By E.C. Gladstone
Many critics and observers, like sharks smelling blood in the water, have feasted upon the bad news of shows closing in Las Vegas during the current economic downturn. What they’ve failed to report is that at least as many — if not more! — new shows and entertainers have rushed in to fill the theatres and showrooms in our Las Vegas hotels, while others have moved to bigger, better venues with new and improved performances. Just to name a few…
Terry Fator, Mirage
With a slick talk show-style stage, hip DJ and tight band, the America’s Got Talent winner is as on-the-money as possible. Since his stint at the Las Vegas Hilton, Fator has added new puppet characters (like a Cougar and a Beatle) to his already solid cast, and more stunning musical voices like James Blunt and Brooks & Dunn. Approaching conservatives and liberals, old and young alike, Fator simply represents Vegas entertainment at its best. Who ever thought ventriloquism would be hot?
Trent Carlini’s Elvolution, Planet Hollywood
Elvis tributes are practically a requirement in Sin City, but the concept has long since passed self-parody. But Trent Carlini — winner of ABC-TV’s “Next Big Thing” — gets closer to the real thing than anyone you’ve likely ever seen, surveying all eras of EAP’s career (even the dubious ones) with amiable appreciation, an eye for detail, and a self-aware sense of humor. Still, I wanted him to worry less about costume changes and focus more on delivering Presley’s best.
Freaks!, O’Sheas (connected to the Flamingo)
Never has a show and venue been better paired than the shamelessly down-market O’Sheas Casino and the carny-comic Freaks! Presented by popular hypnotist Anthony Cools, Freaks! gathers a gaggle of classic self-torturing sideshow types in a post-modern production that is lovingly low budget. Those with weak stomachs may not appreciate the glass eating, sword swallowing or nose drilling, but anyone with a dark sense of humor will appreciate the bed of nails ménage a trois and downtown dart throwing. Edgy and then some.
Zowie Bowie, Palms
Virtually the only name-brand lounge act in Vegas today, Zowie Bowie’s Chris and Marley are something like a millennial Steve & Eydie, an onstage/offstage couple who bring an authentic but original spin on today’s top hits. Impossibly peroxided, tanned and siliconed, the engaged singers unironically deliver “Low Low Low” and “I Kissed A Girl” with equal enthusiasm, virtually forcing the audience to let loose and join in. Previously at Red Rock, their stopless high-wattage show (two sets, Friday and Saturday nights) now fits the Palms so well, you wonder how it took them so long to get here.
And there’s more… Soap star Kelly Monaco and former Spice Girl Mel B are anchoring the hot new Peepshow burlesque revue at Planet Hollywood, while over at the Las Vegas Hilton, another new topless show, Sin City Bad Girls, (click here for the naked truth about Vegas Topless revues) is the centerpiece of a whole slate of new shows, including the Monster Circus extravaganza (with a revolving line up of heavy metal/hair band veterans) and the return of Vegas soul legend Earl Turner…Speaking of rock, the Hard Rock Hotel’s glimmering new Joint will feature Carlos Santana on several dates this May, June, August and September… DJ AM has moved over to RAIN at Palms for a new Friday night residency (which, combined with Paul Oakenfold’s Perfecto Saturdays, makes that one of the hippest clubs in Vegas once again) … Bobby Slayton, truly a comedian’s comedian (and one of the few must-sees in town) moves over to bigger digs at the Tropicana, while singer/impressionist/comedian/dancer Gordie Brown (think: a hipper Danny Gans) is back at Golden Nugget.
Families might be most excited, though, about the arrival of The Lion King (directed by Julie Taymor, songs by Elton John & Tim Rice) at Mandalay Bay on May 5…and Broadway fans should be even more intrigued by the legendary Patti LuPone’s one-woman show The Gypsy In My Soul, debuting in the Orleans showroom June 20. Any New Yorker will tell you, an evening with LuPone is a bargain at twice the $30 ticket.
Insider Tip: Tom Jones might not be new to Vegas (in fact he’s been performing here for 40 years), but I caught him just a few weeks ago at the MGM Grand, and have to say, he’s as strong as ever, playing all the hits and a lot of strong new material with grit, humor, energy, and a solid voice. Bring fresh underwear.
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A contributing editor at VEGAS Magazine, E. C. Gladstone also interviews top Strip entertainers, restauranteurs, moguls and behind-the-scenes players for other local and national publications and websites. Like many Las Vegans, he sleeps only when absolutely necessary.