-again thrills.

WOW World of Wonder Rio

WOW is a rare commodity on the Sin City entertainment scene. It dares to be simultaneously silly, chaotic, retro and modern while offering high-tech amazement. WOW wears its randomness on its sleeve, starting here and jumping over there. You never know who will be coming onto the stage, creeping up behind you, descending from the ceiling or rising from the depths.

If some of that sounds a bit like Le Reve, you’re right. There are plenty of moments in WOW that resemble Wynn’s signature production, along with Absinthe, Mystere, Vegas! The Show and the sadly-defunct Vegas Nocturne at Cosmopolitan’s Rose.Rabbit.Lie. I offer those comparisons as compliments, as all have been personal favorites.

What differs with WOW is in the presentation, starting with the venue. Rio‘s refurbished Crown Theater will definitely elicit a “wow” from your lips. Not necessarily from the seating arrangements (which are a bit dated and not-quite-lush) but from the main stage and panoramic video panels, which are absolutely gorgeous and impeccably utilized.

WOW World of Wonder Rio

Dazzling moving images of waterfalls and intensely-colored landscapes resemble Wonder Woman’s “Paradise Island” and Ariel’s undersea kingdom. Atmospheric sound design adds to the effect, creating significant anticipation for the show to begin.


The thin plot line involves a nerdy fisherman, badgered by a harpy’s voice into catching something for dinner. Hunkering down in his yellow slicker, he casts his line into the water.  Of course, his baited hook is just there to grab the audience and take them on a journey to the fantastic.



What follows is a hodgepodge of circus acts, peculiar talents, humorous bits and large-scale production numbers. Some are familiar, like the skating act from Absinthe and V – The Ultimate Variety Show. Others offer talents you’ve surely never seen before.

WOW World of Wonder Rio

That in itself would work just fine…if the individual acts didn’t play to drastically different age groups. For instance, a sexy sequence with three lovelies swimming inside a clear glass bowl (similar to Zumanity but without the toplessness) is geared toward adults. But it’s preceded by a lengthy Pirates of the Caribbean spoof that’s best appreciated by children.

WOW World of Wonder Rio

WOW World of Wonder Rio

WOW follows the classic set-up of having smaller acts draw your attention while the big set pieces are setting up behind a curtain on the main stage. One moment an Italian chef is spinning plates on the streets of old Venice.

WOW World of Wonder Rio

WOW World of Wonder Rio

The next, a hot-bodied group of dancers is strutting their sexy stuff to popular and classic music. Just wait until you see the salute to Singing In The Rain, wherein the raindrops actually form the shape of umbrellas. Clever!

WOW World of Wonder Rio

WOW World of Wonder Rio

All of it is superbly done and most is highly enjoyable…and really, really random. But that’s what’s great about variety shows, especially in our era of short attention spans. As they say about San Francisco weather, if you don’t like what’s happening, just wait a moment.

WOW World of Wonder Rio

Perhaps that’s why Riviera’s SPLASH and Bally’s JUBILEE!, a pair of Vegas classics, lasted for decades.  The format also allows for frequent refreshing, so each visit is sure to yield a unique experience.

WOW World of Wonder Rio

WOW World of Wonder Rio

The epic production numbers were my favorite aspect of WOW, especially a jaw-dropping ballroom scene aboard the Titanic. Your entire field of vision is filled with the ship’s interior, rising waves seen through the windows and a cast of dancers that is suddenly engulfed in the deluge. This obvious nod to the legendary sequence in JUBILEE! takes the experience much, much farther. Hold onto your life preserver!

WOW World of Wonder Rio

WOW World of Wonder Rio

WOW World of Wonder Rio


My least favorite act involves Guinness World Record holder Dickson Oppong of West Africa. This large fellow has the unique ability to guzzle huge amounts of water, then spray it as continuous stream from his mouth. Although fascinating, it’s also a bit disturbing. Germ-aphobes may wish to avoid sitting in the splash zone.

