BALLET 120 presents ‘The Nutcracker Suite’ For Today’s World


innovative Dance Troupe Re-imagines The Holiday Classic for a New Generation

This year has been unquestionably devastating to live entertainment. Sadly, things just took another grim turn. Nevada’s Governor Sisolak has announced an extension of the state’s three week “pause” into mid-January of next year. Say farewell to another round of shows, jobs, businesses and more.

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As we continue to adjust, some entertainers have turned to virtual performances to keep their craft alive. Ballet hasn’t necessarily been one of the fortunate genres. In the midst of worldwide chaos, this style of dance has been all but forgotten by some. But a troupe of talented, young performers who call themselves BALLET 120 isn’t about to let their beloved dance form fade away. 

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Vegas entertainers across the city have described to me how the pandemic has motivated them to become more innovative, prolific artists. BALLET 120 was formed three years ago, long before COVID-19 impacted our daily lives. Yet their group seems to have been affected by the same phenomenon.

The guiding force behind BALLET 120 is Benjamin Tucker. You might remember Tucker from this cast announcement of A VEGAS ROOM CHRISTMAS. He and fiance Emma McGirr, both from Nevada Ballet Theater, have been delighting guests all through December as they spin, dip and sail throughout the intimate dinner theater.

“We have shorter attention spans these days” says Tucker. “And people tend to think of ballet as being ‘stuffy’. They have images in their mind of tutus and pointe shoes. There’s often an emotional detachment between the performers and the audience, so ballet has had a hard time remaining relevant in the 21st century. BALLET 120 hopes to change all of that.”

Short self-made dance videos became a rage during the pandemic. But while COVID-weary people were creating “TikTok” clips and “Instagram Reels” to lift their spirits, BALLET 120 had already adopted these platforms as a legitimate extension of their art.

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A delicate caress. Meaningful gazes. Sweeping camera movements that capture every subtlety. Glorious outdoor settings and contemporary clothing. These are some of the relatable elements that BALLET 120 uses to draw their audience into the world of ballet. And it appears to be working fabulously. BALLET 120 continues to grow, explore new avenues and inject familiar properties with a dazzling dose of immediacy.

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During any “normal” Christmas season, Tucker and McGirr would be filling concert halls with fans eager to see their annual The Nutcracker Suite performance. But this year’s holiday season plays by a different set of rules. So BALLET 120 has given the classic a contemporary twist. 

Even if COVID-19 hadn’t canceled holiday performances from coast to coast, chances are that BALLET 120 would have eventually sprinkled their fairy dust on The Nutcracker Suite. But fans of the troupe won’t have to wait, as three new installments of the cleverly-named BALLET12020 Nutcracker have already hit the internet.

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The first, entitled “How the Grinch Stole Nutcracker”, is awash in color and beauty. Click this link to view it in its entirety. It’s followed by “Have You Heard The Tea?” and “Dancing In The Coffee Grounds”. 

The final entry “Put A Little Peppermint in Your Step” was released on December 22nd.

“2020 has been weird. So we will be bringing you “Ballet12020 Nutcracker” videos that are a little different than you might be expecting.” – BALLET 120

Saying that the past several months have been “weird” might be putting things mildly. The events of 2020 will undoubtedly echo through our lives for years to come. And BALLET 120 will continue to be a powerful force, inspiring change and forever influencing our view of the arts. 

To learn about BALLET 120 and view their creations, head to the BALLET 120 website, visit them via Instagram, or “like” them on Facebook

 

Hot Guys of Vegas: Studs of Song


Harvesting a Crop of New Music from The Sexiest Men of the Season…

Earlier this year, I interviewed a number of artists regarding the pandemic shutdown…and how it affected their creativity. 98 Degrees hunk Jeff Timmons found comfort in technological advances which allowed him to write, record, and network from the safety of home. Of course, he also doubled down on workouts to relieve stress and keep those famous muscles ready for the return of live shows.

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Ever-smiling Vin A. transformed into a Tasmanian devil of activity during the shutdown. Simultaneously recording at least two albums, the musical director and breakout star of The Bronx Wanderers teamed up with father Vinny Adinolfi to form VINdemic, a father-son musical duo. And he may have shot a few music videos and done a whole lotta other stuff, too (I’ve lost track).

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This month, Vin and close pal Jimmy Denning (Tenors of Rock) launched Vin & Jimmy’s DOWNTOWN HOOTENANNY, a monthly showcase at NOTORIETY. The sold-out crowd was physically spaced, and safety protocols were carefully observed.

Uproarious, irreverent and full of guest stars, HOOTENANY was a welcome return to the fun times we desperately need.  You’ll want to reserve your tickets as soon as December’s date is announced. Click here to be notified of upcoming events at NOTORIETY.

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Many local celebrities lent their talents to Downtown HOOTENANNY, but among them, only Colin Cahill has graced the virtual pages of HOT GUYS OF VEGAS at least twice. The ATOMIC SALOON SHOW star is best known for performing shirtless wherever he goes. Once the pandemic hit, he stopped revealing that fabulous body due to what he and wife Makenzie Fly call “The Quarantine Fifteen”.

After eight long months of hiding, Cahill finally caved to requests and undid some shirt buttons for “Under Pressure” with Jimmy Denning. Three nights later, the hunk was back in the spotlight for the debut of ORIGINAL CHAOS.

