Blue Man Group – Fresh and Vibrant as Ever


Guest author Kristopher Kidd of discount ticketing site VegasFool.com grabs the reins for a review of the latest iteration of a long-running favorite…

If you’ve been visiting Las Vegas for any amount of time, there is no doubt that the colorful Blue Man Group have at least piqued your interest. Their Las Vegas journey began years ago at Luxor, followed by a move to Venetian, then Monte Carlo and now back again to Luxor.

Being one of the longest-running shows in the city is quite the accomplishment. Having seen the show before (and blown away), I was wondering if the Blue men had anything new up their sleeves. I was not disappointed.

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From the Blue Man-themed box office to the paper streamers before the show, we already knew we were about to experience something unique and fun. With so many new and re-imagined acts, it felt like I was seeing something familiar yet also somehow new.

The smoke drums are now one of my favorite parts of BMG. You’ll even be treated to the Big Drum, which is only found in the Las Vegas version of the show (Blue Man Group performs in New York, Chicago, Boston, Orlando, and Berlin as well).

Have no fear, many of your favorite Blue Man moments are still a part of the show. This includes catching marshmallows in their mouths from across the stage, the drum-bone, embarrassing late arrivals and the iconic paint drums.

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Yes, Blue Man is still loud, still hilarious, still in your face, and still the masters of sound using unconventional items for instruments. Who knew that three blue men with no ears could be such brilliant musicians?

On top of being a visual comedy concert, Blue Man also makes you think. They are better philosophers than they get credit for. Staying culturally relevant by exposing our obsession with smartphones gives the audience a chance to remind themselves to live in the moment.

The atrium-level theater at Luxor is one of the coziest you will find. With the show being so massive and the theater being so well laid out, you will literally feel the vibrations of the PVC pipe percussion.  If you’re brave enough to grab seats up front, parts of the show might land in your lap…in the form of paint and Twinkies.

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Don’t worry, ponchos are provided for those sitting in the appropriately named ‘poncho’ seats. Even sitting in the second half of the theater, you will still likely be within a few feet of a Blue Man at some point in the show. The interaction and audience involvement is all part of the fun.

Las Vegas shows sometimes struggle at simultaneously being entertaining for kids, teens, and adults. It’s hard for a show to appeal to all ages, but Blue Man Group is entertaining for everyone. It’s worth belaboring the point that it’s wildly entertaining even if your group consists of only adults.

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What’s so brilliant about BMG is their ability to entertain in many ways. It’s not just funny. It’s not just musical. It’s not just visual…it’s all of the above. You could even say it’s physically exhausting, not just for the performers, but for the audience.

Keeping up with so much activity at once is quite the accomplishment, so much so that you may be tempted to see the production again for anything you may have missed. From start to finish, the guys in blue will keep you entertained and engaged. The end of the show is as unexpected and hysterical as ever.

Blue Man Group is way too much fun!

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Blue Man Group performs nightly at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. at Luxor Hotel Casino. Tickets can be purchased here. Deals for all other Las Vegas shows can be found by clicking here. The author of this article can be reached via email at KKidd@vegasfool.com

Photos: Blue Man Group, Kristopher Kidd

SOUNDTRACK Brings Alive The Songs Of Your Life


Legends Clint Holmes and Earl Turner are the heart and soul of a superlative collaboration…

Earl Turner and Clint Holmes, the stars of Westgate’s new SOUNDTRACK production, amusingly carry with them a condition I call “Danny Gans Syndrome“. That is, they’re very well-loved by Vegas audiences but virtually unknown elsewhere. That’s unfortunate, as talent is…and should always be…universally recognized.

Clint Holmes Earl Turner Soundtrack

             Clint Holmes (left) and Earl Turner light up the Westgate stage…

Yet Turner and Holmes continue to prosper and thrive on Vegas stages. The two friends have performed separately for many years and are mutual fans of one another. As Clint tells the story “When arriving in Vegas back in 2000, I did what every performer does…I asked “Whose show should I see?”. Everyone told me about Earl Turner…and they were right. He’s terrific”.

