2019 – The Year in Review: See It or Skip It?


A quick-reference guide for current shows and my take on their worthiness for your hard-earned discretionary income…

With all of the productions that have come and gone in 2019, it’s tough to know what is playing, let alone what to see. This is the most complete list of titles I could compile as of 12/22/19. The guide includes only shows that I’ve actually seen, along with three categories to help you decide. Where possible, I’ve provided a link to my reviews, which can be accessed by clicking on the colored letters.

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DON’T MISS IT!!!!

ABSINTHE“Daring burlesque variety show continues to amaze in its 9th year”.

ATOMIC SALOON SHOW“You’ll laugh, you’ll cringe and you’ll most definitely be titillated.” 

AUSSIE HEAT – The ‘other’ Down-Under male revue is faster/hotter/better than you’d ever expect.” 

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BEATLES LOVE by Cirque do Soleil – “Remains one of the most spectacular and satisfying shows in town.”

BARRY MANILOW – “Try not to get choked up.”

BRONX WANDERERS –  “Handsome and talented collection of musicians and singers brings down the house with every performance.”

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CELESTIA“Beautifully mounted with snappy pacing, memorable costumes, and a very attractive athletic cast.”

CHIPPENDALES – “It’ll melt your inhibitions…and the ice in your glass.”

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DAVID COPPERFIELD

DRAG BRUNCH – “The perfect opportunity to lose your gender-bender virginity.”

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FANTASY – “If you’ve enjoyed FANTASY in the past, you’ll love it even more the next time.

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HANS KLOK – “A breakneck theatrical experience that will leave you slack-jawed and gasping in wonder.”

HUMAN NATURE: MOTOWN AND MORE – “will have you humming all night and dancing in the aisles.”

JEN KRAMER MAGICa collection of tried-and-true favorites delivered with a next-generation spin.”

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John Caparulo MAD CAP COMEDY- “an unforgettable evening of gut-busting hilarity.”

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LE REVE: The Dream – “manages to be both intimate and epic. It’s my personal favorite in the city.”

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MIKE HAMMER COMEDY MAGIC

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MISS BEHAVE GAMESHOW – “An experience that you can’t have anywhere else…and that’s what Las Vegas is all about.”

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MURRAY THE MAGICIAN

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MYSTERE by Cirque du Soleil

OPIUM – “will have you gasping for days. Don’t let ANYONE spoil the surprise.”

PURPLE REIGN

REDNECK COMEDY MAGIC

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SEX TIPS FOR STRAIGHT WOMEN FROM A GAY MAN – “a fast-paced evening for open-minded adults of all persuasions.”

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SEXXY 

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TENORS OF ROCK – “An international confection of rip-roaring vocals, boundless energy, and a live onstage band.”

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TOURNAMENT OF KINGS

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V- THE ULTIMATE VARIETY SHOW

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VEGAS! THE SHOW

WOW – THE LAS VEGAS SPECTACULAR“an unforgettable adventure through the oceans of time.”

ZOMBIE BURLESQUE

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DON’T DO IT!!!

BLACK MAGIC LIVE – a cheap, chaotic disaster unworthy of your time and money.”

CRISS ANGEL MINDFREAK – “continues to regurgitate up our collective pipes and spread noxious odors throughout the Vegas valley.”

MARIAH CAREY – “Santa didn’t hand out coal this year…he gave away tickets to Mariah.”

MAT FRANCO: Magic Reinvented NightlyMat Franco is about as dull as a dead rabbit.”

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R.U.N by Cirque du Soleil – “you’ll think you’ve wandered into a high school production of West Side Story”.

TERRY FATOR – “Terry Fator is a log jam that just won’t flush.”

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THUNDER FROM DOWN UNDER – “a great big middle finger to the audience.”

IF THE PRICE IS RIGHT

AUSTRALIAN BEE GEES

BLUE MAN GROUP 

CARROT TOP – “the exact same jokes and gags for over a decade”

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CHERRY BOOM BOOM – “Costuming is top-notch, the choreography is consistently impressive, and some sequences are downright breathtaking.”