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The band, consisting of Cahill, drummer Tim Sorbs, vocalist Dai Richards and guitarist Chris Cicchino (both from Tenors of Rock) took over Harrah’s Carnival Court for a fabulous first night of their weekly Saturday residency. Fans, friends, and celebs turned out to support the boys. As fate would have it, they were preceded that evening by a lengthy set from the tireless VINDemic. Click here to follow ORIGINAL CHAOS on Instagram.

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Several years ago on New Year’s Eve, I met the cast of a new Planet Hollywood show called PIANO MAN (not to be confused with the one currently playing at MOSAIC Theater). Singer Brett Pruneau had come to Las Vegas just to join the cast. As luck would have it, he and I attended the same New Year’s Eve party that evening…and we’ve kept in touch ever since.

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Brett Pruneau

Brett remained in Sin City after PIANO MAN folded, joined the cast of world-famous JUBILEE, and made a name for himself in this crazy city. Sadly, a stress-related condition traumatized the singer’s vocal chords and threatened to end his career. Lots of therapy later, the former New Yorker is back, better than ever, and just released a stirring collection entitled “The Real Thing”.

Like many artists, Brett used the pandemic situation as an opportunity to create, grow, and share his emotions. That’s what “The Real Thing” is about. As he recently told The Hollywood Digest, “I choose to interpret music that fulfills me and enriches my soul. This particular project was born out of pure necessity, to be honest. Given the current climate of the world during the COVID-19 crisis, I couldn’t bare the thought of not having a creative outlet for this indefinite season we are in.”

In addition to getting his vocal chords back into shape, Brett began a fitness routine that he’s proudly showing off on social media. If that angelic face wasn’t enough for him to make HOT GUYS OF VEGAS (it is), Brett’s newly-chiseled physique would guarantee him a spot. Expect more great things from Brett Pruneau in the future. You can purchase “The Real Thing” collection here or listen to it via Spotify here.

Travis Cloer

If all the world is a stage, then super-talented Travis Cloer is its Emperor. There’s nothing that the super-popular actor/singer can’t do. Scheduled to return to The Vegas Room this weekend after a wildly-successful showcase in July, the supper club’s press release sums up Cloer this way:

From classic to jazz, musical theatre to rock-n-roll, and everything in between, there isn’t a genre of music that can escape Travis Cloer’s masterful ability to grab a song and make it his very own.

Among his credits are West Side Story, Damn Yankees, Starlight Express, and – most notably – his record-setting performance as Frankie Valli in Jersey Boys – with over 2,200 appearances around the world to his credit. This portrayal earned him several Best Actor nominations from BroadwayWorld.com and much acclaim and respect in Las Vegas and on Broadway. 

In addition to his artistic talents, the great-looking Cloer has an infectious energy that makes every song a party. His latest recording is “Holiday With Me”, a doo-wop ditty that you can’t get enough of. The song was written by Cloer and produced by Vegas headliner Frankie Moreno. After only one week in release, the song is rising up the charts and is sure to be a perennial favorite.

Photo by Sparky Lisa

You can order “Holiday With Me” by following this link. Then make your reservations to see Travis Cloer on November 27th and 28th at The Vegas Room by clicking here.

‘A VEGAS ROOM CHRISTMAS’ – An Updated Forecast


lastest news on the season’s cheeriest holiday dinner and show…

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It’s often said that in Las Vegas, the only constant is “change”. From entertainment offerings to the temperatures, you never know what to expect from week to week. And so it seems that the winds of change have shuffled the playbook at The Vegas Room. I’ve got the latest updates for fans and newbies alike.

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If you’re just tuning in, you can catch up with A VEGAS ROOM CHRISTMAS show announcement here, then cast bios here and here. As is the norm in the entertainment world, things tend to evolve during creative processes. And so it is that Eric Jordan Young, Brent Barrett, Bernie Blanks and Lisa Marie will no longer be appearing in A VEGAS ROOM CHRISTMAS.

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The announced cast of 20 performers has been revised with additional Las Vegas favorites. Each is a respected entertainer with their own legacy and fan base. Let’s take a look at the gentlemen who will now don stocking caps and mittens to celebrate Irving Berlin‘s WHITE CHRISTMAS:

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CARNELL JOHNSON – Familiar to thousands of Golden Knights fans…and people around the world…as “Mr. Golden Pipes”, Carnell Johnson unifies the nation regularly with his stirring rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner”. Born in Las Vegas, the gentle giant is known for entertaining enormous crowds at T-Mobile Arena and enhancing intimate moments as a singing gondolier at Venetian‘s GRAND CANAL.

A compassionate individual, Mr. Johnson regularly lends his time and talent to Ronald McDonald House and social equality movements.  He also participated in the MaskUpForNevada (#MaskUp4NV) campaign at the Welcome to Las Vegas sign that I covered in June. Carnell spent much of this summer doing small outdoor gigs, and is a professional actor and voice-over artist.

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Robert Hyatt

ROBERT HYATT – Who could ever guess that the gondolas floating on Venetian‘s canals could deliver so much talent. Such is the case with Oregonian Robert Hyatt. Like castmate Carnell Johnson, Hyatt also spent time on the fabled waters, serenading the city’s visitors in his own unique style.

Rob is just as skilled at music arranging as he is on the microphone. The husband and father is founder of the amazing Fifth Avenue jazz quartet, a managing member of E3 Digital Entertainment and was musical director/pianist for Riviera Hotel‘s long-running Barbra and Frank: The Concert That Never Was.

