Chestnuts, Snowfall and Stars: ‘A VEGAS ROOM CHRISTMAS’ Cast Revealed

A powerhouse roster promises the brightest holiday event of the season…


Last week I shared the exciting news that The Vegas Room would be producing a month-long salute to the sights, sounds and flavors of Irving Berlin’s “WHITE CHRISTMAS”. In our current state of shutdowns…along with the latest blow of Broadway being shuttered until mid-2021…an announcement of this magnitude was most welcome.

The dream team that’s been assembled for A Vegas Room Christmas is nothing short of amazing. Entertainment Director Brent Barrett (Chicago, Annie Get Your Gun, Kiss Me, Kate), Stage Director Eric Jordan Young (BAZ, Cocktail Cabaret) and Musical Director Keith Thompson (Jesus Christ Superstar, Hairspray, We Will Rock You) have decades of experience and thousands of performances to draw on. So with everyone that A Vegas Room Christmas already has in place, the production was sure to attract an incredible line-up of singers and dancers. And indeed it has. 

In a follow-up meeting with the creative team this weekend, I was able to get an advance peek at the official cast announcement, along with the performance schedule of each player. As mentioned in the previous article, A Vegas Room Christmas will feature four rotating casts of top-caliber artists. 

Anne Martinez Can’t Slow Down To Be “The Next Big Thing”

Anne Martinez – The crimson-haired goddess known as Anne Martinez has been a personal favorite of mine for many years. I became acquainted with Anne when she joined the cast of BAZ at Palazzo, taking on the Moulin Rouge role of “Satine” made famous by Nicole Kidman. A long list of Vegas productions includes World’s Greatest Rock Show, Showstoppers, FANTASYZombie Burlesque and her own remarkable creation Alice: A Steampunk Concert Fantasy

Anne and husband John Martinez (Cirque du Soleil’s “O”) are very active in the community, especially when it comes to animal charities and rescue. She fronts the band Red Penny Arcade which can currently be seen at The Venetian and downtown’s NOTORIETY LIVE. Click here for my profile on Ms. Martinez from 2017. 

Sam Holder – If I’m going to comment on the glamour of the ladies in this cast, then it’s only fair to point out the “heartthrob status” of Sam Holder. The square-jawed, broad-shouldered Mississippi native is poised to set hearts aflutter at The Vegas Room with his matinee-idol looks and sexy swagger.

Equally at home performing classic rock, Motown-era standards and sultry jazz, Mr. Holder combines pop sensibilities and wit with the classic stylings of Sin City’s Golden Era. Sam’s powerful showmanship comes through even when his tongue is firmly planted in his cheek. I’m eager to see what the rugged hunk has in store for White Christmas roles made famous by Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye.

Amanda King – There’s a reason why visitors to The Vegas Room return time and again for Amanda King. The vibrant songstress from Indiana always has something new for devoted fans…and a dazzling showcase for those discovering Ms. King for the very first time.

A classically-trained actor and singer, Ms. King wraps her arms tightly around the “Great American Songbook”, embracing the works of pioneers like Sophie Tucker, Eartha Kitt and Lena Horne. This month, the glamorous chanteuse debuted an ambitious two-part salute to legends of the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s at The Vegas Room.

Randal Keith – If vocals could be harnessed for energy, the powerful voice of Randal Keith would light up every neon sign and LED screen on the Strip. At the age of 13, Randal’s unique timbre was already striking, and he continues to astound audiences today. A favorite at The Vegas Room, Mr. Keith has performed two weekend showcases there and continues to draw in dedicated fans.

Mr. Keith spent several years on Broadway and on tour with iconic roles in Les Miserables, Spamalot, Man of La Mancha and Sunset Boulevard. Currently residing in Las Vegas, the handsome star delighted Sin City audiences with roles in Phantom – The Vegas Spectacular, BAZ, Marilyn, and Showstoppers.

Lisa Marie – Sexy, sassy, modern and classy…all words to describe the sultry Lisa Marie. Like our other red-tressed beauty Anne Martinez, Ms. Marie also graced the Palazzo stage for BAZ. Before that, her retro-chic persona was perfectly featured in the long-running musical Pin-Up at Stratosphere.

When not performing at Bellagio‘s Mayfair Supper Club, Lisa Marie spends some of her rare free time in the recording studio. Her songs are available on iTunes, YouTube, and Spotify. She’s also a staple at Kenny Davidsen‘s Bowtie Cabaret and numerous charitable events at The Space

Bernie Blanks – “Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in.” – Michael Corleone, The Godfather III

Bernie Blanks might have convinced himself at some point that he’d left show business behind. After a long run in the legendary Starlight Express, Mr. Blanks became involved in numerous productions before undertaking a career in healthcare and aesthetic medicine. Of course, the call of the stage becomes louder once you’ve married back into the business. 

On Labor Day Weekend, the husband of The Vegas Room‘s Entertainment Director Brent Barrett joined his spouse onstage for “Islands In the Stream”, a personal evening of duets and reflection. Mr. Barrett referred to their show as “Sonny and Cher…but with two men. And since I’m taller, guess who gets to play Cher?”.

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The happy couple will team up once more for A Vegas Room Christmas. This writer can’t help but wonder if either of these gentlemen plans to take on Rosemary Clooney or Vera-Ellen…that would definitely put an  uproarious twist on White Christmas. You’ll have to order your tickets early to find out. 

Next week I’ll tell you about the rest of the Vegas Room Christmas cast, including Michelle Johnson, Ruby Lewis, Luke Striffler and dancers Ben Tucker and Emma McGirr. With luck, there might be some behind-the-scenes photos on the way…

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


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

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

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

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

Very Likely To Return –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Say Farewell –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Cirque du Soleil 

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

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

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

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Hanging In The Balance/Probably Safe –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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