CRAZY GIRLS

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GEORGE WALLACE

KA by Cirque du Soleil

LEGENDS IN CONCERT

MAC KING COMEDY MAGIC

MARC SAVARD COMEDY HYPNOSIS

MENOPAUSE THE MUSICAL

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NATHAN BURTON MAGIC

‘O’ by Cirque du Soleil

PENN & TELLER

POPOVICH COMEDY PET THEATER

POTTED POTTER – “a face-paced and humorous retelling of the wizarding-world saga.”

RAT PACK IS BACK

STEVE CONNOLLY – SPIRIT OF THE KING 

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X BURLESQUE

XAVIER MORTIMER’S MAGICAL DREAM – “technology blends with meticulous choreography and precision timing to jaw-dropping effect.”

ZUMANITY

More of my 2019 Round-up in the days ahead…

 

 

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


Rio’s water-based variety show sails on a sea of silly fun….

It’s a world of water. A world of whimsy. And most especially, a world of wonder at WOW: The Las Vegas Spectacular. The fantastical international variety production at Rio Hotel Casino is celebrating two successful years with new acts and plenty of excitement and laughter.

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The premise of WOW is pretty simple…a shy, awkward fisherman casts his pole into mysterious waters and drifts off to sleep. His fishing line opens the doorway to an undersea kingdom of nymphs, mermaids, pirates, and long-lost souls. Freed from the depths, these spirits dance, sing, fly and celebrate with all forms of acrobatics and aerial magic. With their encouragement, the fisherman discovers his confidence and joins in on the fun.

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If the concept of a water-based dream sounds a little like Le Reve, you’re right. But that’s where the similarities end. Unlike the Wynn production’s romantic-triangle storyline, WOW audiences are presented with a free-wheeling assortment of sequences, each built around water. From the romantic canals of Venice to the dangerous shores of the Carribean to the Grand Ballroom aboard Titanic, WOW takes you on an unforgettable adventure through the oceans of time.

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Rio’s spacious circular showroom has been outfitted with a powerful sound system and visual effects that are simply stunning. Wide panoramic screens envelop the audience and heighten the central action in a way that’s almost three-dimensional. You’ll feel like you’re zipping across the surface and plunging below the waves.

An actual pool at the center means you might even experience a mild splash or two.

Along with physical feats and plenty of gut-busting comedy, WOW features several Broadway-worthy dance numbers. A musical salute to “Singing in the Rain” drenches the cast in a high-tech downpour where rainfall takes the shape of umbrellas, diamonds, and hearts. With gorgeous choreography and highly-talented performers, this sequence alone is worth the price of admission.

But there are plenty of other reasons to experience WOW. The fun-filled production is….

Click HERE to continue reading…

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WOW: The Las Vegas Spectacular performs Tuesday & Wednesday at 7PM, Thursday – Saturday at 7PM & 9PM, Sundays at 5PM & 7PM. Family-friendly, although no children under 4 will be admitted.  

Photos: Sam Novak, WOW – The Las Vegas Spectacular

 

 

2017 In Review Part 3 – Trends: Hot, Cold, Wet and Sweaty


Vegas Unfiltered’s  2017 In Review continues with “The Year In Trends”…

Most Influential TrendRideshare Services

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Taxis gouge and the lines are super-long. Buses smell…and so do many of the passengers. Rental cars rack up parking fees and run the risk of accidents and DUI’s. Then there’s the monorail line, which services too few hotels and shuts down at 2 am. Thank goodness stalwart party people can choose LYFT and Uber, two modern ways of getting around that have impacted the way that we “Vegas”.

Now completing their second year of servicing McCarran International Airport along with the rest of the city, these two ride-share services will get you where you want to go at any hour. Best of all, they’re cheap!

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There is a downside with rideshares in that both the airport and the resorts seem to have conspired with the local Taxicab Authority to locate designated pick-up spots in remote areas. But expect that to change as the initial shock wears off and rideshare companies evolve from being an upstart service to the transportation method of choice.