Ian Ward

IAN WARD – Regular readers of Vegas Unfiltered Blog know my admiration for California boy Ian Ward. Check out this profile piece to see what I mean. It’s rare to find such explosive talent in someone so young. Poised to detonate the national scene any day now, Ian had a featured showcase at The Vegas Room in August. Naturally, I attended every evening.

For the past three weeks, he and partner Ruby Lewis (who also appears in A VEGAS ROOM CHRISTMAS) presented a musical journey highlighting their ability to blend, harmonize and compliment one another. Here’s just one of the unforgettable moments:

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Ben Tucker

In addition to casting changes, dancer/choreographer Benjamin Tucker has taken on the role of Stage Director. Ben told me that he plans an immersive experience that will evoke the warmth of a holiday ski lodge. Guests will briefly leave Las Vegas behind and enter the world of White Christmas. Once you’ve enjoyed a bountiful Christmas-style dinner, The Vegas Room cast will commemorate the perennial movie classic via song and dance.

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Throughout December, guests of The Vegas Room will experience the fragrances and tastes of the season, too. Chef David James Robinson has crafted a glorious holiday menu to compliment and accompany the onstage presentation:

Savory Gingerbread with Vanilla Butter

Mini Lobster Quiche

Borscht with Sour Cream

Holiday Salad with Homemade Ranch Dressing

Roast Beef with Yorkshire Pudding or 

Turkey and Sage Dressing with Green Beans & Pomegranate or 

Roasted Acorn Squash with Sage Dressing and Sweet Potato Puree (vegan)

Egg Nog and Peppermint Shortbread Cookies

The Vegas Room Dessert That Snows!

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In preparation for upcoming festivities and to allow patrons to remain safely at home during increased COVID-19 concerns, The Vegas Room will be dark through November 26th (Thanksgiving). Shows will return on November 27th and 28th with dinner performances by Travis Cloer (Jersey Boys).

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Sunday brunch returns on Sunday, November 29th with international dazzler Nieve Malandra. Chef Robinson has prepared a multi-course brunch to accompany Nieve’s songs from Japan, Spain, Italy, France, and Portugal.

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A VEGAS ROOM CHRISTMAS launches its first of 20 performances on December 2nd. Join them for what is sure to become an annual holiday tradition. Click here for reservations to any performance at The Vegas Room.

The Vegas Room is located at 953 East Sahara Avenue E-18. Phone (725) 206-7059 for more information.

‘Stealing Chaplain’ – Las Vegas Indie Headed for the Big Screen

Locally-produced comedy benefits from sHortage of Hollywood theatrical releases…


“Keep digging. Otherwise the next grave we’re digging is our own”. So says ‘Cal’, a con man desperate to stay alive while embroiled in a daring Las Vegas scam. That’s the premise of STEALING CHAPLAIN, a brand-new comedy filmed on location in Sin City.

STEALING CHAPLAIN is an independent production that’s about to hit big screens across the country. It’s being released at a time when theater chains are starving for new titles. For local producer Ken Bressers of Dystopian Films, this came as a stroke of luck, one that he swiftly pounced upon.

After the relative failure of director Christopher Nolan’s expensive (and downright awful, IMHO) TENET on U.S. screens, tentpole features like Pixar’s SOUL, Disney’s MULAN remake, WONDER WOMAN 84 and the latest James Bond film have either been postponed or diverted to streaming services. As a result, chains like AMC, Cinemark and Regal have relied on running retro classic titles…or have shut down altogether.

“Knowing we’ve got a quality movie ready to deliver and that theaters are drying up, we approached several theater chains directly, and they loved the idea” said Bressers. “Beginning November 13, we will be opening in over a hundred movie theaters across six major chains, and we’re still in talks with several others.” Stealing Chaplain is currently in theatrical release in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Stealing Chaplin is a comic caper focused on two British con men who dig up and ransom the corpse of legendary comic actor Charlie Chaplin. It’s inspired by the true story of a pair of crooks actually exhuming and stealing the body of the silent comedy star. Ken oversaw a production also starring The Sopranos star Al Sapienza and The Patriot actor Peter Woodward.

Eagle-eyed viewers will recognize a number of local performers who are featured in Stealing Chaplain. It even includes a cameo appearance from “Mr. Las Vegas” himself, Wayne Newton. Dani Elizabeth, fiance of comedic magician Murray SawChuck, is the popular emcee of CRAZY GIRLS at Planet Hollywood. Handsome Brent Barret of PHANTOM – The Las Vegas Spectacular (and former entertainment director for THE VEGAS ROOM) is on hand, as is sultry Cheryl Prater, a frequent host and guest at ROCKING COMEDY SHOW with Jay Bird

  Cheryl Prater has been in numerous Vegas-centric films and TV series

It was at a Halloween day private screening of the 1984 classic Nightmare on Elm Street (hosted by Jay) that Cheryl Prater first told me the STEALING CHAPLAIN news. She was undoubtedly excited by the chance to reach a large-scale audience in her latest role. In a year filled with endless bad news, this was a solid reason for cast, crew and friends to celebrate.

