‘James Michael – Redneck Comedy Magic’ is Rip-Roaring Fun

Laugh-a-minute show reopens this weekend at The STRAT…

You may have attended your share of stand-up comedy and magic acts. But raise your hand if you’ve seen a tattooed bad boy bodybuilder comedian who performs illusions while stripping off his shirt and donning a tutu. That’s exactly the kind of antics you can expect at James Michael’s Redneck Comedy Magic.

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“Sin City is about to get a whole lot trashier”. That’s what Mississippi native James Michael shouted before grabbing his cowboy hat, slipping on his boots and heading to The STRAT Hotel Casino for his Las Vegas residency. Now performing six nights a week at L.A. Comedy Club, the Redneck Magician will entertain you with sleight of hand, card tricks, and some risque rope maneuvers. He might even steal your beer if you happen to look away.

With so many magic acts in town, it’s tough to stand out from the crowd. Perhaps that’s why the blending of comedy and magic is proving to be so successful. As the long-running Mac King (at Harrah’s) and Mike Hammer (Fremont Street’s 4 Queens Casino) have demonstrated, there’s a hungry audience for illusions mixed with laughter. Redneck Comedy Magic ups the ante by stirring in plenty of randy humor from the kind of guy you’d want to have as your drinking buddy.

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James Michael may be relatively new to Sin City audiences, but he’s been spreading his brand of madcap madness around the world for quite some time. A fitness model and part-time tattoo artist, Michael has performed on cruise ships, corporate functions, television shows….and supposedly “UFO’s, prisons, strip clubs and a Chuck E. Cheese” if his bio is to be believed.

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You might expect such a big bruiser to be an intimidating presence while onstage, but Michael is quite the gentle pussycat. In fact, he’s been known to bust through the doors of his local fitness facility while proudly wearing a “Hello Kitty” backpack. And much like last year’s The Naked Magicians, this wild buckaroo seems to strip off a piece of clothing after every trick or two. All the better to solidify his plans for world domination via an “AARP Chippendales”-style production. “Is it getting hot in here, y’all?”

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Redneck Comedy Magic is one of this writer’s favorite adults-only comedy shows. Tickets start at only $39.95 for general admission.  And with the money you’ll save, you might want to share a round of drinks with the star. He loves to hang around for conversation and pictures after the show. Just pretend that you don’t notice the tutu…

Redneck comedy magic performs nightly at the L.A. Comedy club at The Strat hotel casino. Showtime is at 6pm. Click here for full schedule and details. 

 

‘Duo Transcend’ Poised to Electrify CELESTIA at The STRAT


TV talent show’s breakout stars add thrills and emotional heft to STRAT’s circus extravaganza…

transcend –

1: to be greater, better, or stronger than

2: to go beyond the limit of

3. to triumph over the negative or restrictive aspects of 

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The Las Vegas Strip is a beacon for fledgling performers hoping to succeed in the entertainment industry. One young couple known as Duo Transcend has longed for the applause of a captivated Vegas audience. Now that dream is about to come true under the Big Top of CELESTIA, Sin City’s newest, boldest and brightest circus-themed extravaganza.

‘Celestia’ Comes to Earth By Way of the Vegas Strip

When you perform for a nationwide television audience under the name “Duo Transcend”, you’ve already set the bar pretty high. Fortunately for viewers of America’s Got Talent, the husband and wife team of Mary Wolfe and Tyce Nielsen delivered sexy thrills and heart-stopping chills that brought down the house.

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Much like CELESTIA, The STRAT‘s award-winning production that they recently joined, the duo’s story is fraught with determination, wonder, and a passion to entertain. It’s also one of overcoming near-impossible odds in the face of a debilitating medical condition – one that threatened to permanently end their career.

The couple began their collaboration at a stunt show in Salt Lake City. Performing together for the first time, they fell in love and decided to create their own solo project. The result was a jaw-dropping trapeze and skating act that catapulted Duo Transcend to fame on America’s Got Talent…and most recently, its global face-off known as AGT: The Champions.

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Due to quarantine restrictions, I was unable to meet with Duo Transcend in person for this article. Through email, Mary had this to say about their origins:

We began our performance career as cliff divers in a stunt show. That’s where we met and decided to put a duo act together so that we could stay together and not have to take separate contracts.

In the first year, we lived on saved money so that we could focus on training. In 2013 we were hired for our first trapeze contract and since then, performing has been our only job. We slowly worked our way into companies and were able to support ourselves one hundred percent by performing.

Despite all of the planning that went into their career path, one variable was completely out of their hands. Tyce suffers from keratoconus, a progressive eye disease that affects the corneas. With their skills dependent upon precision and timing, Duo Transcend faced the very real possibility of having to withdraw from show business.

A medical procedure called cross-linking can often help victims of the disease, but for Tyce, that option appeared to be out of the question.