WOW World of Wonder Rio

WOW World of Wonder Rio


More entertaining is a bit involving statues who become fountains too…in a funny, clever way. The gag builds layers of whimsy until it segues into another a trio of swimmers. I’d have like to have seen the statues go on a bit longer first.

WOW World of Wonder Rio

Sadly, the comic-relief character that opens the show has solo moments that go on way too long. He also gets worked into too many of the other acts. Mostly wordless, his child-like bits involving a clap-along and a series of boo-boos make for excellent bathroom breaks. But he’s still more entertaining than the creepy, annoying clowns of O.

WOW World of Wonder Rio

Some acts would be more at home in a traveling circus but don’t necessarily translate well to an evening Vegas production. Perhaps the fact that WOW comes from overseas (Israel, in fact) helps to explain why it feels so offbeat. The weirdness isn’t the same as Cirque du Soleil‘s French humor…nor is it as annoying. But a little fine-tuning for Vegas audiences might do WOW a whole lot of good.


I also had issues with some clumsy sound cues and abrupt changes in volume that distracted from the performances of a uniformly excellent cast. As the show is relatively new (it opened just last month), things like this should eventually be worked out.

WOW World of Wonder Rio

But that’s a small complaint when compared to the scale of talent and visuals represented here. The 30-member international cast is beautiful and overflowing with skill. And they have one goal in mind – to leave you saying “WOW”.

WOW World of Wonder Rio

The success of any variety production depends largely on whether you’re drawn into the premise. WOW succeeds in capturing your imagination. It grabs you from the opening moments, twirls you around, lifts you up and doesn’t let go until the final bows.

WOW World of Wonder Rio

It’s classic Vegas variety entertainment on a grand scale.

WOW – World of Wonder performs Tuesday through Sunday at 7pm with an additional 9pm show Friday-Sunday. Tickets start at $49 (plus taxes/fees) and can be ordered here. Travelzoo currently has discount tickets from $39 with no additional taxes/fees. Click here to access this offer, good through 1/7/18.

Photos: Diane Lynn, Sammasseur




IMAGINARIUM Is Pure, Epic Magic

David Goldrake’s grandiose production at Tropicana will touch your senses and soul…

Something mysterious is going on at the intersection of Tropicana Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard. The entertainment gods have seen fit to grace that location with three epic magic shows. One performer is legendary, the second is flashy, and the newest is a challenger of major proportions. His name is David Goldrake, and his new show David Goldrake: IMAGINARIUM at Tropicana is an entertainment gold mine.

David Goldrake IMAGINARIUM

Goldrake (center) with fellow magicians Jarrett and Raja at the media premiere…            

Following on the heels of Jan Rouven‘s shocking abrupt closure and the short-lived Band of Magicians, one might question the wisdom of opening yet another illusion-based production inside the troubled, beautiful Tropicana Showroom. But the third time is clearly a charm, as David Goldrake’s gorgeous presentation is worthy of the space. It’s also deserving of the opportunity to take on David Copperfield and the far-inferior Criss Angel.

David Goldrake IMAGINARIUM

Say what you will about the relevance of magic shows in 2017 Las Vegas, but IMAGINARIUM is much more than hokey top hats and sexy assistants. With an ethereal introduction of smokey morphing shapes and lush music, IMAGINARIUM sets up a surrealistic mood that the Luxemborg-born Goldrake maintains throughout.

After an opening illusion, Goldrake comes out to introduce himself and explain IMAGINARIUM, the circus sideshow that he visited as a child for a fifty-cent admission price. The experience of growing up as a fascinated young man in Europe permeates the production, enhanced by the host’s unique accent and magnetic presence.

David Goldrake, while known in several countries as an “International Man of Mystery”, has yet to make a mark on U.S. pop culture. When you’re a somewhat unknown quantity in Las Vegas, it helps to have charisma and good looks…both of which Goldrake has in abundance.

David Goldrake IMAGINARIUM

David moves with the grace and elegance of a dancer, yet his massive muscular frame fills the grand Tropicana stage. So do the lush sets and immersive backdrops that pull you into each illusion. Expensive-looking video content from Drop The Spoon (Le Reve/Franco Dragone), steampunk-style design by EDT and costumes from Erin “Topaz” Lareau rival anything that the Cirque-financed Criss Angel has presented at Luxor.