On The Rise – Classic Cocktail and Liquor Bars

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Rosina Cocktail Bar Palazzo

You may not have realized it, but bottle service has quickly become very “2014”. These days, the hip, young and young-at-heart are gathering at classic cocktail and liquor bars. Venetian/Palazzo opened up two this year (The Dorsey and Rosina) to enormous success.

Best Worst Vegas 2017

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Downtown’s Golden Nugget recently replaced Gold Diggers Nightclub with a Vegas version on NYC’s Troy Liquor Bar, bringing a much-needed element of class to the frequently-skeevy Fremont Street. I’ll be visiting that one soon and will report back.

Element of the Year – Water

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WOW World of Wonder Rio

Water was a major player in Sin City this year. WOW – World of Wonder joined O and Le Reve as the third water-based production (read my review here). More resorts added the option to decline housekeeping and laundry services in return for resort credit, saving money, labor…and lots of water. Chippendales brought in a Prince-ly “Purple Rain” shower sequence that has audiences breaking the sound barrier with screams.

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The level of Lake Mead continued to drop, worrying officials and providing a disturbing sight for those who fly into the Valley from the east. $817 million and six years were invested into drilling a new “intake straw” to ensure that the remaining water could continue to be siphoned in a “last ditch effort to save Las Vegas from drought doom” .

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Despite the water emergency, construction is set to begin on Wynn Paradise Park, a man-made lagoon and theme park that will replace the recently-closed Wynn golf course.

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Sadly (or perhaps fortunately), it also brings a whole new focus on the concerns for water mismanagement. Steve Wynn is probably hoping that the new fire-based INFERNO show at Paris will take some of the heat away from his continued wasting of Sin City’s most precious resource.

Fading Fast – Male revues

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Any regular reader know I love attending this type of show, despite the fact that some of them are sheer crap. While 2017 started with an all-time interest for male revues, the sizzle fizzled out pretty rapidly.

A marketing blitz for Magic Mike Live caused long-time standards Chippendales and Thunder from Down Under some concern. After the initial madness, MML became just another option in a landscape littered with hungry male strippers (what an image!).

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Black Magic Live quickly moved from the Strip’s Tommy Wind Theater to a banquet hall to an off-Strip ghetto nightclub. Aussie Heat has cooled down to two performances a week (with talk of closure in the coming weeks). Men of the Strip‘s dreams of a multi-media nightclub at Tropicana were reduced to a two-week gig at Hard Rock Cafe. Then they left Las Vegas altogether for a tour through North America.

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An insider told me that it’s much too difficult to launch a residency in expensive Vegas venues. He cites the ease of filling up large spaces in other cities where this type of entertainment is rare and there is little to no competition. The profit margin is much greater for tours as well.

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You can be sure that Chipps and Thunder won’t be going anywhere next year. Unfortunately, that’s probably true for the nauseating Magic Mike Live. But in Vegas, where Sin is touted as a lifestyle and wild girls (and gays) come here to get their male-stripper groove on, expect the choices to be more limited in 2018.

Photos: Sammasseur, Wynn Resorts (and other sources, too)

Hot Guys of Vegas: Heartbreakers and Dream Makers


Get a little closer with guys who sweep you off your feet, sometimes literally…

Last time in this series I took you to the world of bodybuilders…those superhuman, rock-hard specimens of manliness that gym-bunnies aspire to emulate. This month it’s time to get comfy with the kind of men who make your dreams and fantasies come true. From Prince Charming types to men behind the desk and behind the scenes, these are the Hot Guys of Vegas: Heartbreakers and Dream Makers.

Alexander Stabler – dancer/aerialist/stylist

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                                                   Alexander Stabler

Where you’ve seen himLe Reve The Dream at Wynn

Alexander Stabler (banner photo above) is one of those guys who looks like they stepped out of the cover of a romance novel. Strapping frame, carefully-mussed hair, billowing open shirt and a stature that says “hero”, Alexander will sweep you off your feet as the hearththrob of Le Reve – The Dream.