When I first met Tyce, the doctors in Utah said that his corneas were too thin to get cross-linking done. We were told the only option would be to get a cornea transplant, maybe in his 40’s or 50’s depending on how it progressed. Tyce’s older brother and younger sister also have keratoconus. We don’t know why. – Mary

The decision was made to continue performing, and eventually, the duo became three with the birth of son Jaxx. Being new parents was challenging enough, but a life on the road made it especially tough. So the couple aligned with the venerable Cirque du Soleil, who provided flexibility for them and their young progeny.

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It was hard to leave Jaxx home so much. Luckily we have a supportive family who we could leave Jaxx with. Sometimes we could take him with us, like when we would do gigs with Cirque (du Soleil). For a lot of gigs, it was just too expensive to fly him with us. We have performed with Cirque Du Soleil since 2017 in their special event traveling shows. They were very accommodating to have Jaxx with us. – Mary

Duo Transcend then decided to take their next big leap of faith by auditioning for America’s Got Talent. The star-making competition has been at the forefront of new Vegas acts for over a decade. Headliners like Terry Fator, Shin Lim, and Mat Franco all have AGT to thank for their successful residencies on the Strip. And while the series has launched numerous careers into the stratosphere, it’s also an intimidating option that opens you to criticism…and the potential for crushing disappointment.

The decision to try out for America’s Got Talent wasn’t an easy one:

Auditioning on TV is a huge gamble. Circus people like us have already been training and working professionally for years, then go on TV with little stage practice time and have a judge hate you. Art is subjective. Some people will like you, some won’t, and having that happen on TV can be devastating for an artist. – Mary

Those fears were never realized, though, as Duo Transcend‘s audition brought three of the AGT judges to their feet. Throughout the competition, they continued to up their game, captivating voters and the panel week after week. Despite numerous standing ovations, the couple didn’t win but was invited to return this year for AGT: The Champions. This time they placed second overall, then unveiled their plans to join CELESTIA in Las Vegas just a few weeks later.

  Don’t have weights? Use your partner! 😂 Hope you all are staying safe. – Duo Transcend

Once again, fate has intervened. After only a handful of performances, CELESTIA and all other productions in Las Vegas have been shut down amid COVID-19 coronavirus quarantine precautions. Mary tells me that they are using their free time to stay in shape and help others in doing the same.

Right now during the shutdown we have been focusing on creating at-home workouts for our social media followers.

Here Mary and Tyce get physical with “Contortion Sisters“, who are currently laid off from Cirque du Soleil. The Nielsens have been sharing their home with the acrobatic siblings during the pandemic. They’ve also been posting regular updates on their social media pages and YouTube, offering hope and positive thoughts for fans and other out-of-work performers.

Since their national television exposure, something incredible has happened regarding Tyce’s eye condition. He credits AGT with getting him the help that he desperately needed:

When we first auditioned, it wasn’t of a question of “if” I would go blind…but “when”. Because of AGT, we had one of the most successful eye surgeons in the country reach out to us personally. And he was able to do a procedure where he stopped the progression of the disease. So, I will no longer go completely blind. Now there’s a future that looks completely different, and I would have never known if it wasn’t for AGT. – Tyce via AGT

It’s clear that when Las Vegas reopens for business, it will be a very different place. Expensive shows will undoubtedly need to scale back (some are likely to disappear altogether). Very serious financial troubles for Cirque du Soleil were hinting at possible closures for at least a few of their Vegas shows even before the virus outbreak.

Fortunately for fans of CELESTIA, the production presents a large-scale spectacle at an extremely friendly price (tickets start at only $29 plus taxes/fees). Plus it’s financially supported by host hotel The STRAT, which is rare in the current “four-wall” climate (see my article HERE to learn more on that subject). In the current economic crisis, that offers job security that bodes well for the cast and crew.

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This year we were super happy to get a job offer with CELESTIA. We had been wanting to settle down in one place. We love touring but now that Jaxx is getting older we want him to be able to go to preschool and make friends. We’re thankful for the journey that AGT has brought us and thankful for all of you.  – Mary Wolf

Photos: Duo Transcend, CELESTIA, Sam Novak, America’s Got Talent screencaps via YouTube

‘Quarantine Fitness’ With Sin City Celebs


Vegas performers and influencers share their tips for staying healthy while at home….

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A strong body and clear mind both aid in warding off infection. They also help in reducing stress during these tenuous times, Nobody knows for certain how long the quarantine will last, but when restrictions are lifted, the stars of the Strip will need to be in top shape and ready for their first night back.

Vegas locals work hard to make your Vegas visit something worth treasuring. And just like you, they’re facing a lockdown that has not only put them out of work but confined their activities to the home. Spouses MaKenzie Fly (Sex Tips) and Colin Cahill (Atomic Saloon Show) have been working overtime to entertain everyone via their new page Mak and the Cheese. It’s packed with wit, skits and original songs to make you laugh. Here’s a sample:

Some have been sharing their tips to stay in peak physical condition, and you can join them in their quest for optimal health. Whether you’re limited to household objects and portable resistance bands or have a full gym set-up on your patio…get out there, use it and be safe.