Bressers echoed those sentiments: “If Charlie Chaplin taught us anything; it was that laughing in times of difficulty sometimes is the best medicine. In light of everything going on in the world at the moment, we are very pleased to be partnering with Cinemark Theatres, Marcus Theatres, Malco, Starlights, and more to deliver Stealing Chaplin to an audience in need of an escape!”

Escaping to movie theaters has long been a popular Las Vegas pastime. Fremont Street’s historic El Portal Theater, built in the 1920s, was the city’s very first air-conditioned structure. Casinos throughout the valley have multi-screen theaters under their roofs, and the West Wind 6 Drive-in is filled with hundreds of cars every evening.

Several local movie producers and directors have turned Las Vegas into their own private Hollywood. Directors Joe Lujan and brothers Sonny and Michael Mahal use local talent and locations for outrageous cult horror films like Art of the Dead, Bus Party to Hell and the Immortal Wars franchise. Along with Sharknado actress Tara Reid, their films feature handsome future stars like Mark Justice, Ben Stobber, and burlesque performer Ronnie Nanos.

Even Gregory Popovich of David Saxe‘s POPOVICH COMEDY PET THEATER got bit by the movie-making bug. His endearing “Popovich and the Voice of the Fabled American West” had an exclusive run at Brenden Theaters at The Palms Casino Hotel. So, it’s no surprise that Stealing Chaplain benefits from the talent of many Las Vegas entertainers.

With all of the new precautions that have been standardized to make your movie-going experience safe and enjoyable, there’s no better time to head out and experience a new film. Enjoy this trailer for STEALING CHAPLAIN and see it on theater screens beginning November 13th. Visit the official Facebook page for more information and showtimes. 

Chestnuts, Snowfall and Stars: ‘A Vegas Room Christmas Cast’ Pt. 2


Conclusion of my two-part look at casting the brightest event of the holiday season….


Remember that feeling you had as a child? All through the month of December you stared at the calendar, counting down the days until Christmas vacation. Then came the unbearable anticipation of the big morning under the tree, with all of gifts, hugs from family and friends…and of course, a fabulous meal.

Now that we’ve gotten older, those emotions tend to be forgotten. But this year, more than ever before, our inner child is longing for those feelings of joy, comfort, and celebration. The one place in Las Vegas that you’re sure to find them this holiday season is at The Vegas Room.

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If you’ve missed my previous articles on A Vegas Room Christmas, you can read them by clicking here and here. You’ll learn about this magnificent production and the fabulous brunch or dinner that accompanies each performance. But let’s continue with the remaining members of the stellar cast, picking up where we left off last week.

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                                                                      Ruby Lewis

RUBY LEWIS – Is it unfair of me to state in this section that Ruby Lewis is one of my favorite performers of all time? Probably….but there are really no words to describe my affection for this gifted young woman. No matter where she goes or what she’s doing, you’ll most likely see me in the audience.

In a city full of inflated egos and self-importance, only a performer as humble and genuine as Ruby Lewis would prepare a pre-show feast of home-cooked greens, black-eyed peas and ham for her fans. This is one southern gal whose mama raised her right (thanks, Eve).

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                 I had the honor of sharing the BAZ stage with Ms. Lewis for a day…

I first encountered Ms. Lewis when she came to Mandalay Bay for the brief initial run of BAZ. Ruby’s stunning vocals brought audiences to their feet through her portrayal of “Daisy Buchanan”, debutante and heartbroken soulmate of one “Jay Gatsby”. I challenge you to watch this clip without getting goosebumps…and some tears in your eyes.

After a stunning leap to Broadway, Ms. Lewis returned to BAZ at Palazzo, played the lead in Marilyn! The New Musical at Paris Hotel Casino and hosted her one-woman show at The Space. You can catch Ruby and partner Ian Ward when they grace The Vegas Room stage for three consecutive Thursdays beginning October 29th.

Luke Striffler

Luke Striffler – If Ruby Lewis is the star atop the Vegas Room Christmas tree, then actor/singer/comedian Luke Striffler is the holiday eggnog. Smooth and bright with great body and a little kick, this is one Christmas cocktail you’ll want to sip all season long.

Luke charmed audience at Fremont Street’s D Hotel Casino in the popular Friends: The Musical Parody. He’s also created excitement with roles in Hairspray, Avenue Q. and Forever Plaid. Although born Stateside, Luke’s career took hold when he moved to London, where he starred in the featurette The Morning After with husband Joshua Berg. Two of Luke’s biggest breakthroughs were a role in the famed EastEnders BBC series and a semi-final placing on Britain’s Got Talent as part of The Kingdom Tenors.

Sin City gained more than just another handsome face when the multi-talented activist returned to the U.S. Once the pandemic shut down all live entertainment, it was Luke who created Performers Outlet: Covid-19, a support group for entertainers. The initiative provides encouragement, ideas, and opportunities for artistic collaboration while weathering this seemingly endless pandemic.

Janien Valentine

Janien Valentine – You know that you’ve achieved “entertainment royalty” when you’ve been immortalized by artist Neal Portnoy. That’s why people around the Valley wake up to a cup of Janien Valentine every day. Janien was “Portnoyed” by the famed caricaturist artist, who created a line of fundraising products to assist out-of-work entertainers (learn more by clicking here).

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Ms. Valentine plants her boots firmly in a variety of musical periods. She can belt out today’s top hits, pay tribute to ballads of years past, then roar back in time to the Strip’s Golden Era. An all-around entertainer with incredible dynamic range, Janien blends the flavors of Ann-Margaret and Celine Dion with a sprinkle of Lola Falana and a dash of Tina Turner.