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Once part of the troupe of ballroom dancers that glided into and out of the water spectacular, Alexander is now front and center at the core of Wynn‘s signature production. As his role has increased, so has Alexander’s visibility throughout the city. From charity fundraisers to a boat on Lake Mead to hiking the rocky cliffs with his dog Samson, you never know where you’ll find this real-life Prince Charming.

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Not content to just lie in the sun, this Newport Beach native has dabbled in many varied projects throughout the city. His Axle Entertainment provided hot visuals for Liaison Nightclub and his studies through Paul Mitchell make him a well-respected stylist.  Alex was a principal dancer at Luminario Ballet of Los Angeles and is a former cast member of Zumanity by Cirque du Soleil. No wonder he’s a hot commodity on the stage.

Years of living in Macau and Hong Kong gave Alexander a unique humanitarian view that belies his young age. Although this avid traveler has been around the world, Alexander Stabler is now proud to call Las Vegas his home.

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Noteworthy traits – “ballet boo-tay”, heroic man-rack

 

Eric Roy – attorney

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                                                    Attorney Eric Roy       

Where you’ve seen him – billboards, television, community events                                       

Sometimes a guy is so absurdly handsome that he can stop traffic. When you see advertisements featuring Attorney Eric Roy, you’ll know precisely what I mean. If Eric wasn’t such an all-around good guy, I’d be tempted to accuse this personal-injury attorney of deliberately causing traffic accidents. Have you seen his stunning billboards? But personal injuries aren’t the only cases he handles, so I guess the Twin Falls, Idaho native has a solid alibi.

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Some people dislike attorneys in the same way that used-car salesmen get no respect. Eric Roy Esq. has been able to avoid that stigma by becoming a beloved member of the Las Vegas community (not to mention the recipient of numerous awards for achievement in his field). He’s a favorite at speaking engagements and on television segments, offering helpful legal advice to people across the Las Vegas Valley.

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Attorney Roy is tireless in his devotion to charities and advocacy for organizations that promote social positivity. From volunteering for Goodie Two Shoes Foundation, which provides shoes and socks for underprivileged youngsters…to sponsoring a girl’s soccer team…to delivering food for income-strapped locals via Hopelink of Southern Nevada, Eric never passes on an opportunity to help out those in need.

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Of course, all work and no play would make Eric a very dull boy. So in his free time, this white-collar hunk is an avid traveler who likes to ditch the suit and tie for rugged hiking and mountain biking. Doggies Big Boy and Lil Girl and lady-love Elizabeth keep him grounded…as does some obviously well-spent time in the gym.

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Noteworthy traits – matinee-idol looks, action-hero physique

 

Michael Caprio –  publicist/marketing/management/media design

Hot Guys of Vegas

          Michael Caprio                                

Where you’ve seen him – premieres, fundraisers, celebrity functions

The term “mover and shaker” was probably coined after Michael Caprio. Very little happens in Sin City entertainment without his involvement in one form or another. This master of Public Relations is a favorite of high-profile celebrities across the country.

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Las Vegas has Michael to thank for the triumphant residency of Olivia Newton-John at Flamingo. It was he who brought Richard Marx to the same hotel for a landmark series of performances this summer. And Michael is the Big Daddy behind the world-famous Chippendales. There’s also Leeza Gibbons, Jon SecadaJohn Tesh and Melody Sweets of Absinthe in his portfolio, if you don’t mind a little name-dropping.

Recently, the founder of Caprio Media Design has been traveling across the country for promotional appearances with Aussie group Human Nature (be sure to attend their annual holiday show at Venetian). And he’s also been behind the successful launch of the new WOW – World of Wonder at the Rio (see my review here).

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Fans of the Sharknado movie franchise have benefited from Michael’s expertise. He represents star Ian Ziering and was responsible for the huge premiere party at Stratosphere last summer for entry #4 in the wildly-successful series. No doubt their collaboration on those films yielded two successful guest-hosting stints of Ziering at Chippendales as well.

Each year, Caprio flies to Australia to join Olivia Newton-John for her annual ONJ Wellness Walk and Research Run.  The event is dear to his heart and he crusades to raise funds for the ONJ Cancer Wellness and Research Center. Olivia’s recent second bout with the disease made the trip even more poignant this year.