                  Hunter Hobbs with a special message for Vegas Unfiltered readers…    

 

Muscle Up!

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The world-famous hardbodies of Chippendales male revue were some of the first on the scene with online fitness tips. Profile recipient Ryan Worley (CEO of BodyKink.com) caught the eye of TMZ for a pair of video tutorials that launched the Chippendales series. Using everyday objects like almond-milk jugs, pillows, and staircases, Worley demonstrates how to tighten your glutes and build upper-body strength.

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Aided by Justin Timberlake’s “SexyBack”, towering hardbody Pat Tanksi shows how he stays limber and flexible. His handsome canine companion “Geno” donned a trademark collar and bowtie to join his dad for a set of slinky moves.  You can expect more helpful videos from the men of Chippendales in the days ahead. Be sure to see the guys in person when Chippendales – The Las Vegas Show returns. The tentative opening date is April 18th, and popular guest host Vinny Guadagnino (Jersey Shores) rejoins the cast starting April 24th.

Le Reve – The Dream at Wynn boasts a cast of 60 gorgeous guys and girls. They’re a stunning collection of athletes that dive, flip, sail through the air and dance on water. Muscular lead performer Alexander Stabler is known for his graceful movements, strong legs and world-class gluteal development. Here he keeps “dat ass” firm by performing squats in a driveway, using his partner in place of a squat rack. There’s also a breakdown of Alexander’s cross-fit plan, with weight provided by stone-filled backpacks.

The erotic side of Cirque du Soleil comes to life in ZUMANITY at New York NY. Longtime cast member Wayne Skivington (read his Vegas Unfiltered profile HERE) stays in top condition year-round, whether at the theatre’s training room or in his own home. Here he works up a sweat in the back yard, pounding a sledgehammer onto some concrete.

Westgate‘s Soul of Motown features a five-member cast with lush vocals and nonstop dancing. During the production’s hiatus, vocalist Brandon Godfrey has been featuring his “Quarantine Fitness” regime on Facebook. Regular physical activity keeps his body as tight as the show’s gorgeous harmonies.

Jennifer Romas shares the Westgate Cabaret with Soul of Motown‘s cast. Her successful SEXXY has performed hundreds of shows in the gorgeous space. The production’s creator and star continues to rehearse and will be ready to excite audiences when the doors reopen.

“Men of Sapphire” offers a masculine take on the traditional stripper club bump-and-grind. Their billboards feature Roberto Alejandro Granados, an absurdly handsome accomplished dancer who’s been involved in large-scale productions like Jeff TimmonsMEN OF THE STRIP and Chippendales offshoot 53X.

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Here, Roberto demonstrates how to keep your abs tight, using the Dual Ab Roller, an easy to use piece of equipment that’s readily available at Amazon.com for under $12. Click HERE to order.

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Gunnar Walcavich is a real live “Ivan Drago”. Much like the mountain of muscle from Rocky IV and Creed II, Gunnar aka “The Big Gun” is a boxer of Russian descent. He’s also six feet four inch of power, energy and drive. But unlike the villainous character made famous by actor Dolph Lundgren, this resident of Henderson is kind, caring and funny!

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Now an NFPT-accredited personal trainer, Gunnar hosts online fitness sessions. However, he prefers the one-on-one approach, where he can focus on the “personal” aspects of personal training. He’ll even do personalized visits in your home. Once an overweight young man with a goal to go “from zero to hero”, he’s transformed his own body and can do the same for you.

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Here’s what Gunnar has to say about fitness in regards to the COVID-19 situation:

During the pandemic, I know money‘s been tight for people so I’ve been accommodating rates for everyone. They started out at $35 a session, but because of the pandemic I’ve been doing $20 a session. The sessions last anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes and create a very intense HIIT (high intensity interval training).

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Whether you’re just starting out or looking to up your game, personal training opens new doors to health, confidence and inner peace. To learn more or arrange an appointment, text Gunnar Walcavich at 608-622-5945 or send an email to walcavich.gunnar4@gmail.com.

All In The Family

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We’re always wishing to have more time with our families. Now that it’s here, you can make the most of the situation by having your loved ones join in on your workouts. Adam D. Tucker aka “Vegas McGraw” was recently featured in my Hot Guys of Vegas column. His spot-on impersonation of Tim McGraw draws in fans from around the country. But it’s Adam’s bulging arms and gleaming pecs that earned him a spot in the segment.

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Here, Adam uses his son Beau for added weight in a garage workout that’s as fun as it is effective.

 

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Parent/child routines are a great way to establish habits that will last a lifetime. Of course, heading out to the sidewalk for some biking (or a stroll with the wagon) are perfect photo opportunities, too. So enjoy the eye candy and take to the streets (or the yard) to burn off those unwanted calories. Just remember to observe social distancing guidelines to protect yourself and your neighbors.