These days you’re just as likely to see Earl in the audience for Clint’s solo performances as vice versa. But when these two collaborate for an ongoing series of concerts at Westgate’s International Theater, it’s the fans who will be rejoicing.

Clint Holmes Earl Turner Soundtrack

SOUNDTRACK offers a familiar premise – cover versions of songs you know and love…and what they mean for memorable events in your lives and theirs. The target demographic is mainly folks forty and over, yet the gentleman do justice to current hits as well. It’s a well-rounded collection of favorites sure to please every generation.

Much of the fun of this anthology comes from not knowing what’s next, so I’ll try not to spoil things by pounding out a track list. Just know that artists as diverse as Bobby Darin, Stevie Wonder, Prince, Ed Sheeran and The Beatles get the SOUNDTRACK treatment, all done in the inimitable styles of the two leads.

Much like Human Nature JUKEBOX at Venetian, SOUNDTRACK bounces through the decades somewhat randomly, adding to the sense of spontaneity that makes productions like this such a joy. Between the songs are humorous anecdotes that convey a warmth these two have clearly shared through the years…both onstage and off.

Clint Holmes Earl Turner Soundtrack

                                                             Serena Henry…

Holmes and Turner fittingly open SOUNDTRACK with “The Boys Are Back In Town”. But this is far from an all-guys night at the theater. Talented back-up singer Serena Henry comes front and center….and owns the stage with a set of classic songs made famous by other female vocalists. It’s almost disappointing when Serena steps back out of the spotlight. Expect to hear lots more from Ms. Henry in the future.

Both stars also have their own moments alone onstage. Clint demonstrates the way he learned to be funky from his African-American father (his mom was a “proper British white woman”, he tells us). Earl shares his evolution from country tunes to a spot-on James Brown impersonation that will have you on your feet and holding your sides with laughter. They come back together for a scatting session that will leave you breathless.

Clint Holmes Earl Turner Soundtrack

                                                            Earl Turner…

The eight-piece band led by musical director Christian Tamburr is as attractive as it is talented. Standout saxophonist Rocco Barbato brings a huge slice of “sexy” to several solo moments including a vocal/instrumental jam session with Holmes.

Clint Holmes Earl Turner Soundtrack

                                                           Rocco Barbato…

The large International Showroom stage, once home to the likes of Elvis Presley, Barbara Streisand and the returning Barry Manilow, is nicely utilized with simple but effective sets. Lighting, sound and visuals are all what you’d expect from such a well-known venue. Costuming is pretty basic with the band in black suits and the gentleman in shiny pants and sparkly blazers. Ms. Henry dazzles in a series of flattering ensembles.

Clint Holmes Earl Turner Soundtrack

One thing that I’m personally pleased to see is a minimum of sing-alongs and “I can’t hear you!” moments. Those live-performance cliches are so overused…and quite frankly need to be retired. If I wanted karaoke I’d go to Ellis Island Brewery, so thank you SOUNDTRACK for sparing us many of the cornball audience-participation segments.

With Holmes and Turner both having busy solo schedules, the dates for SOUNDTRACK are somewhat limited. A next round of performances will begin July 5th and a full schedule of upcoming shows is available here.

Be sure to stake out a future date and mark this show down on your list of Vegas “musts”. SOUNDTRACK is one memorable playlist that should not be missed.

Clint Holmes Earl Turner Soundtrack

SOUNDTRACK performs on select dates at 7 pm inside Westgate International Showroom. Tickets start at $48 (plus taxes/fees) and are available here. Travelzoo is running a special for seats starting at $24 by following this link.