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Michael is constantly flying from Vegas to Los Angeles to New York City, so it’s rare that he gets to settle down with hubby Randy Slovacek and their adorable dogs for a quiet evening at home. But when they do, Michael’s culinary expertise yields some gloriously beautiful gourmet dishes.

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                                           Michael and hubby Randy

Notable traits – infectious grin, mile-long eye lashes, grace under pressure

 

Adam Barabáš – dancer/acrobat

Hot Guys of Vegas

                                                      Adam Barabáš

Where you’ve seen him – Divas, Jubilee!, WOW – World of Wonder

The next dancer on our list is Adam Barabáš. If Adam’s profile photo looks a little (actually a lot) like Aquaman, the resemblance has served him well. This native of Slovakia is currently dancing on water in Rio‘s aquatic spectacular WOW – World of Wonder.

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                           Adam takes flight in WOW – World of Wonder…

Despite being only 27 years old, Adam may have already made some Las Vegas history. He’s the only performer to my knowledge to have ever been in two major re-enactments of the sinking of Titanic.

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First he played double-duty in Jubilee!, donning a tuxedo for the ballroom sequence before quick-changing into a shirtless laborer for the engine room scene. Now he gets to do it again, five nights a week, in WOW‘s high-tech variation on the dreaded event. How’s that for a little trivia?

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This graduate of The Private Conservatory of Arts in Nitra, Slovakia also appears regularly in Frank Marino’s DIVAS at Linq Hotel. Part of their sexy troupe of dancer boys, Adam provides back-up for the likenesses of Cher, Pink, Madonna and Celine Dion.

Being a cast member in two major productions doesn’t leave much time for leisure, especially when Barabáš has that chiseled body to maintain. He’ll hit one of the various Las Vegas Athletic Clubs around the valley for his workouts. If time is very tight he’ll even go through his fitness routines at the theaters between shows…or use his own home gym.

Hot Guys of Vegas

                       Spending the day with Chipp at Red Rock Canyon…

When the great outdoors calls, Adam takes his four-footed pal Chipp for a round of fetch. Sometimes it’s hiking at Red Rock Canyon or Mt. Charleston. Growing up in the small village of Dubnica nad Váhom (population 26,000) gave Adam few opportunities for luxuries. Now that he calls Las Vegas his home, he enjoys the comforts of a great meal…and a day at the spa to soothe those amazing, hard-working muscles.

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Noteworthy traits – abs of steel, European mystique

 

Mike Hammer – magician/comedian/emcee

Hot Guys of Vegas

Mike Hammer                   

Where you’ve seen him – self-titled comedy/magic show at Four Queens

Somewhere in Chicago, a retired school teacher is wondering “What ever happened to that class clown Michael Hammer?”. Well, I’d bet he or she would be surprised to know that little Mikey grew up…and became the biggest and best entertainer in Downtown Las Vegas.

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                           “A boy’s best friend is his mother” – Norman Bates

Mike Hammer can be seen onstage five nights a week at Mike Hammer Comedy Magic, a fast-paced gas that will have you returning time and again. His hyperkinetic energy, lightning-fast improvisations and dazzling illusions make Mike a standout on the entertainment scene.

Hot Guys of Vegas

                Offering fashion advice to Robin Leach at a charity event… 

Naturally, this quick-witted guy is known for charitable functions (are we seeing a pattern here?). Hammer has hosted numerous events for other organizations when not preparing for his own. Just a few weeks ago, Mike and his famous friends came together for the 3rd Annual Mike Hammer Celebrity Go Kart Race to benefit Wounded Warrior Project. This year, proceeds were shared with Las Vegas Victims’ Fund.

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             Sharing fitness tips with Chippendales performer Ryan Worley…

The success of Mike’s own show gave him the clout to produce a second one at Four Queens. Spirit of the King, starring Elvis tribute artist Steve Connolly, draws in a line of fans that stretches across the casino floor each evening. Then there are the TV appearances, emceeing MMA matches, corporate events, and his own weekly radio program The Vegas Take with Brian Shapiro.