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Musician Haini Wolfgramm is one of the founding members of The JETS, the phenomenal pop group from Tonga that swept the world. The JETS – The ’80s & ’90s Experience is an awesome concert event that you’ll want to enjoy over and over…once it returns to Planet Hollywood‘s V Theater, that is (read my full review HERE).

Haini is a fitness enthusiast who seemingly spends as much time at the gym as he does behind his guitar. Keeping those biceps pumped to the max has become a family experience, thanks to a backyard gym that’s getting everyone into shape and keeping them happy until the quarantine is lifted.

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Wayne Skivington gets a special mention in the “family” category, too.  Young son Rowan is quickly following in his father’s footsteps with an athletic prowess that would make teenagers and grown men envious. Follow the Skivington’s father/son workouts on Instagram by clicking HERE.

We are all in this together. Let’s use this time to disconnect from society but reconnect at home. I’m going to be posting some in-home workouts ideas to do with your children. Have fun, it will mean more to them than you might think.

– Wayne Skivington

When a city is overflowing with professional entertainers, it’s not surprising that those who cover the scene can hold their own, too. Greenspun Media publisher Jamal Parker and gorgeous wife Mackenzie Marshall Parker (The Doll Factory) show how the family gets loose with this splendid TikTok dance:

Alberto del Campo is a longtime Sin City resident who’s performed in huge acrobatic productions like Le Reve, KA and now The Beatles LOVE. His two boys Alex and Zach have inherited dad’s athleticism. They’re also members of the LOVE cast.

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Here, Alberto gathers his sons along with wife Genevieve for a fun roller-skate workout that they like to do poolside. You might find it to be a bit of a challenge, but for the energetic Del Campos, this is just another day. of fitness fun.

If you’re a newbie to roller blades or could use some help with brushing up on the basics, fear not. The magnetic and talented Del Campo boys have launched their own YouTube channel. Here’s one of their tutorials:

Dance As If Nobody’s Watching

Sure, the beach clubs are dried up for now and the nightspots have gone dark. But when ya gotta dance, ya gotta dance. Party people have been taking to their back yards, front yards, driveways, patios…and even the streets…in order to shake their groove thang.

Endia Abrante of ShowgirlArrivals.com is been streamlining her diet and using an E-Stim ab belt to keep things nice and tight for when the clubs reopen. Recently the entrepreneur/deejay/aerialist/duck rancher strapped on some rollerblades and donned a unicorn-themed onesie to blow off some steam.

Later came the glowsticks and a neon party costume to throw a solo virtual rave. Fortunately, her best friend Dusty Demetria was there to document the invitation-only affair. If you haven’t followed Endia’s outrageous Facebook page, you’re really missing out.

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Bad boy Kris Davis is one of those guys who does what he wants when he wants to do it, and the name of the game is “fun”. The beefy host at Golden Nugget‘s Troy Liquor Bar was bitten by the dance bug a long time ago.

A veteran of Vegas male revues, Davis continues to move and groove whenever the mood hits him. A crowded market, the heart of the casino floor, or even the top level of a parking garage…when this big boy wants to dance, feel free to join him. Otherwise, get the heck out of the way.

Relentlessly funny magician James Michael aka the Redneck Magician has been posting a series of videos from his parking lot. No doubt the neighbors enjoy watching his antics from behind the protective glass of their windows. And you can catch his roller-disco antics by visiting his Facebook page. Then check out his show when Redneck Comedy Magic returns to The STRAT.

Remote-Access Class Action

 

Sexy celebrities like THOR’s Chris Hemsworth have been sharing online tips and virtual classes to get your body into superhero condition. In the spirit of giving, most of them are free.

Hi there all, during this period of self isolation and uncertainty, I am offering six weeks of my health and fitness program @Centrfit for FREE! Go to centr.com and sign-up.
Centr was founded to make health and happiness accessible to all, and I hope that this will make that access even easier during the current global health crisis.
I think now more than ever is when we need to focus on what I believe to be the 3 key pillars to living healthier and happier- movement, nutrition, and mental fitness.

– Chris Hemsworth

Here in Sin City, we’ve got several heroic figures who are donating their time, sharing their talents and generously giving you the shirt off their backs.

Pole-fitness enthusiast Alberto Del Campo (see above) was also featured in my Hot Guys of Vegas column. Since the COVID-19 quarantine went into effect, he’s been offering free online pole fitness classes via his Instagram page. Click HERE to follow Alberto and get in on the action.

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Regular attendees to the annual Mr. Olympia Fitness Expo are sure to recognize entrepreneur Tim McComsey.  The registered dietician/trainer has been uploading Social Distancing workouts on his YouTube channel. He also offers virtual workouts through Zoom, Skype and FaceTime. Follow this link to visit Tim’s Facebook page and send him a personal message. Sign up for one of his TrymFIT programs, tell Tim that Vegas Unfiltered sent you and you’ll get extra supplements perks!

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Dancer/actor George Blick (Sex Tips, Aussie Heat) is a rhinestone cowboy of sorts. The big-city hunk has a little bit of country in him, as he’s an award-winning line dancer. George is gearing up to present a live line-dance class soon. Visit George’s Facebook page to keep posted on when the next one will take place.