The native of East Amherst, NY is well-known to audiences through her work with The Scintas. She’s the principal vocalist of the musical trio Poperazzi, and you can drink in her scintillating energy at Bellagio‘s Mayfair Supper Club. Ms. Valentine returns this Christmas season to The Vegas Room after a splendid showcase in August. 

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                                                                 Michelle Johnson

Michelle Johnson – If the warm, fuzzy feelings of the holidays could take human form, I suspect they’d look a lot like Michelle Johnson. There’s something about the style, elegance, and comforting voice of the “First Lady of Jazz” that makes you want to reach for a brandy snifter and settle in by the fireplace for a crackling-good show.

The multi-award winner has graced Broadway stages, television screens and venues throughout Las Vegas. She’s collaborated with artists as varied as Barbra Streisand, Sheena Easton, Elton John, Clint Holmes, PM Dawn and Josh Groban. 

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For many, a Michelle Johnson performance is synonymous with the holiday season. That’s why her “Vintage Christmas” at The Smith Center quickly sold out last December. Alas, that amazing venue for the arts has been shuttered indefinitely due to the pandemic. Fortunately, fans can still get their Christmas fix of the starlet at The Vegas Room all through December.

A self-described “introvert” who confesses to wrestling with stage fright, the accomplished singer/songwriter/producer/author nevertheless exudes confidence and charisma with every pitch-perfect note. Ms. Johnson’s solo shows are teeming with  humorous anecdotes and honest reflection that somehow make her feel like an old friend. In other words, she’s exactly the kind of person that you’d want to spend the holidays with.

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Ben Tucker and Emma McGirr –

What’s a musical production without a pair of professional dancers? The Vegas Room has broadened their vision for “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas” with the addition of Emma McGirr and Ben Tucker. The real-life couple is part of Nevada Ballet Theatre, and have performed “The Nutcracker” both locally and for the Schrader Youth Ballet Company in Parkersburg, WV.

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Two years ago, McGirr and Tucker founded Ballet 120, an innovative dance company whose goal is to make the artform of dance accessible to larger audiences via social media platform. They do so by creating brief, innovative video performances like the one below.

Emma and Ben plan to marry on January 2nd of next year. A Vegas Room Christmas marks their first professional appearance at the venue.

Check back with Vegas Unfiltered Blog in the weeks ahead for more information on A Vegas Room Christmas, including community efforts related to the event. Follow this link for complete information on pricing, schedules and reservations. The Vegas Room is located at 953 East Sahara Avenue E-18 in the historic Commercial Center complex. 

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…

‘The Vegas Room’ Announces Month-Long Christmas Extravaganza

Twenty-part celebration of Peace On Earth To serve stellar musical productions and gorgeous holiday feasts…


One month ago I penned what would end up being the most troubling article I’d ever published. Drained by disturbing events of violence this spring and summer, I closed out this difficult piece with the following statement:

Vegas Unfiltered Blog will be taking an indefinite break. If and when there is a reason to put Sin City back on your to-do list, you might see this site return. Until then…stay safe, stay smart and be well.

In the ensuing four weeks, this writer has monitored all of those troubling incidents and trends on the blog’s corresponding Facebook page. Along the way, I’ve been hoping for something positive to report…anything uplifting enough to justify a return to the keyboard. And it happened this past Thursday after a trip to my beloved new hangout…The Vegas Room.

Since the pandemic caused a total shutdown of dedicated live entertainment, one venue has been a godsend. Glamorous The Vegas Room supper club has preserved and protected the heartbeat of Sin City for everyone to enjoy. All summer and into the fall, this tribute to the Golden Era has safely offered a healing cocktail of music, merriment, and delicious meals to a city split asunder by COVID-19. It’s been an amazing place to share with friends old and new.

Click here and here for my previous write-ups of this amazing destination. 

If it wasn’t for my regular visits to The Vegas Room, this entertainment addict might have gone completely bonkers (instead of just moderately imbalanced). And now that we’re heading into the holiday season, imagine my joy in learning that their team is about to fill the entire month of December with the sights, sounds, and flavors of Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas”!

During a return engagement by Eric Jordan Young (in a salute to Sammy Davis Jr.), I was asked by the proprietors to stay and discuss their upcoming holiday showcase. Surrounded by amazing talent like Michelle Johnson, Phillip Officer and Philip Fortenberry, entertainment director Brent Barrett gave me a little taste of what they had in store. Then Barrett and President Thomas Michel asked if Vegas Unfiltered Blog would be interested in chronicling their showcase from production meetings through the opening night. Ya think???

Throughout the month of December, The Vegas Room will feature rotating casts of four world-class artists, all known for their work in stellar productions. Most have already appeared at the venue or are slated to have their own events in the coming weeks and months. 

I’ve been told that plans are underway to expand the performance space to accommodate a larger production, quite possibly the only month-long Christmas series in Las Vegas this year. General Manager Sean Stephenson is sure to have his hands full with all of the upcoming activities.

Sets and decorations will whisk you away to “Columbia Inn” of Pine Tree, Vermont. That’s the setting of White Christmas, Irving Berlin’s perennial film favorite. Stage Direction will be by Eric Jordan Young, with Musical Direction by Keith Thompson (Jersey Boys, Hairspray).

