Claire Voyant  

  
ON HER SOAPBOX  


August 26, 2015

For those who have asked what has happened since Cousin Claire's rant about valet parking, or lack of same during nighttime/early morning hours at the Tuscany Suites on East Flamingo, we are sorry, and embarrassed, to say, very little. This is not the kind of "service" customers should receive in a city where hospitality should be of utmost importance. Our incident - experiencing a valet department that is closed for at least five hours every night - occurred in the early morning hours of April 19th, when we were unable to get our car to leave the property after an evening of music, dining and a little gaming. For more than four months, we have tried, with no success, to speak to someone in charge at the Tuscany who might be able to explain WHY a Las Vegas hotel (and not a cheap hotel at that) has a policy of this nature. It took a phone call to the Tuscany, from Channel 13's "You Ask. We Investigate," to be contacted by a hotel representative - Alex Boden, Executive Director of Hotel Operations - on August 18th, four months after the "incident." He was supposed to get back in touch with us in a few days. That was one week ago.


Nighttime Warning at Tuscany Suites & Casino

Happy Birthday Lou Toomin

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Lou Toomin was caught completely off guard on the night before his 80th birthday, when a group of friends gathered together at a local restaurant to surprise him. Among the folk waiting for Lou when he showed up at Casa di Amore on East Tropicana, were his daughter Jennifer; Nelson Sardelli and his lady, Lorraine Thompson; Marty Allen and his bride, Karon Kate Blackwell; Sam and Lea Li Arlen; George (who entertains at the Italian eatery on Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays ) and Anabelle Bugatti; Golden Nugget's Vice President of Entertainment, Ron O'Neal; and Golden Nugget headliner, Gordie Brown, who came after his show, with his sister, Sue Brown, and assistant, Ashley Reese. A good time was had by all, especially the very surprised birthday boy.
Seen in the accompanying photo (from left to right): Gordie Brown, Marty Allen, Gordie's sister Sue Brown, Nelson Sardelli, Lou Toomin and George Bugatti.

Comic impressionist, singer musician, Gordie Brown is one talented performer. We can't think of another entertainer who works harder than Gordie to please an audience. His catalogue of impressions ranges from stars such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Robert De Niro, Jack Nicholson, Tom Cruise, Jim Carrey, Garry Shandling, Sammy Davis Jr., Al Pacino and a few politico-types, to Ozzy Osbourne, the Bee Gees, Kenny Rogers, Tom Jones, Johnny Mathis, Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, Michael Jackson, Gordie's idol, Elvis Presley, and too many others to mention. Not only does the clever Canadian-born Mr. Brown sound like the people he impersonates, he can look like them as well! In addition to being a skilled entertainer, full of boundless energy, the onetime political cartoonist is a genuinely nice man. If you haven't seen his show, we highly recommend Gordie Brown. If you have seen it, see it again.

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Over the past few months (since our "semi retirement"), we have had the chance to see some of the shows we had missed previously. Steve Wynn's ShowStoppers is aptly named, as it offers an entire evening of showstoppers, both musically and visually. On the weeknight that we saw the spectacular, the 1,000-seat Encore Theater was respectfully full, and the audience members were most enthusiastic. Backed by a 30-piece orchestra conducted by Dave Loeb, six principal vocalists - David Burnham, Nicole Kaplan, Randal Keith, Kerry O'Malley, Andrew Ragone and Lindsay Roginski - and 29 talented singing and dancing cast members, perform 22 production numbers featuring Broadway favorites from shows including Annie Get Your Gun, Mame, Hello, Dolly!, Gypsy, Cabaret, Guys and Dolls, Damn Yankees, Flora the Red Menace, Sweet Charity, Stop the World, I Want To Get Off, Chicago and A Chorus Line. If you are a fan of musical theater, or would like to know more about the genre, ShowStoppers is a definite must see production. Tickets start at $100. For reservations, call Wynn Ls Vegas at (702) 770- 9966.


Steve Wynn & ShowStoppers Lead Vocalists

Derek Keeling in Million Dollar Quartet

We finally got over to the beautiful showroom at Harrah's Las Vegas to see Million Dollar Quartet, thanks to Jerry Vann who arranged for our evening. Our primary reason for being there on August 2nd was to see Vann's client, Derek Keeling, who is playing the Johnny Cash role while Ben Hale, who has been in MDQ since its Vegas opening in February of 2013, is attending school in Nashville through the end of the year. The other seven cast members performing on the night we were in the audience at Harrah's were, Scott Hinds (in for Robert Lyons) as Carl Perkins; Justin Shandor as Elvis Presley; Martin Kaye as Jerry Lee Lewis; Marc Donovan as Sun Record Company owner Sam Phillips; Chris David (in for Josh Jones) as bass player Brother Jay; and drummer Mark Ferratt as Fluke. It was Kristen Hertzenberg's final night portraying Dyanne (quite an acting stretch from her long running role as Christine in Phantom - The Las Vegas Spectacular) before her return to Texas, so she, her husband Dana and daughter Shea, can be close to their families. Among the songs covered by the talented Million Dollar Quartet cast are "Blue Suede Shoes," "Folsom Prison Blues," "Fever," "Memories Are Made of This," "That's All Right," "Down By the Riverside," "Sixteen Tons," "Long Tall Sally," "Peace in the Valley," "I Walk the Line," "I Hear You Knocking," "Great Balls of Fire," "Hound Dog," "Ghost Riders In the Sky," "See You Later Alligator," and "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On." For reservations to see Million Dollar Quartet, call (702) 777-2782.