All of those bells and whistles don’t mean anything if the star performer can’t capture your imagination. IMAGINARIUM does so in spades. Large-scale stunts like a human-sized hourglass disappearance and passing through a sheet of solid metal will have you scratching your head.

David Goldrake IMAGINARIUM

A particularly memorable moment comes when Goldrake collects rings from the hands of three volunteers. Placing them on a spindle while in constant view of the audience, he agitates the rings until they’re suddenly linked together into a small chain. And before you can say “audience plants”, one participant of that illusion was my companion for the evening…there was no collusion.

David Goldrake IMAGINARIUM

David’s assistants, two women and two men, are skilled performers in their own right. The gorgeous dancers, contortionists, acrobats and aerialists get their own well-deserved sequence, an old-tyme European-styled sideshow sequence highlighting individual talents that come together for a rousing mini-finale.

David Goldrake IMAGINARIUM

My favorite set piece, by far, is a salute to Houdini’s underwater straitjacket escape. A shirtless (and ab-tastic) Goldrake is chained and suspended upside-down in a glass chamber filled filled with water before your eyes. Never once is the clear tank out of sight…the gasping, bubbles and struggles are real. So were the accelerated beats of my heart.

David Goldrake IMAGINARIUM

David Goldrake IMAGINARIUM

It’s always exciting when a new name bursts on the Vegas scene and raises the bar for a everyone…audiences and performers alike. We saw it happen when Spiegelworld (Absinthe and Cosmo’s Vegas Nocture) challenged Cirque du Soleil, Matt Goss shook up the lounge scene and BAZ: A Musical Mashup redefined musical theater. We’re seeing it once more with David Goldrake: IMAGINARIUM.

There’s a hot new illusionist in town and he’s not to be missed. If you see only one large-scale magic show on your trip to Sin City, make it David Goldrake: IMAGINARIUM. You will be thrilled, mystified…and your heart will soar skyward.

David Goldrake IMAGINARIUM

David Goldrake: IMAGINARIUM performs Tuesday through Sunday at 7pm. Suitable for all ages. Tickets start at $39.90 plus taxes/fees and can be ordered here. Groupon is currently offering discount seats starting at $28 with no additional fees by clicking here.

Photos: Sammasseur, IMAGINARIUM via Facebook







Run, Don’t Walk to “Miss Behave Gameshow”

It’s kindergarten for grown-ups in this insane freight train to Bonkersville…

What do you do when a signature production shuts down, leaving its namesake theater empty? Well, if you’re Bally’s, you forget about the Jubilee! Showroom for awhile and convert the space that was once a gay bar (and a steakhouse before that) into a playground for adults. Then you put in a glitter-clad lady sword-swallower and her gender-nonspecific sidekick and let the balls fly.

Miss Behave Gameshow

Enter if you dare…                               

That’s the best description I can offer for Miss Behave Gameshow, the upside-down crowd-pleaser currently running at Bally’s. This faux-competition comedy/variety hybrid in The Back Room (adjacent to Indigo Lounge) will have you dancing, singing and playing with bags of trash. Seriously.

Miss Behave Gameshow

Run onstage and take a selfie…there are no rules…                       

The brainchild of British comedian Amy Saunders, Miss Behave Gameshow presents Saunder’s alter-ego “Miss Behave” in the title role as host. Assisted by a young guy with a carnival-barker mustache who goes by the name of “Tiffany” (not sure why, but okay), Miss Behave is a rapid-fire assault on the senses.


The audience…and “Tiffany”…get split down the middle…                 

Combining pop culture trivia with today’s obsession with smartphones and a handful of sideshow acts, Miss Behave will have you buzzing about it long after the show is over. Be sure to charge your phone beforehand, as you’ll want to share your WTF video clips with friends when you return to the real world.