Talent will be culled from various shows including BAZ, Vegas! The Show, Mayfair Supper Club, Pin-Up, Rock of Ages and Phantom- The Las Vegas Spectacular. While it’s too soon to share further details on the event, it’s definitely one that you’ll want to put on your calendar….and order advance tickets for. 

Chef David James Robinson will be creating memorable five-course meals as part of the heartwarming experience. Known for his daring twists on traditional dishes, Chef David creates everything from scratch in The Vegas Room kitchen:

“We care enormously about the food and service we provide. Our guests at The Vegas Room will see that for themselves when they experience the reality – both in look and taste – that everything we make is handcrafted and made from scratch”.

“For example, all of our salad dressings, soups, and stocks are uniquely ours and made fresh. Additionally, all breads, muffins, and biscuits were baked fresh that day, and every component of every dish was sourced and prepared with great care…and it always will be.”  – Chef David James Robinson

As a personal fan of Chef David’s work, I’ve found great delight in every colorful dish…from ratatouille and a vegan “Southwestern Fiesta” to truffle chicken and slow-roasted beef loin. Even the July 4th appetizer course was “fireworks on a plate”. It’ll be exciting to see what he plans to do with traditional holiday favorites. 

Despite the year we’ve endured, it’s incredible to realize that the holiday season is just around the corner. Thank goodness The Vegas Room is establishing a brand-new tradition of warmth and joy. Plan ahead by securing your reservation now. With all of the hardships this city has faced in 2020, we all deserve some peace on Earth, goodwill to men. And you’re sure to find it “A Vegas Room Christmas”.

Follow this link for complete information on pricing, schedules and reservations. The Vegas Room is located at 953 East Sahara Avenue E-18 in the historic Commercial Center complex. 

Photos: Sam Novak, The Vegas Room, KTNV

Actor/Musician Ian Ward is Ready to Rock ‘The Vegas Room’


Youthful heartthrob from “Rock of Ages” and “BAZ” possesses the soul of a legend…

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There are many who consider Palazzo‘s BAZ to be one of the greatest productions that Las Vegas has ever seen. A gentre-defying blend of modern music and the works of literary greats as seen through the eyes of film director Baz Luhrmann, BAZ provided a forum for some of the best entertainers in the business.

When Ian Ward stepped into the role of “Romeo”, the youthful performer had big shoes to fill. James Byous, LJ Benet and Myles Nuzzi had all been stunning as the ill-fated lover, yet Ian (full name Ian Ward Brininstool) managed to make his own indelible impression. His powerful, heartfelt performance of Elton John’s “Your Song” elicited cheers from the audience…and the tragic “Love Is Blindness” (below) could cause you to erupt into sobs.

Ian made his stage debut at the age of nine, landing the lead in a large scale production of Oliver. Since then he’s taken on television with a role in Veronica Mars and the New York stage in musicals like Gettin’ The Band Back Together, Leaving Eden and the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular.

The native of La Jolla has performed on cruise ships around the world and lived in cities as diverse as Los Angeles, Miami, and of course, the Big Apple. Currently completing his studies at Berklee College of Music with an album on the way, he’s released a collection of self-penned singles that reflect a variety of cultural experiences.

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Ian was performing in the hit Los Angeles production of Rock Of Ages (with fellow BAZ alumnus Sean Lessard) when the pandemic forced it to close. Since then he’s been focused on his studies and writing new music. Like BAZ, Ian refuses to be categorized, yet influences from The Beatles, Elton John and classic rock anthems come through.

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Like most entertainers, the sandy-haired Californian has been yearning for a return to live performance. He’ll be center-stage this Friday and Saturday with an intimate showcase at The Vegas Room. I caught up with Ian over the weekend, and this is what he had to say:

When did you first visit Las Vegas, and when was the first time you performed here?

Growing up in San Diego, Las Vegas has always been a vacation destination for me and my family. I clearly remember spending my 13th birthday here and doing the indoor skydiving experience with my best friend. I think somewhere deep in my subconscious, I always knew that I would be spending more time in this special city. My dream came true when I was cast as Romeo in BAZ back in 2017. This was my first time experiencing performing here and getting to know the entertainment community in Las Vegas.

Roles in BAZ, Footloose, and Rock of Ages have allowed you to stretch your acting, dancing and singing muscles all at the same time. Do you approach a song “differently” when you’re performing in-character versus as yourself? Which do you prefer?

When I am performing a song in a musical, I bring the past experiences and memories of that character into the words that he is speaking and singing. As an actor through song, you must be able to convey to the audience where this character is in their particular journey within the overall story of the play.  

When I perform an original song or a cover song in a cabaret setting, sometimes I am more focused on feeling the energy and vibe of the material and connecting with the audience. I want to communicate directly and bring them along on the ride. It’s much more collaborative with the people there enjoying the music.

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Photos: Ryan Salinas for The Vegas Room

You tend to gravitate towards explosive productions, yet your solo work is of a more romantic nature. What kind of music do you listen to for your own enjoyment?

I love doing large scale productions because of the quality of lights, sound, special effects and the entire creative team that comes together to create something spectacular. However, in my solo work, I tend to gravitate towards love stories or stripped down acoustic sounds. I think this comes from my father’s influence in classic rock and my love for classic songwriters such as Neil Young, James Taylor, Sting, and The Beatles. I would love to blend high quality production with my own songs eventually.