You might remember this profile article I wrote on Teresa Van – Trainer to the Stars. Teresa is offering online training courses (for a fee) along with free videos that you call follow along at home. Click HERE to view Teresa’s online information and get started right away.

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                      Makenzie Fly and Colin Cahill are “Mak and the Cheese”…

Makenzie Fly is a respected performer and also a skilled instructor of yoga. Husband Colin Cahill filled me in on what they’re up to in the days ahead:

Kenzie’s teaching live yoga class Monday on Instagram (click here for her page), and probably Facebook too if we can figure out how to stream both simultaneously. When it comes to our exercise for this it’s been primarily bodyweight workouts in the living room, running stairs in our apartment, yoga, and lifting heavy foods from the fridge to our faces. I’ve got those resistance bands you posted about a while back shipping to us currently.

But honestly, it’s been a huge struggle to try to stay active. I’ve definitely been putting on the poundage this past week so we started hitting the workouts hard this week. Our new song “Quarantine 15” more accurately represents our fitness journey since the shutdown.

Makenzie also has a YouTube channel to help you get started in the world of yoga. Here’s the intro to her video series:

For all people curious about yoga! This channel is meant to be a no-excuses platform. Got 5 minutes? Let’s practice. It’s not meant to be perfect. Don’t think, just do. Anytime, any place!

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Until very recently, MaKenzie shared the Sex Tips stage with handsome “Hot Guys of Vegas” recipient Shyllon Melatti (read his Vegas Unfiltered profile right HERE). While the actor/singer/dancer/model prepares for a juicy new role (I’m sworn to secrecy) he and his partner have used the quarantine downtime to raise an adorable rescue kitten named “Merlot”.

And while being a pet parent can be physically exhausting at times, it takes more than a sprinkle of catnip to keep Shyllon’s stunning torso in check. You can find out how he does it by joining a live workout on Instagram. The session takes place Saturday 4/11 at 9am PST. The full-boy workout requires no equipment and is free. Click HERE to participate.

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Be sure to keep plenty of water and a towel handy, because “Master Melatti” knows how to make you sweat.

The stunning acrobatic couple of Mary Wolfe and Tyce Nielsen is professionally known as Duo Transcend. The America’s Got Talent favorites had just signed on to join CELESTIA at The STRAT when COVID-19 rolled into town, shutting down every show on the Strip.

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While waiting to finally live their dream of a Vegas gig, Duo Transcend has been hard at work on…working out. They’re teaching live classes via the ZOOM app and have posted 30-minute no-equipment workouts that you can access right here:

If you or any of your Vegas friends are offering online fitness tips or classes, send an email to Sam@VegasUnfiltered.blog and I’ll be sure to update this article with the information. Be smart, be safe, and be strong. 

 

 

 

EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE NEW ‘CELESTIA’ STAR VIP EXPERIENCE


Cosmic circus production invites guests to be a part of the show…

CLICK HERE TO READ THIS ARTICLE VIA THE AWESOME BESTOFVEGAS.COM WEBSITE…

BestOfVegasIn today’s era of heightened reality, the world of entertainment continues to become more immersive. From 3-D movies to interactive video games, audiences yearn to be a part of the action. Now The STRAT Hotel Casino invites you to ascend to the cosmos of CELESTIA with ‘VIP Star Experience’.

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CELESTIA fondly harkens back to the days of pure circus artistry that many of us grew up with. Live music, death-defying acts, dazzling lighting and a large cast of international talent come together under a glorious Big Top that is unlike anything Las Vegas has ever seen. The interior of the tent is awash in astral projections that transport the audience beyond the planets and to the furthest reaches of the galaxy.

                                         CELESTIA is appropriate for all ages…

Star VIP Experience allows up to eight guests at a time to witness the magic of CELESTIA right on stage with the performers. You will feel the heat as flaming batons fill the starry sky and gasp in awe as acrobats sail through the air, mere inches from your seat. Surrounded by musicians, dancers, aerialists, and contortionists, you’ll be drawn into the show in a way never before possible.

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The journey of CELESTIA‘s characters culminates in the Wheel of Death, a massive spinning structure on which two daredevils run, jump, skip rope and flip. As a VIP Star, you’ll feel the rush of air as the Wheel of Death spins faster and faster. Your seats will rumble from the shockwave created by the giant device, and your heart will skip a few beats as you witness this amazing climax closer than ever before.

CELESTIA‘s new VIP Star Experience is more than an artist’s-eye view of the performance. As a participant, you’ll be welcomed into the Big Top through a dedicated entrance, where you’ll receive a commemorative laminate, hot fresh popcorn, and a cocktail or beverage. Members of the cast will greet you before the show begins and personally escort you to your onstage vantage point for 70 minutes of award-winning excitement.