    Video highlights from Miss Behave Gameshow…                                             

It’s rather jarring to see the gorgeous former Liaison Nightclub stripped of its expensive custom oil paintings and adorned with Sharpie-marker cardboard signs. But Miss Behave Gameshow wears its cheapness proudly, like when a “mystery prize” turns out to be sacks of garbage hurled at the audience.



Miss Behave Gameshow

Don’t worry, you’ll be tossing that refuse right back at Miss B. and Tiffany…they wallow in trash…and trashy humor. They also like sing-alongs and impromptu dance numbers. Don’t expect to sit in your seat for very long. The atmosphere here is literally uplifting, invigorating and totally free.

The premise of MBGS is simple. The audience is divided into two teams – iPhone users and “others” aka Android and the game is afoot. Saunders goes through a stack of cardboard signs on which questions and challenges are scribbled. For instance, “Shout Loudest” might have you trying to out-scream the other team…or just shouting the word “LOUDEST”. Can you guess which one scores a point?


An audience member enjoys her “mystery prize”…                         

The rules are vague and flexible, as are the challenges and prizes. You want a point for your team? Stand up and ask for one. You may get it, maybe not. But that tactic can also backfire and end up losing your team several points instead. Offering bribes and cash will work, though. Really.

Miss Behave Gameshow

Despite her real-life Guiness Book records for sword-swallowing, Miss Behave keeps pointed objects away from Bally’s audiences. The sharpest things in her collection here are a razor blade wit…and a tongue that’s penetrated by the stem of a flower (don’t look if you’re squeamish).

Miss Behave Gameshow

Rewards are handed out randomly, like the lucky gal who got “A Prize”…those actual words written on a piece of cardboard. The grand prize is a go-for-broke plastic ball fight that makes the Chuck E. Cheese ball pits look like a night at the opera. Kindergarten for grown-ups, indeed!

Miss Behave Gameshow

There are no true victors at Miss Behave Game Show. As Saunders says during the final bows,  “Life is just a game. There are no winners, no losers…just players. So how do you win a game when there are no rules?  You just enjoy the game!”

After some uplifting philosophy, Miss B. and Tiffany join the audience in the anteroom for half-price cocktails, photos and conversation. You’ll find yourself wanting to stick around and relish the madness and positivity that exude from this wild, magnetic duo.

Miss Behave Gameshow

As Vegas continues to smother its productions with sameness and bland repetition, Miss Behave Game Show stands out as something uniquely “Sin City”. It’s an experience that you can’t have anywhere else…and that’s what Las Vegas is all about.

Miss Behave Game Show performs Wednesday through Sunday at 8pm inside The Back Room of Bally’s. Tickets start at $49.99 plus tax/fees and can be ordered here. VegasFool has a discount offer for $29 plus tax/fees by clicking here. Audience members must be 21 or over.

Photos/videos by Sammasseur


ALICE Blends “Wonderland” with a “Mad World”

Red Rock Casino’s steampunk fantasy concert is a striking new vision of the Looking Glass fables…

I’ve often contended that some of the purist forms of entertainment are passion projects…especially when they spring from the mind of performers. It’s one thing to sing and act out someone else’s material, but performing your own creation takes it to rarely-seen heights.

Unfortunately, passion projects often end up as little-seen ventures in out-of-the-way venues. This time that’s not going to happen. The day has come for the masses to discover ALICE: A Steampunk Concert Fantasy.


If you’ve followed me here from my previous site, chances are you’ve already heard of ALICE…or at least its creator and star, Anne Martinez. Anne is the prolific singer/dancer/producer/director who plays “Satine” in BAZ: A Musical Mash-up at Palazzo. Then she hops down the Strip and onto the Stratosphere stage as one half of Heart in World’s Greatest Rock Show.


Somehow, this gifted lady finds the time to balance dual roles and her personal life with the ongoing adventures of her brainchild, ALICE. And what a journey it has been. From small gigs at Tuscany to Hard Rock‘s Vinyl to the concert venue of Brooklyn Bowl, ALICE has continued to grow almost entirely on word-of-mouth.


