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


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

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

Opium Spiegelworld Cosmopolitan

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

Opium Spiegelworld Cosmopolitan

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

Opium Spiegelworld Cosmopolitan

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

Opium Spiegelworld Cosmopolitan

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

Opium Spiegelworld Cosmopolitan

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

Opium Spiegelworld Cosmopolitan

Opium Spiegelworld Cosmopolitan

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

Opium Spiegelworld Cosmopolitan

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

Opium Spiegelworld Cosmopolitan

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

Opium Spiegelworld Cosmopolitan

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

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

Opium Spiegelworld Cosmopolitan

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

Opium Spiegelworld Cosmopolitan

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

 

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Cosmopolitan Gets High on “OPIUM”


Absinthe-style production brings Spiegelworld madness back to Rose.Rabbit.Lie…

“Slip through the crack in the space/time continuum for a close encounter with a spaceship of fools”.

The politics of show business are not unlike those of the world’s governments. Coalitions are forged, battle lines get drawn and sometimes old enemies become allies. That’s what happened when the 2014 spectacular Vegas Nocturne abruptly closed at the Cosmopolitan‘s Rose.Rabbit.Lie Social Club a mere seven months into its run.

It’s a genuine shame if you missed out on Vegas Nocturne. That genre-spanning production delivered an entire evening of thrills and laughter, spread out over three full-length interconnected shows.

Some of Nocturne‘s best acts, like David O’Mer‘s bathtub seduction and Sean and John‘s tap-dancing routine were integrated into Absinthe. Other breakout performers like Piff the Magic Dragon and beatbox singer Butterscotch moved onto their own fame as well.

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       Vegas Nocturne’s “Bathtub Boy” now shares his excitement at Caesars…

Vegas Nocturne‘s sudden closure led to legal battles that continued for years. Things got more complicated when it was announced that Caesars‘ hit show Absinthe would be moving into the performance space once occupied by Nocturne. Again, the big guns came out…and after a few volleys and threats, Absinthe stayed put (leaving the Rose.Rabbit.Lie theater empty for yet another year).

This month, all those differences have been put aside. A brand new variety show is about to launch in that sadly-neglected space. It’s called OPIUM…and it promises to be as crazy and off-the-wall as those other two naughty spawn of their Spiegelworld parents.

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Last week, Spiegelworld held a cast reveal and teaser performance under the Cosmo’s Chandelier Bar. Emceed by “Harry M. Howie”,  the supposed creator of OPIUM (and a fictitious character a la Absinthe’s “The Gazillionaire”), the official Arrival Ceremony was comically timed to overshadow the opening ceremonies of the 2018 Winter Olympics.

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Howie, looking nervous and disheveled in a tacky suit, spoke from a cheap portable PA system in front of a folding table adorned with lunchbox packs of Jell-o and a gallon jar of Costco Cheez Balls. He was eager to unveil the final artwork for his long-dreamed-of Sin City project.

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“You make a poster and everything else pretty much falls into place” Harry stated with the arrogance of a seasoned Vegas producer. One might say that his confidence fluctuated as wildly as the authenticity of his Australian accent. With one quick tug, the veil was lifted on the official poster…and the drums started to play.

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As various characters entered the Cosmo casino from all directions, the crowd began to thicken. A sax player belted out notes on the descending escalator. Towering interstellar God (and costume designer) Machine Dazzle made a grand entrance by way of the Chandelier Bar‘s glass elevator. They all came together to give the curious spectators a peek at OPIUM, which opens next month.

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What happened next was hard to explain. The cast performed a rhythmic number backed by bongos and carrying pyramid-shaped props from which they extracted a change of costumes. Utilizing folding lawn chairs, suitcases, confetti and LOTS of aluminum foil, the OPIUM performers shared their home galaxy’s avant garde brand of music and dance:

It’s clear from the video clip above that OPIUM will be anything but ordinary. One can only hope that the new show will bring the same level of enchantment that Vegas Nocturne did when it first graced the Rose.Rabbit.Lie stage.

Although shrouded in mystery, OPIUM is already more forthcoming than Nocturne ever was. That ill-fated production asked members of the media not to reveal very much in hopes that guests would discover it on their own. Even my VegasChatter review, which spared held back most of the details, was heavily edited to blot out additional specifics. That over-reliance on secrecy, IMO, is what led to consumer confusion…and ultimately the untimely closure.

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In addition to the teaser performance last week, the folks at Spiegelworld have offered this formal synopisis of OPIUM:

Journey on a trip to a new dimension of entertainment with OPIUM, the new show at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas from the creators of ABSINTHE. What is OPIUM? It’s fast, funny and funky. Completely off the planet. Remember the good old days when you sauntered into a Las Vegas showroom, martini in hand, while a pack of comedians and crooners bantered in front of the house band? Even if you do, one thing’s for certain: it didn’t look like this. Slip through the crack in the space/time continuum for a close encounter with a spaceship of fools.

They’ve also uploaded this peculiar featurette onto YouTube. I recommend jumping to the actual promo video which begins at the 2:18 mark:

So if your senses…and your curiosity…are prepared to be heightened, take a hit of OPIUM. I’ll be checking it out myself soon and will report back with a detailed review.

Preview performances for Spiegelworld’s OPIUM begin March 13, 2018 at Cosmopolitan’s Rose.Rabbit.Lie. Tickets are on sale now at Spiegelworld.com or by calling 1-866-973-9611. Use code VEGAS at checkout to receive the amazing price of $30 (plus taxes/fees) while offer lasts.

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Photos: Kirvin Doak, Erik Kabik, Spiegelworld

“WOW” is Wet Outlandish Whimsy on a Grand Scale


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

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

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

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

WOW World of Wonder Rio

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

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

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

WOW World of Wonder Rio

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

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

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

WOW World of Wonder Rio

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

WOW World of Wonder Rio

WOW World of Wonder Rio

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

WOW World of Wonder Rio

WOW World of Wonder Rio

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

WOW World of Wonder Rio

WOW World of Wonder Rio

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

WOW World of Wonder Rio

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

WOW World of Wonder Rio

WOW World of Wonder Rio

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

WOW World of Wonder Rio

WOW World of Wonder Rio

WOW World of Wonder Rio

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

WOW World of Wonder Rio

WOW World of Wonder Rio

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

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

WOW World of Wonder Rio

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

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

WOW World of Wonder Rio

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

WOW World of Wonder Rio

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

WOW World of Wonder Rio

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

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

Photos: Diane Lynn, Sammasseur