Your cover of “Across The Universe” with Ruby Lewis is gorgeous and pure in its simplicity. How did that collaboration come about, and do you see the two of you working together again?

Ruby and I love to collaborate on songs that we share a passion for. One afternoon at my parents house, we were listening to some oldies and “Across the Universe” started playing. Ruby’s voice is so pure and strong that when we blend harmonies, it always sounds special and unique.  

We decided that it would be a nice take on a classic to do our own rendition, and I think the setting of my deck made the ambience all that more magical. She and I will definitely be doing more writing and recording together in the future. She is featured as the background singer on my song “Tru Luv” and sometimes I help arrange or cowrite on her songs. We hope to be onstage together soon!

Your IMDB and social media bios don’t list your birth year. Is there a reason behind that?

Haha! No reason for that actually. Maybe it’s just an industry thing…I think my agents might have taken it down online. I was born on Valentines Day, 1996.

You’ve shone onstage, on the screen and in the recording studio. What’s next to conquer?

I want to continue to grow my catalog in the recording industry and make songs that will make a difference to society and uplift people. A large goal of mine is to get significant progress made with my entertainment company ‘Outward Original’. This company was formed to establish artistic media that can create understanding and harmony. And, I want to collaborate with other artists to make art across all mediums. 

Many artists have reported a surge of creativity during the pandemic. Has this happened to you as well? What did COVID-19 deliver to your legacy?

This year has been very tough on everyone. Covid-19 was responsible for the closing of one of my favorite productions I have been a part of…’Rock of Ages Hollywood’…just after we had opened. It also took the life of my great friend, Nick Cordero, whom I shared the stage with in ‘Rock of Ages’.  

I went though a couple months of reflection and a form of depression where it didn’t feel authentic to be creating or trying to push my voice out into the world. However, now I am feeling invigorated and have been blessed with an influx of new opportunities, so I’m ready to get back out there and create!

Your website is “Ian Ward Out Ward Dot Com”. What is the message or meaning of that?

Ward is actually my middle name. My last name is Brininstool, of German descent. ‘Outward Original’ is the name of my entertainment company. And, being a spiritual person, I believe in the process of taking inspiration and then letting that flow freely outward into the world. So this play on words seemed both fitting and appropriate for my company and my beliefs.

Is there one well-known role that you’d love to take on? Who’s your dream onstage partner?

A dream role of mine would be to play Roger in RENT! Or be a part of a brand new, revolutionary musical where I get to build a role from the ground up. I had an experience like this when I was the first “Ren” in ‘Footloose’ for Norwegian Cruise Lines, because I got to make a lot of creative and artistic choices that became a part of the track for other actors to come! I am excited to see which great performers I get to share the stage with in the future!

The Vegas Room has quickly become the go-to venue/hangout for BAZ alumni (Randal Keith, Lisa Marie Smith, Anne Martinez, Eric Jordan Young) as well as other highly seasoned performers. Your inclusion in their entertainment line-up is testimony to your talent. What can guests expect from your showcase?

I feel so honored to have been asked to perform at The Vegas Room! My peers that worked on BAZ with me are so talented and are such gems in this city. I look forward to joining them in the roster at this great venue! The audience can expect a night of an eclectic smattering of classic songs, some originals I have been writing recently, and stories from my career that I hope will excite and interest people. I can’t wait to connect and entertain to bring some light to their night!


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Ian Ward takes to the stage of The Vegas Room on August 7th and 8th at 8pm. Options include a 6:30pm dinner/show or 7:30pm light bites/show. Click here or call  (725) 206-7059 for more information and reservations. The Vegas Room is located at 953 E Sahara Avenue Suite E18 (Bright RED Doors), Las Vegas, NV 89104 

 

THE VEGAS ROOM – Sin City’s Best Kept Secret Is A Secret No Longer


Intimate supper club is a meticulously crafted experience from arrival through the final applause…

“I miss the days of old Vegas.” How often do you hear those words? Colored by a fondness for “when the Mob was in charge”, people lament about the golden era of Sin City. It was a time when you were escorted to your “usual table”, the bartender had that favorite cocktail waiting, and an evening out was a splendidly curated event.

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If you’re among those who yearn for the return of vintage-Vegas glamour, your prayers have been answered. Step through the red doors of The Vegas Room and enter a world where dinner and music are served on a plate of elegance. Here you’ll enjoy the most gifted entertainers of Sin City, showcasing their talents in an intimate presentation that you won’t see anywhere else.

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The Vegas Room is a passion project of sorts…a crowning achievement representing the careers of three gifted gentlemen. President Thomas Richard Michel orchestrates the business side, pulling from years in the entertainment and marketing industries. It falls upon him to ensure that every visit is uniquely memorable:

“There are so many talented performers in Las Vegas who don’t always have a place to share their talents. And, even if they do under normal circumstances, they often aren’t able to perform the type of material that they might really want to showcase. This was a key reason that The Vegas Room came to be.”

“Our mission is to envelop our guests in an environment that doesn’t really exist in Las Vegas anymore. It is a place where people can experience incredible local talent coupled with delicious handcrafted food, all in a warm and intimate setting.”

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“The entertainment we showcase changes each and every weekend, and the handcrafted menu – whether for our five-course dinner, our light bites “Sampler” package, or our Sunday Jazz brunch – changes every two weeks” Michel explained. “For this reason, many local people are already returning frequently, as they appreciate our reasonable prices and the fact that there’s always something new and wonderful to experience.”