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Individual photo opportunities wrap up the Experience, including onstage pics with artists in front of the famed Wheel of Death. Then you’ll receive a tote bag filled with CELESTIA merchandise before returning to the Earth-bound confines of your everyday world.

Since opening, CELESTIA has set itself apart from its Vegas counterparts in numerous ways. The Big Top’s north-Strip location makes CELESTIA a unique gateway to the city’s Arts District. Late last year, the show’s outdoor courtyard began hosting Artists’ Square, a weekend showcase provided free-of-charge to local artists. Performance pieces and stationary exhibits will greet visitors each Friday, Saturday and Sunday evening.

Every Friday and Sunday at 4pm, CELESTIA hosts an Open House inside their 30,000 square foot tent. Also complimentary, these 30-minute forums give new visitors and returning fans alike the rare opportunity to meet performers and learn what it takes to be a part of the circus. You can witness their challenging training techniques and enjoy awe-inspiring demonstrations of their amazing skills.

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                 CELESTIA is perfect for groups of friends. Tickets start at only $29…

CELESTIA performs Wednesday through Sunday at 7pm with an additional 9pm performance on select weekend nights. The show is appropriate for all ages. Click HERE to order tickets through BestOfVegas.com. 

Photos: Sam Novak, Bobby Watson, CELESTIA via Facebook

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Remarkable Double Life of CELESTIA’s Roman Mokrenko


Ukrainian aerialist’s gravity-defying career path will astound you…

Click HERE to read via BestOfVegas.com…

UPDATE: Roman has left CELESTIA and is now a swing at Atomic Saloon Show. Read about Roman and the other hot guys in the cast by following this link.

Sometimes the pressure of our daily routine makes us say “I just want to run away and join the circus”. But have you ever known someone who actually has? Well, meet a man who ditched his white-collar career for a chance at Sin City’s newest big tent spectacular.

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Roman Mokrenko is a 29-year-old Ukrainian from the port city of Odessa. Known as the “Pearl of the Black Sea”, Odessa boasts amazing architecture and a renowned Opera and Ballet Theater. The natural beauty of the Ukraine is as much a part of Roman as his love for physical arts. A longtime athlete, he studied acrobatics before pursuing a career in law. While attending the National University Odessa Law Academy, he simultaneously became a Junior Lieutenant in Military School. 

Being both a lawyer and a military officer didn’t extinguish Roman’s desire to accomplish something artistic:

One moment I just realized that this office life is not for me. I cannot live without a “scene”. Thank God I have a background in acrobatics and artistic gymnastics…I almost never stop training. There is too much energy in my head and body that I have to “splash” somewhere.

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If you’re going to make a splash, what better pool than the Las Vegas entertainment scene? There are countless productions here that incorporate aerialists, gymnasts, acrobats and contortionists. So when Roman discovered a casting call for the new circus-style show CELESTIA at The STRAT, he decided to take the plunge.

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I applied for the casting without much hope. Here you can see the best artists of the world. I thought it was impossible, but now I’m here! This is my favorite part of life in Las Vegas. I have seen almost every show.

Roman arrived in Las Vegas on Valentine’s Day 2018. You might say that this was the beginning of a love affair with Sin City’s desert. Although he misses life by the sea, the excitement of performing in Vegas has allowed Roman to reach new heights. He just had to learn how to deal with the scorching climate.

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Air conditioning saves us from extreme heat. But sometimes when I have practice in the afternoon it just helps to warm up and train without a shirt. On stage, the artist must look divine. Not for nothing that I train every day and stay on these diets. If you have something to show off, then why not?

He may joke about flaunting his chiseled abs, but Roman’s physique has landed him several modeling gigs…some of them a bit unusual.

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I was a sketch model several times in New York City when the show was being revised. People sit in circles, have drinks and make sketches while you’re almost naked. I’ve had several shoots with photographers…one was for a foot fetish site, haha!

That Ukrainian sense of humor comes through in Roman’s character work for CELESTIA, but it’s his physical abilities that stand out. He hopes that audiences will be inspired by his feats and channel that into their own fitness journey.

We’re on our phones all the time, but we can do it with some “profit”. Keeping in shape is much easier than going in and out of form. For ordinary people (not performers), 30 minutes a day will be enough. Just walk on a treadmill and watch a movie or play a game.  

When not entertaining crowds, Roman still finds himself in the company of fellow artists. After a massage and hearty breakfast at Omelet House, he heads to a very unique school:

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I like Nevada Rhythmic Academy. It’s a place where I can train, invent new acts, meet artists from other shows and try something new together. There is a real aura of the gym in which I grew up.

Mokrenko is considering buying a home here in Las Vegas, but there are a few dreams overseas yet to realize:

One day I’d like to be live on a stage with Ludovico Einaudi, Max Richter, Olafur Arnalds or Hans Zimmer. They are my favorites. And I want to perform with Nederlands Dans Theater. It will be an amazing mix between ballet and aerial performance…like dancing in the air!