Photos: Sammasseur, Clint Holmes, Serena Henry, Rocco Barbato, Westgate Las Vegas

Video clip courtesy of Curtis Haines, Next Level Media and Entertainment

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MAGIC OF JEN KRAMER Is Delightful, Frothy Fun


Award-winning illusionist brings laughter, surprises and boundless charm to Westgate’s Cabaret Theater…

P.T. Barnum has one of the most memorable legacies in entertainment history. His recent resurgence in popularity, thanks to “The Greatest Showman“, reminds us that despite decades of change in entertainment culture, the master of deception had universal ideas:

“The noblest art is that of making others happy”. – P.T. Barnum

In the world of magic shows, there is an extremely familiar collection of illusions that most entertainers fall back on: card tricks, disappearing/reappearing, nail-biting escapes, “mind reading”, audience predictions and the classic saw-a-lady-in-half are all favorites. What makes or breaks these acts is how they are presented….and whether or not the entertainer is indeed a great showman. Or in this case, show person.

Much has been made in other media about the disproportionate amount of male magicians. I won’t belabor the point other than to say that it’s refreshing to see a lovely young lady front and center as the headliner of a magic show. And Jen Kramer has certainly earned her place on a Las Vegas stage.

Magic of Jen Kramer

Already familiar to fans of television shows like Masters of Illusions and Penn and Teller: Fool Us, Ms. Kramer has risen quickly through the ranks of the magical boys club. Think of her as a “Hermoine Granger” to David Goldrake‘s “Harry Potter”. Despite a young age (she graduated from Yale University in 2014), Jen’s already received honors such as the Merlin Award and Female Magician of the Year 2016 by the International Magicians Society.

Ms. Kramer kicked off her new residency at Westgate Las Vegas just last week. I attended on the second evening of what might be considered a soft opening. Despite a couple of minor technical gaffes, it was a fast-moving and altogether enjoyable 70 minutes. The intimate Westgate Cabaret is the ideal location for Jen’s illusions, many of which rely on detailed sleight of hand.

Magic of Jen Kramer

What Magic of Jen Kramer lacks in large production values is made up for with plenty of comedy, audience participation and charm. Kramer brims with enthusiasm for her craft, drawing the audience into her prestidigitation with a magnetism that Criss Angel could only hope to match.

Kramer’s ability to engage her guests is quite noteworthy. I immediately fell for this young performer, despite know nothing about her background or achievements. What followed that evening was indeed a collection of tried-and-true favorites, but delivered with a next-generation spin.

Magic of Jen Kramer

While the show could actually use some theatrical bombast, it’s off to a solid start. I’ll avoid describing individual illusions (nobody likes review spoilers, anyway). Instead, lets boast about the fact that Jen was able to pull off the near-impossible by stunning me with a few tricks that I’d never seen before (the Rubik’s Cube is still haunting me). That in itself makes this production worthy of the admission price.

The family-friendly show is suitable for all ages and an early start time makes it a perfect pairing for dinner at one of Westgate‘s adjacent restaurants (yes, that’s a blatant plug since I’m a known fan of their dining offerings).

Magic of Jen Kramer

Surprise me once and you can consider me a fan. Do it twice and I’ll call you amazing. Jen Kramer astounded me numerous times in her new residency. So I guess you can label me a “groupie”. Being a fan of Vegas magic acts, that can be considered high praise.

Magic of Jen Kramer performs Wednesday through Saturday at 6pm. Tickets start at $19.99 (plus taxes/fees) and can be ordered here or purchased at the Westgate Box Office. 

Photos: Jen Kramer, Westgate Las Vegas, Beckett Studios, Sammasseur

 

 

 

Spiegelworld’s OPIUM is a Space Voyage from Uranus (sorry) to your Heart


Absinthe’s new cousin is the schlocky 70’s sci-fi variety show that never was….

Imagine that you’re scanning the channels and come across TV Land, the cable network specializing in beloved 60’s and 70’s programs. They’re airing a weird science-fiction variety show that you don’t remember at all…and you can’t look away.

Opium Spiegelworld Cosmopolitan

The wacky neon-and-spandex-clad passengers and crew of the starship OPIUM are headed towards Earth. For some reason they perform musical and acrobatic acts when not doing naughty things on and with each other. No, it’s not an episode of The Twilight Zone or the super-bizarre Brady Bunch Variety Hour (yes, that was really a thing!). It’s Spiegelworld’s OPIUM…and the ship of fools has landed at Cosmopolitan.