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Keeping such a busy schedule was starting to wear the Hammer down – he was literally forgetting to eat. After getting way too thin, the over-40 sports enthusiast decided to consult a nutritionist for a personalized program, then combined it with intense late-night workouts. He quickly began to fill out his slender frame. “I don’t actually look different in my suit”, he said “but I have more muscle. Getting there!”.

Notable traits – sarcasm, hair of epic proportions, chiseled cheekbones

 

Steve Kim – entrepreneur/dancer

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                                                              Steve Kim

Where you’ve seen him – Chippendales/American Storm/Mr. Olympia/magazines

Our final Hot Guy of this chapter is Steve Kim. I first met Steve on the opening night of Men of the Strip this summer. Despite the fact that the venue was filled with hundreds of celebs, male strippers and their fans, this hunky former Oregonian managed to stand out in the crowd.

Hot Guys of Vegas

Naturally I had to find out who this dude was. We struck up a conversation and I learned that his home town is Portland, just north of where I currently live. The more we talked, the more fascinated I became.

Kim owns and operates Wild Entertainment, which provides sexy guys and gals for a wide variety of corporate functions and private parties. You need some hot shirtless bartenders or sexy golf caddies? Steve’s got them. Some voluptuous product reps for a convention? No problem. Discerning ladies of taste can even find a reputable and proper male escort for a safe evening out. And they’re completely LGBTQ-friendly, too.

My company is proud to be #LGBTQ friendly. We don’t discriminate based on age, sex, race, religion, whatever.. as long as you’re a decent human being, you deserve to have as much fun as anyone else in Las Vegas!

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Steve calls his talent agency “experiential”, a cutting-edge form of marketing that invites consumers to participate in a brand evolution. While that concept might go over your head (it did for me, but there was an open bar that evening), it’s clear that he was paying attention when studying marketing at Santa Clara University.

You can be sure that Wild Entertainment guarantees the highest level of professionalism…and discretion. Of course, a product is only as good as the person supplying it, and Steve is hot hot hot. This former Chippendale dancer has graced the cover of fitness magazines, competed in physique contests and even worked as a software developer for Microsoft. Brains plus brawn? A lethal combination to be sure.

Hot Guys of Vegas

There isn’t a lot of free time in Steve Kim’s life, but he enjoys it to the fullest. Hanging out with friends, de-stressing on a yoga mat or tossing treats to brother-and-sister dogs Hachi and Yumi are the things that make him smile.

Steve has some major plans in the works for Wild Entertainment, and soon we’ll be sitting down to discuss them for a future article. Until that happens, he offers this teaser:

Big things are coming and soon the world will know about my company and my ambitions. We’re taking over exotic entertainment in Vegas. It’s gonna change everything!

Hot Guys of Vegas

Notable traits – flawless golden skin, electromagnetic aura

Photos: Ashley Kacvinsky, Ashley Kemp, Michael Caprio via Facebook, Eric Roy via Facebook, John Ganun, Patrick Rivera, Luis Raphael, Adam Barabáš via Facebook, Mike Hammer via Facebook, Steve Kim via Facebook. Banner photo courtesy of Armando Farfan Jr.

“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.

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

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

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

WOW World of Wonder Rio

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

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

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

WOW World of Wonder Rio

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

WOW World of Wonder Rio

WOW World of Wonder Rio

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

WOW World of Wonder Rio

WOW World of Wonder Rio

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

WOW World of Wonder Rio

WOW World of Wonder Rio

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

WOW World of Wonder Rio

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

WOW World of Wonder Rio

WOW World of Wonder Rio

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

WOW World of Wonder Rio

WOW World of Wonder Rio

WOW World of Wonder Rio

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

WOW World of Wonder Rio

WOW World of Wonder Rio

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

WOW World of Wonder Rio

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

WOW World of Wonder Rio

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

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

WOW World of Wonder Rio

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

WOW World of Wonder Rio

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

WOW World of Wonder Rio

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

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

Photos: Diane Lynn, Sammasseur