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CELESTIA performs Wednesday through Sunday at 7 p.m. with additional 9 p.m. shows Friday through Sunday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The SAHARA Is Back – But Is It Too Late?


The iconic hotel gets yet another chance after the SLS debacle…

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The Sahara Hotel was one of the first casino resorts I stayed at when the Vegas love affair began. This was back in 2005, just when the landmark property was about to plummet to its lowest depths. Once a legendary destination, Sahara had become a place of despair. That being said, it still had its purpose as a value destination for those on a budget.

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In 2007, Sam Nazarian and Stockbridge Real Estate Group purchased the Sahara…and quickly ran it into the ground. My final stay in the summer of 2009 was so awful that I vowed it would be my last. Exposed electrical wiring, broken lamps, cigarette burns in the carpeting and furniture, golf ball-sized hole in the shower stall, broken bed frame, filthy casino restrooms….well, you get the idea.

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Nazarian locked the Sahara’s doors on May 16th, 2011, taping up a handwritten sign as his final farewell. To those of us who knew what he’d done to the place, this served more as a threat than a beacon of hope:

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When the property’s liquidation sale was announced, I flew in from Oregon to attend. We bargain-hunters and nostalgia-seekers were escorted onto the property in controlled groups, required to listen to a presentation before being unleashed to go exploring. Our guide told us that the hotel would eventually be re-opening under the name “SLS”. The fellow next to me said “S.O.S.? What kind of name is that for a hotel?”. If he only knew how prescient his question was…

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SLS Las Vegas opened three years and three months later. I was one of the first guests to check in on opening day….and just about everything went awry. No elevators in the parking garage, malfunctioning elevators in the hotel towers, being assigned a room that was already occupied, problems with the TV and more. Of course, all of these things were growing pains and could be easily forgiven for a newly-opened establishment.

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What couldn’t be overlooked was that the concept of turning a rundown north-Strip relic into an expensive knockoff of a Los Angeles hit was a fool’s errand. Nazarian and team had entertained the idea that LA residents would come to Vegas to experience what they already had at home. They packed the SLS with not one but SEVEN Hollywood-based Fred Segal shops, taking up every retail outlet within the resort. Within a year, they were all gone.

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Some things vanished even quicker that the Segal stores. An excellent new second-floor buffet was shuttered after only three months. LA-based Griddle Cafe lasted an entire five months before pulling out. Foxtail Nightclub was quickly shut down and LIFE Nightclub was gutted/converted into The Foundation Room (allowing for Foxtail’s pool club to reopen at night).

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The musical chairs within the building were shuffled as frequently as the execs in the boardroom. SLS Las Vegas was, without a doubt, a resounding flop from every perspective. All because it tried to be something it wasn’t and deliver something the city never needed.

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What Sahara really needed was another chance to be the Sahara again. Refreshed, revitalized, reborn as “The New Sahara”, perhaps….but NOT re-branded into an expensive luxury destination built on a rickety old foundation. The little nods to Sahara’s past had been peppered into the SLS decor, but this was essentially lip service to people like me…those who continue to embrace Sin City’s past.

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But the Sahara’s soul had been ripped out along with the theme, camels and that unforgettable neon porte cochere. It was replaced by bare concrete and a nearly-colorless, white/grey/black palette with bare ceilings, exposed duct work and a bar that looked like a boardroom full of monkeys. An artistic representation of reality, perhaps?

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Last week’s announcement that current owners Meruelo Group would be restoring the Sahara name was met with great fanfare (Scott Roeben’s VitalVegas.com readers knew quite awhile ago that this was in the works). It’s the hottest topic on Vegas message boards, Facebook pages and blogs like mine right now, so there’s interest in the old property after all.

Mostly everyone seems to like what’s been happening at the old/new Sahara. Meruelo has re-acquired a tower that had been taken over by W Hotels. They’ve restored full in-house operations and are putting a reported $100 million or more into additional renovations, much of them to address the despised flaws in the SLS room redesigns. Even the Casbar Lounge is back in a modern incarnation!

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             Sahara owner Alex Meruelo and wife Liset and name-reveal gala…

The company’s founder Alex Meruelo had this to say last week about the property’s future:

The SAHARA played an important role in the evolution of the destination. And, we are now responsible for shaping a new narrative. We are writing the next chapter in the city’s evolution, for the love of Vegas.
We are committed to delivering an intimate, unexpected and memorable visit for our guests. We want people who stay with us to say, ‘My God what an experience!’ because experience leads to memories. And, that’s what we want to create, memories and experiences you won’t forget.
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                                               Casbar Lounge then…
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                           …and now…(photo by Scott Roeben, Vital Vegas)
You can watch a video of the announcement by clicking here. The press release went on to say:
Alex Meruelo’s debut comes at a time when there are few sole proprietors left along the Las Vegas Strip. As a life-long entrepreneur with a track record of business success, Meruelo expressed his commitment to continual improvement and investment in SAHARA Las Vegas ensuring the resort remains both timeless yet modern so that guests will want to return time and time again.