This summer, Alice and her friends are hosting tea parties one Monday a month at Red Rock Casino‘s Rocks Lounge. The next performance is scheduled for September 25th at 10pm. Admission is only $25 at the door and includes a welcome specialty cocktail.

If the concept of “steampunk” is unfamiliar, you may have already encountered it without even being aware.  Martin Scorcese dabbled in steampunk with the gorgeous and glorious Hugo. Movie fans might recall when Man of Steel director Zack Snyder went steampunk in the adults-only fantasy Sucker Punch.


HUGO (2011)                       


SUCKER PUNCH (2011)                            

Since steampunk blends historical settings with modern technology, the genre lends itself perfectly to classic fantasy tales. Perhaps that’s why Tin Man, the revisionist Oz miniseries with Zooey Deschanel and Richard Dreyfuss, was such a hit (and led to this year’s Emerald City).


Ryan Kelsey, Anne Martinez and Michael Radiff…                      

So…why not a steampunk version of Alice In Wonderland? It had to happen eventually. Luckily, ALICE was beautifully conceived by Martinez, one of the most gifted artists in Sin City. She was aided by dancer Claudia Mitria, aerial choreographer April Leopardi and co-director Ryan Kelsey, who have been with Anne and her BBR Productions since the beginning. With them, ALICE has gone from “Hey, kids, let’s put on a show!” to “We going to need a bigger theater”.

If ALICE were simply a straight-forward concert, it would still kick ass. Hits like Bjork’s “Army of Me”, Gaga’s “Bad Romance” and The Beatles’ “I Want You” are delivered with a ferocity rarely seen in a smaller productions. Paired with a whimsical take on “Killer Queen” and a tea party staged to the moody “Mad World”, the effect is breathtaking.


Ashley Fuller is front and center as “Ecila”…                   

Powerhouse vocals come courtesy of Ashley Fuller, former lead singer for Jubilee! at Bally’s. Fuller plays “Ecila”, a dark reflection of the titular character. She belts out Whitney Houston’s “Queen of the Night” as Lora Kelsey creeps onto the stage in stilts. Towering over the audience as the “Red Queen”, Lora unleashes a pole-dance sequence that will have you questioning your sanity.



Lora Kelsey plays a towering Red Queen….                   

Of course, no Vegas show would be complete without some aerial work. Newest cast member Michael Radiff  brings his acrobatic talents to ALICE by way of Royal Caribbean Productions and the legendary Folies Bergere.



As the artistic Gods would have it, cast members who go down the rabbit hole with ALICE are very gifted in other areas, too. Make-up artist Adolfo Barreto, choreographer Ryan Kelsey and costume designer Jeffrey DeBarathy have all contributed their expertise to make A Steampunk Concert Fantasy worthy of a residency on the Strip.

A regular residency could prove difficult, though, as most of the cast are committed to other ongoing productions. For instance, Ryan Kelsey is in Chippendales and DeBarathy and cast-mate Leopardi also ghoul out and strip down each night for Zombie Burlesque. And of course there’s the issue of Alice herself, played by Martinez…already in two nightly shows.


    The Chippendales prowl the hedge with the Chesire Cat (Jeffrey DeBarathy)…                 

With a bigger budget and some epic sets, ALICE could easily be the newest breakout hit in Vegas. But until that time comes, consider making the trek to Red Rock Resort. Put on your mad hat and join the Cheshire Cat and crew for some tea at ALICE: A Steampunk Concert Fantasy.

ALICE performs select Mondays inside Rocks Lounge at Red Rock Casino. Pre-show at 9pm, performance begins at 10pm. Click here for dates and details. 


Photos and video by Sammasseur







Hold On To The Memories with Richard Marx


Satisfied: Only The Hits at Flamingo exceeds expectations and then some…

After a recent teaser performance for Richard Marx‘s upcoming stint at Flamingo, it was clear that record-setting chart-topper was about to embark on an impressive series of shows. While only performing a handful of songs that evening, the 80’s heartthrob was in top form, looking fantastic, sounding even better…and eager to entertain Sin City crowds.