“Tourists also tell us that they’ll make The Vegas Room a definite “must-do” on their calendars when they’re back in Las Vegas. Whether locals or tourists, there’s no doubt that that type of reaction is extremely gratifying for everyone involved in The Vegas Room, whether a performer or staff member.”

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Although the tourism industry is currently in flux thanks to the pandemic, The Vegas Room‘s location gives it the ability to prosper, even in these uncertain times. Tucked away inside a rather humble and aging East Sahara shopping center, the small venue provides an immediate feeling of welcome familiarity. That’s especially important to locals, whose repeat business makes up the majority of their clientele.

The supper club experience might be new to contemporary generations, but it’s made a remarkable return, thanks in part to high-profile spaces like Rose.Rabbit.Lie (Cosmopolitan) and Bellagio‘s new Mayfair Supper Club. True fans of the supper-club concept know that a skilled chef is as much an integral component as the entertainers who command the microphone and keyboards.

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Executive Chef David James Robinson is the owner of The Vegas Room. He’s known to thousands of fans and followers thanks to television shows, a strong online presence, and his 10-part cooking tutorial “Learn How To Cook (and eat your mistakes)”. It’s clear when he’s visiting tables that Chef David is having as much fun as his guests:

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“We care enormously about the food and service we provide. Our guests at The Vegas Room will see that for themselves when they experience the reality – both in look and taste – that everything we make is handcrafted and made from scratch” (click here to view the latest brunch and dinner menus).

“For example, all of our salad dressings, soups, and stocks are uniquely ours and made fresh. Additionally, all breads, muffins, and biscuits were baked fresh that day, and every component of every dish was sourced and prepared with great care…and it always will be.”

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“Our goal when it comes to the food we serve at The Vegas Room – whether for dinner or brunch – is to make it an equally memorable complement to our world-class entertainment, combining the two to make a truly wonderful evening or afternoon out.”

The entertainment community seems to have adopted The Vegas Room as their new combination hangout/haven. Often unable to perform in their usual venues thanks to the pandemic, they come here to share their craft and support one another. During each of my visits, entertainers from large-scale Strip productions were enjoying the food and cheering on their colleagues.

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As you might imagine, management has taken great care to ensure guest safety. Face masks are required until seated, guests have their temperature scanned (a two-second touchless process), and everyone is required to sanitize their hands upon arrival. The serving and bar staff wear protective facial coverings, and implements are santized and sealed. Tables are arranged to meet social-distancing protocols, aptly serviced by the always-wonderful Sandy Love. A full description of The Vegas Room‘s COVID-19 safety plan is available on their website.

                   Vocalist Randal Keith with Philip Fortenberry at the piano…

Onstage, stars like Anne Martinez (FANTASY, BAZ) Randal Keith (Phantom: The Las Vegas Spectacular, Showstoppers), and Eric Jordan Young (Vegas! The Show, Cocktail Cabaret, Rock Of Ages) present spectacular interpretations of classics old and new. As you might imagine from a line-up of that pedigree, Broadway showtunes frequently fill the air.

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There’s an enormous amount of respect between artists and the venue’s Director of Entertainment Brent Barrett, himself a seasoned performer (The Broadway Tenors, Chicago The Musical):

“From an entertainment perspective, The Vegas Room is meant to be a prestige room. That means that – as the Review-Journal stated recently – you have to be great to play this room. And, speaking of the room itself, instead of being a big theatrical space, it’s a very comfortable jewel box of a setting, currently seating less than 50 guests.”

“With our wonderful sound system and amazing acoustics, you really feel as though you’re listening to great standards, jazz, rhythm and blues, and Broadway showtunes in the comfort of your own living room. It’s THAT intimate. I think that is what has attracted so many of Las Vegas’s best performers to want to play the room.”

                                   Anne Martinez accompanied by pianist Dan Ellis…

“Because of that, we are able to present a robust array of truly incredible singers and musicians to our guests. And, many of the folks who attend The Vegas Room now return week after week to experience artists they know in addition to ones that they don’t…but should,” stated Barrett.

               Patrick Hogan performs at Sunday Jazz Brunch throughout July….

One such artist is Patrick Hogan, who dazzled audiences during July 4th weekend’s Sunday Jazz Brunch. The 24-year-old singer/songwriter is principal pianist at Mayfair Supper Club. Hogan performed two astonishing sets of his own compositions, along with many beloved standards.

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Look for Patrick Hogan and fellow jazz great Amanda King Sundays throughout July. Upcoming evening performances include Travis Cloer (Jersey Boys) with pianist Chris Lash (BAZ), Toscha Comeaux (Cirque du Soleil) and The Vegas Room‘s own Brent Barrett.

The Vegas Room is located at 953 East Sahara Avenue E-18. Sunday Jazz Brunch is held weekly at 1pm. The “Supper Club Experience” takes place every Friday and Saturday beginning at 6:30pm. There’s also a “light bites” sampler option which seats at 7:30pm. Showtime is 8pm.

Click here for full details and to make reservations or phone (725) 206-7059

Photos: Sam Novak, Sparky Lisa, Lisa Marie, The Vegas Room, Brent Barrett, Amanda King, Toscha Comeaux, Travis Cloer, Christopher Lash