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So yes, there’s plenty to be excited about The Sahara’s return. All signs point towards things being done correctly this time. But is it too late to matter? That depends on the final product and where it fits into the 2019 market.

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    World Tower room at SLS. Super-boring, oddly arranged, claustrophobic…

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                               New color scheme on current Story Tower room…

I have no problem in admitting that, just because of the name, I’m much more inclined to book or recommend a hotel called “Sahara” than “SLS”. After all, there is a major road and several current businesses in the area that are named after it. Sahara IS Vegas…it evokes the desert, a rich history and promises of an experience that “SLS” (that nonsensical clump of letters) never could.

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Many of us have complained about the removal of themes from Strip resorts. Then we lost our cool when office-bland City Center bleached out any hope of their restoration in the future. So if Sahara dares to restore its past Moroccan motif, even just a little, we owe it to Meruelo Group to support their audacity and daring.

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It’s reassuring to know that the new owners have already done a great job of returning Reno’s Grand Sierra Resort to relevancy. They’ve wisely appealed to a variety of guests from the frugal to the elite, managing to modernize that hotel/casino while acknowledging its rich 41-year history. That’s exactly what The Sahara needed to do all along.

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There are plenty of reasons to give the new Sahara a try. Resorts World and The Strat are drawing much-needed attention to those few blocks of the Strip. Sahara has its own monorail station, tying with Westgate for the most accessible of any stop on the line. Vital Vegas broke the news that foodie-favorite Bazaar Meats will remain and get expanded. He also reported they’re gaining an established resident production (the nauseating-yet-inexplicably-popular Magic Mike Live) that is sure to draw traffic back into the resort.

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So let’s hope that Meruelo Group continues their current audacious path for The Sahara. They’ve been running reduced booking rates, “No Resort Fee” and “Half-off Resort Fee” specials since taking over, have maintained free parking, attracted a variety of hip comedians and made the casino layout more appealing.

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With the right mixture of value, service and dining/entertainment/gaming offerings, The Sahara could become a standout destination that the current Las Vegas is sorely lacking…a fun affordable Sin City resort worth returning to over and over.

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Sahara fans are invited to witness its rebirth and transformation via a newly-launched website. Follow the excitement and sign up for updates by clicking here

Photos: Sam Novak, Greg C., SLS/Sahara, Vital Vegas, KVVU-TV, Pinterest, The Publicity Lab, Denise Truscello

 

 

‘Celestia’ Comes to Earth By Way of the Vegas Strip


New astral-themed production opens at the STRAT…

Anticipation’s been as high as the massive tent erected on its behalf. An announced January premiere came and went, as did competing tent show Fuerza Bruta. But after many delays and hoopla galore, CELESTIA has finally come to Earth…and landed on the Las Vegas Strip.

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CELESTIA is the first large-scale entertainment offering under the STRAT’s new ownership and name. As the iconic hotel casino continues its evolution from Stratosphere into a decidedly more hip and relevant offering, CELESTIA has become an inadvertent keystone of their new image and business model. Naturally, a lot hinges on its success.

Last week’s official premiere was flashy and epic in scope. Celebrities like BMX pro Ricardo Laguna and entertainers from all over the city enjoyed signature cocktails and delicious bites at a pre-show reception. Then guests grabbed boxes of popcorn before heading into the main tent.

The cavernous performance space, which is beautifully landscaped on the exterior, looks even larger thanks to colorful motion projections of the cosmos. Stars twinkle in every direction and colorful astral bodies spin and glow. The stage is arranged proscenium-style, an unusual departure from the typical circus-in-the-round.

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But CELESTIA is more than the traditional three-ring spectaculars of your childhood memories. As a live band pumps out the arresting opening number, a large international cast appears from all directions. Still more plunge downward from unseen platforms, filling the air and stage with wonder.

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A threadbare premise follows central character “Celestia”, a star who’s taken the physical form of a young woman. Hoping to learn about artistry and human emotions, Celestia journeys through our world accompanied by a pair of comical sidekicks. Of course, this story line is just an excuse to present a variety of colorful and jaw-dropping acts.

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The fledgling production is beautifully mounted with snappy pacing, memorable costumes and a very attractive athletic cast. Contortionists, aerial artists, archers and knife-throwing wizards fill every square foot of the wide, neon-lit stage. Performers run through the aisles and leap onto platforms scattered throughout the audience, making for great photo-ops along the way (the show is flash-free picture-friendly).

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Fans of The Greatest Showman will enjoy seeing Russian Bar athletes The Sandou Trio. America’s Got Talent finalists Sergey and Sascha bring their stunning head-to-head balancing act to Vegas crowds as well. A spectacular sequence on the Wheel of Death will have you alternately hiding your eyes and raising your voice with cheers. Mounted of a massive scale, this finale rivals anything Cirque du Soleil can offer.

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Speaking of Cirque, you may wonder where CELESTIA fits into an already crowded entertainment landscape. Click here to continue reading… 

Photos: CELESTIA, Sam Novak