Last Tuesday’s official premiere of the new mini-residency solidified my suspicions that SATISFIED: Only The Hits would be pure gold from beginning to end. What I didn’t expect was to be caught up in a tidal wave of memories, laughter, charming banter and even a few teary-eyed moments.

Richard Marx
August 15, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Audiences might be surprised that Marx has chosen to perform his songbook in a somewhat stripped-down fashion, using only acoustic guitar, piano and a string section for accompaniment. That decision gives his flawless voice a chance to really shine, bringing an intimacy to the lyrics that might otherwise have been overlooked…or taken for granted.

After an video montage highlighted by media appearances and celebrity testimonials, Marx entered the stage, lit from behind and in a swirl of fog. Standing between two barely-open curtains, he belted out a haunting Endless Summer Nights (from the self-titled 1987 debut album).

Richard Marx

The curtains then opened to reveal a string quartet of elegant young ladies. With them, Marx revisited his career chronologically from the very first singles. Photographs of album covers like Repeat Offender and Rush Street lit up the video screens as memories flowed over his audience. In between, Richard joked about that infamous mullet and some very 80’s outfits.

Richard Marx

While clothing and hairstyles have changed, those early songs continue to remain timeless and beautiful. A very packed house of celebrities and fans was encouraged to join him in a toast to the new Flamingo gig, which is scheduled to run through September 2nd (let’s hope for an extension).

Richard Marx

Marx eventually moved to the piano to perform songs he had written or co-written with and for other artists, like Grammy winner Dance With My Father (with the late Luthor Vandross), This I Promise You (N’SYNC) and Long Hot Summer (Keith Urban).

One highlight of the evening came when Richard’s three stunningly-handsome musician sons (Lucas, Brandon and Jesse) joined him by way of video for When You Loved Me (from the live album A Night Out With Friends). That dazzling song, the only one in the set not performed acoustically, marked a resurgence of Richard’s career in 2012…and gained him a new legion of fans.

     Highlights from opening night performance at Flamingo…

Marx recounted how fun it was to hear himself back on the radio along with the likes of Lady Gaga (“Other artists don’t care if they hear themselves on the radio but I’m like ‘Turn that #!@* up!”).

Richard Marx

After a brief break, the charismatic star returned for an encore starting with 1989’s Angelia. Marx began the set by disconnecting his mic and amplifiers, walking towards the edge of the stage and performing completely “unplugged”. That surprising move, one that this writer had never witnessed in a concert before, drew audience members to the edge of their seat, riveted to every note and phrase. That is, before the clapping began…

The Way She Loves Me and Right Here Waiting closed out the show, bringing the career of Richard Marx full circle and the audience to its feet. Most attendees had no doubt embraced the music of this iconic headliner in their youth. It was obviously a joy to have him back in their lives once more.

Richard Marx’s boyish pop-idol features may have been replaced by the chiseled cheekbones and knowing eyes of a seasoned professional. But it’s also the face of a man whose musical influences have prevailed throughout four turbulent decades. That he continues to sound contemporary in a dramatically different world is a testament to Richard Marx’s talent.

SATISFIED: Only The Hits is a truly remarkable night out with one of the masters of the era. Along with long-running Donny and Marie and the recently-completed Olivia Newton-John’s SUMMER NIGHTS residency, Flamingo has firmly established itself as a go-to destination for legendary performers. These artists continue to remain relevant…and more importantly….get to revisit their legacy at a new level of perfection.

SATISFIED: Only The Hits performs at the Donny and Marie Showroom on select dates through September 2nd at 7:30 pm. Tickets start at $59 plus taxes/fees and can be purchased by clicking here.  