Guest performer Derek Keeling's solo album debut, Long Road Home, was inspired by his experiences while on tour. Coincidentally (or not), three of the songs were recorded live at the famed Sun Studio, the same place that cranked out the legendary music of Johnny Cash and Elvis. While in Memphis, performing as Johnny Cash in Million Dollar Quartet, Derek and his bandmates spent late evenings after their show at the real Sun Studio recording his original music. Paying tribute to the way the albums of the '50s were originally recorded, the musicians played the entire sessions live. Songs on Long Road Home include, "Don't Tell Me," "On Our Own," "Broken Bridge," "Ricochet," "Movin' On," "Let's Forget," "Let Me Stay Broken," "Drivin' Me Blind," "Born Again," and the title track.

We also had the chance to see Bob Anderson in Frank The Man. The Music at the Palazzo. Anderson undertakes quite a job in his role as Frank Sinatra. In VH1's 8 Celebrity Impersonators To Rule (and Fool), his portrayal of Chairman of the Board was rated number one. Five nights a week, at the Palazzo Theater in Las Vegas, Anderson undergoes a two-hour transformation, morphing into Old Blue Eyes, including the use of colored contact lenses. Makeup artist, Kazu Tsuji, oversees the makeover. When Anderson takes the stage, backed by a 32-piece orchestra conducted by Vincent Falcone, his voice and in-between-numbers repartee complete the embodiment of Sinatra. Steve Lawrence commented on the amazing resemblance, saying that he wished Frank were alive today to witness the show. "A perfect night. Like seeing Sinatra at his best. Frank would have loved it.," said Tony Bennett. Tickets for FRANK The Man. The Music can be purchased at any Venetian or Palazzo Box office, or by calling (702) 414-9000, or (866) 641-7469. Click on this Link to check out the two-hour process that allows Bob to transform into Sinatra. www.vh1.com/celebrity/2015-02-27/celebrity- impersonators/


Bob Anderson as Frank The Man

Rob Garrett is King of Diamonds by Ed Foster

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Neil Diamond is, without a doubt, one of the all-time, most popular, American musical treasures of our time. For those who were not fortunate enough to catch the still dynamic performer during the recent North American leg of his world tour, there is always the next best thing...Rob Garrett, also known as the "King of Diamonds." Garrett has made quite a name for himself as one of the best tribute artists and energetic performers in the business. In 2008 the entertainer earned the "Male Musical Tribute Act of the Year" award, marking the only time a 'Diamond' act has ever won such an honor. Longtime Las Vegas columnist, Norm Johnson, wrote, "Of all the Tribute Artists running around Las Vegas (and elsewhere), there is none better than Garrett," and Mike Weatherford, entertainment critic for the Las Vegas Review-Journal wrote, "Garrett does sound astonishingly like Diamond." Rob Garrett, like his iconic counterpart, was born in New York City. He began learning to sing and play guitar at the age of 13. In 1974, his parents relocated to Las Vegas, which still remains his home. Today, Rob has established himself as the world's most popular and requested Neil Diamond tribute artist, earning the title, "King of Diamonds." He continues to set the standard in the industry by performing his tribute to the iconic singer/songwriter around the country in venues usually reserved for national-name acts. Rob and his K.O.D. Band - Keith Neal, Daryl Slade, Jay Boyer, Steve Gerard, Billy Carmody, Steve Henley, LJ Harness, Russine Zellner, and Rosanna Telford - performed six Neil Diamond - The Tribute shows (all return engagements) from August 19th through 23rd, in Don's Celebrity Theater at the Riverside Resort in Laughlin, Nevada. On Saturday, August 29th, Rob and the K.O.D. Band are back home for their 6th annual Hot August Night! show at the Cannery Casino Hotel in North Las Vegas. Tickets are $10 at the door.

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This year's Ms Senior Nevada Pageant competition was held in the Showroom at the South Point Hotel on the afternoon of August 19th. We had expected and hoped to be there for the festivities, but, unfortunately, something unexpected changed our plans. The reports we got about the afternoon from people who attended were most impressive. From the class of the ladies who competed in gowns and talent, won the hearts and respect of the audience and judges, to entertainers, pianist/performer Wes Winters (who performs in the hotel's GrandView Lounge on Fridays and Saturdays from 6 to 9 p.m.), and veteran singer, Dondino, all was first class. Shown in the accompanying photograph are the lovely lady pageant competitors (from left to right): Jakki Ford, 4th runner up, Reno; Maria Fukuzawa, Las Vegas, Ms Congeniality; Joan Schaumburg, Ms Senior Nevada 2015, Anthem; Elizabeth Purtee, 1st runner up, Northern Nevada; Barbara Winters, 2nd runner up, Anthem; and Salve Vargas Edelman, 3rd runner up, Las Vegas. Congratulations one and all.