Opium Spiegelworld Cosmopolitan

OPIUM takes over the space once occupied by Vegas Nocturne, another Spiegelworld creation. That lamented masterpiece of hysteria now lives on through OPIUM, which infuses the spirit of Vegas Nocturne with a psychedelic vibe all its own.

Opium Spiegelworld Cosmopolitan

An ethereal mood is instantly established when you enter through Rose.Rabbit.Lie‘s ring of mysterious doors and head for the bar. The lounge is bathed in pink and purple neon tubes and 70’s kitsch like lava lamps and portable televisions (who didn’t have one of those?) line the walls. There, under a shower of electronic bleeps and Moog synthesizer music, you can peruse a 3D menu of specialty cocktails via an authentic View-Master reel.

Opium Spiegelworld Cosmopolitan

Comparisons to Absinthe will be unavoidable, but as my guest at a recent performance noted, OPIUM is the exact opposite of the nearby production. While that long-running hit at Caesars is back-to-back acts of world-class quality, OPIUM deliberately revels in its own awfulness. It’s pure camp and overacting on an epic scale.

Opium Spiegelworld Cosmopolitan

It would be unfair to give away the plot or tell you too much about the characters. They’re pure delight and half the joy is in discovering them. Instead I’ll focus on some of the variety segments, which don’t all achieve the stellar heights of Absinthe but soar on their own plane of existence.

Opium Spiegelworld Cosmopolitan

Opium Spiegelworld Cosmopolitan

“Dusty Moonboots” is the songbird of Starship Opium’s crew. She (or he…I can’t be totally certain) belts out ballads and pop numbers with aplomb, sporting an outlandish series of costumes that seem re-purposed from a roadshow version of Priscilla – Queen of the Desert.

Opium Spiegelworld Cosmopolitan

Vegas Nocturne returning performer Brett Loudermilk is unrecognizable as the ship’s resident sword swallower. His risque oral act is exactly what you might be thinking. Armed with a suitcase full of swords of varying shapes and sizes (along with a rather large “personal item”), Brett’s stunts will shock, nauseate and have you holding your aching sides from the laughter.

Opium Spiegelworld Cosmopolitan

The ship’s all-purpose handyman “Scottie” seems determined to fly his inner rainbow flag through the solar system. Armed with dozens of bright pink hula hoops and streamers trailing behind his go-go shorts, the chubby crew member amazes with his balance, flexibility and grace.

Opium Spiegelworld Cosmopolitan

By far my favorite sequence involved America’s Got Talent duo Christian Stoinev and Scooby. The hunky shirtless young strongman and his faithful chihuahua are so entertaining that they alone are worth the ticket price. This video clip from the performance I attended is a real treat:

Despite the seeming randomness of OPIUM’s concept, it really is cohesive…and surprisingly touching. There’s a story arc, character development, audience interaction and some pretty kick-ass music from a live band. If you’re a Freddy Mercury fan, you’ll love the Queen sing-alongs that form a framework of universal love and acceptance.

Opium Spiegelworld Cosmopolitan

OPIUM’s goal is to amuse, titillate, revolt, befuddle and entertain. Most of all, it’s about delivering the unexpected. On that OPIUM succeeds beyond your imagination. It might not reach the heights of either of its Spiegelworld relatives, but OPIUM is one schlocky sci-fi tale that deserves to run for at least a five-year mission. William Shatner would be proud.

Opium Spiegelworld Cosmopolitan

OPIUM performs nightly (except Tuesdays) at Cosmopolitan Las Vegas. Ticket are available online or at the OPIUM box office on the second level. Click here for show schedule and times. Discounts of 25% on select seats are available courtesy of our friend at VegasFool by clicking here

 

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”.

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                         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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

VegasFool.com 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.

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

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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

 

 

 

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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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HUGO (2011)                       

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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    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. 

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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 Vegas.com 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]