Follow this link for discounted tickets through and use the following promo codes for additional savings:

$250 or more, enter SUMMER25 to get $25 off
$500 or more, enter SUMMER50 to get $50 off
$1,000 or more, enter SUMMER100 to get $100 off

Photos and video by Sammasseur, professional shots courtesy of Denise Truscello



SEX TIPS Brings “Queer Eye” Humor To Life

Off-Broadway sex farce is a bawdy good time…

Fans of Bravo’s Queer Eye were excited when Netflix recently announced a reboot of the lifestyle-advice series. Until its return, Vegas audiences can get their fix with a similarly-themed romp that recently debuted at Paris Hotel Casino.

Sex Tips For Straight Women

Sex Tips for Straight Women From A Gay Man is the lengthy title of the new production inside Anthony Cools Theater. The long-running off-Broadway hit, built around an actual self-help book of the same name, has been cleverly dressed up in Sin City appeal.

Sex Tips For Straight Women

Kendra Wilkinson (The Girls Next Door, Kendra On Top) stars as Robyn Brown, uptight moderator of a book forum known as Rendezvous with Alternative Authors of the Modern Era (RAAME, aka “ram me”). Ambitious Robyn, who may or may not have poisoned a superior to advance her career, discovers that the next scheduled book discussion will be on…you guessed it…”Sex Tips For Straight Women From A Gay Man”.

Sex Tips For Straight Women

Jai Rodriguez plays Dan Anderson, a fictionalized version of the book’s very gay author. Arriving on a breeze of fizzy flamboyance, Anderson refuses to participate in Robyn’s stuffy moderation methods. Fearing his exit will sabotage her promotion, Robyn pleads with him to return. Anderson agrees…as long as he’s allowed to loosen up her stuffy book readings. AND, he wants to prove the validity of his book’s advice.

Sex Tips For Straight Women

Luckily for Dan, he’s noticed that Robyn harbors a pent-up passion for Stefan, RAAME’s studly audio-video stagehand. He tempts Robyn to try out his sex techniques by using Stefan as bait. But first, he gives the librarian-styled moderator a “Queer Eye” make-over before the pair head out to a singles bar.

At this point, Dan recruits members of the audience to join the cast. One lucky guy becomes a recipient to Robyn’s homosexual-style pick-up techniques. Then Dan teaches a trio of  blindfolded ladies how to pleasure a man’s sexual organ…as “only a gay man can”.

Various props, a fruit juicer and a neon air cannon come into play as the lessons progress. As you might imagine, these outrageous sequences bring down the house with laughter.

Sex Tips For Straight Women

Along the way, Stefan agrees to assist Robyn’s lessons…for the sake of science, of course. He’s stripped down, stretched out, groped, massaged, licked and more. Incredibly attractive Chris Hodgson shines as linguistically-challenged Stefan, the lanky stud at the center of everyone’s desires. Hodgson, familiar to fans of Jubilee! and 50 Shades: The Musical Parody, is terrific and will have audience members of both genders swooning.

Jai Rodriguez is surprisingly charismatic in the role of Dan. His comic timing and improvisational skills make him a natural for the interactive sex farce. He is especially fun as “Pearl Necklace”, an elderly female alter-ego who shares a lifetime of conquests with the flabbergasted Robyn.

Playboy alumni Wilkinson is appealing but a little stiff as Robyn. While game, the performer could have benefited from a little more stage experience before taking on a headlining Vegas role. In fairness, the reality-TV star seemed to relax during the performance I attended (as a guest) as her own character transitioned from frumpy to liberated. Kendra arrives at her comfort zone during a striptease finale in Hodgson’s bulging arms.

With clever writing, three very attractive leads and blush-inducing humor, Sex Tips For Straight Women From A Gay Man should delight adult audiences of all sexual identities. It’s bright, bawdy fun and the perfect start to an evening on the town.

Sex Tips For Straight Women From A Gay Man runs through August 20th. The show performs 7pm nightly in the Anthony Cools Showroom (dark Wednesdays) with an additional 11pm show on Saturdays. Tickets start at $42 (plus taxes/fees) and can be ordered here. Groupon is currently offering an assortment of discounts on preferred seating and VIP meet/greets with the cast. Click here for details. Audience members must be 18 or over.

Photos: [Sammasseur, Levi Walker via Chris Hodgson Facebook]