Ms Senior Nevada Pageant 2015 Competitors

Dolly Coulter & Bert Anderson

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Death Is A Drag!, a new comedy with music, will be premiered on Friday, August 28th at the 150-seat Inspire Theater in downtown Las Vegas. The plot of Death is A Drag!, created by Dolly Coulter and Bert Anderson, revolves around a wake for an unforgettable drag queen, and the crazy family and friends who come to pay their last respects. The cast for the preview show is made up of Dolly and Bert, Jay Joseph, Joy Demain, Anita Bean Sand, Simon Relph, Lou De Meis, Jack Walker, and Kellie Wright. Musical director is Gabrielle Deems. Death is A Drag! is open to the public. Tickets are $15, and available at the door. The Inspire Theater is located on the second floor at 107 Las Vegas Blvd. So. on the corner of Fremont Street East. Phone (702)m 750-0017. Have a Laugh. Have a Cry. See Death is A Drag!

And speaking of "Dolly," our friend, the multitalented singer/dancer/actor, Lee Roy Reams, who played Roger DeBris in Mel Brooks' The Producers during the shows' Las Vegas run, slips into couture gowns once again, when he takes on the lead in Jerry Herman's Hello, Dolly! Yes. Mr. Reams will be portraying matchmaker Dolly Levi in the November 5th to December 6th production at the Wick Theater in Boca Raton, Florida. Lewis Stadlen is playing Horace Vandergelder, and Susan Powell, Miss America 1981, is playing Irene Malloy. The rest of the cast will be announced shortly. On October 6th, Lee Roy will Salute His leading Ladies at 54 Below in Manhttan. Broadway's "song & dance man nonpareil" (New York Times) celebrates his legendary leading ladies with songs and stories. Hear intimate reminisces about stars like Lauren Bacall, Carol Channing, Ethel Merman, Ann Miller, Gwen Verdon, Juliet Prowse, Rita Moreno, and many others. Lee Roy's Broadway credits run the gamut from Sweet Charity, Applause, Lorelei, Hello, Dolly!, and 42nd Street, to La Cage aux Folles, Beauty and the Beast, and The Producers. Get the theatrical dish from a fellow who was there to see it all, from Dolly's lashes to Billy Lawlor's well-worn tap shoes. If you're in either or both Florida and New York....


Lee Roy Reams

Keith Thompson

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On Sunday, November 15, at 3 p.m., God Lives In Glass will be presented in The Smith Center's 2,000-seat Reynolds Hall. Some of Las Vegas' finest entertainers will join hearts and voices for one performance only to benefit The Smith Center's Education and Outreach Programs. God Lives in Glass is a popular musical theater concert that features a funny, powerful, emotionally uplifting and original score by Keith Thompson with musical styles ranging from Pop to Gospel, Classical to Blues, and Reggae to R&B. Inspired by the drawings and stories of children from all over the world, God Lives in Glass is great for the whole family. Keith Thompson conducts a live Orchestra, while Philip Fortenberry's virtuoso piano stylings take the audience through a wide variety of musical genres to create a truly remarkable musical experience. Cast members from Jersey Boys, Million Dollar Quartet, Rock of Ages, Cirque du Soleil's 'O,' Menopause: the Musical, Tony n' Tina's Wedding, and Steve Wynn's ShowStoppers, all join members of the Las Vegas community to create this superb concert that features a special appearance by the kids from Broadway in the Hood. Inspired by Dr. Robert Landy's insightful book, the musical, God Lives In Glass, examines the notion of God through the eyes and words of children from all over the world and from many different cultures, races, religions and nationalities. The result is humorous, provocative, and profound. Although God Lives in Glass has been presented in Las Vegas before, this is the largest venue where it has been performed. It is expected to be a sellout, so make your reservations early. Tickets are priced from $19 to $79. Call (702) 749-2000 to purchase. The Smith Center is located at 361 Symphony Park Avenue in downtown Las Vegas.

And speaking of Mr. Thompson...he is the hardworking glue that keeps the monthly, late night Composers Showcase going. We have been enjoying the Composers Showcases for almost nine years, never having missed a one. The August 19th edition, held in The Smith Center's Cabaret Jazz, was one of the best ever. Composers that night included Dennis Blair, John Durkin, Gene Garcia, Clint Holmes, Chadwick Johnson, Martin Kaye, Jeff Leibow, Jeff Neiman, Richard Oberacker, Bogdan Ota, Steve Real, Jolana Sampson, Sami Saula, Keith Thompson, and Shana Tucker. Performers included Susan Anton, Devin Archer, Lannie Counts, Antwan Davis, Joey DeBennedetto, Bruce Ewing, Michelle Johnson, Randal Keith, Gret Menzies, Jason Nious, Kevan Patriquin, Lauren Real, and Joan Sobel. Players were Pete Bresciani, Dane Bryant, Gary Cordell, Lauren Cordell, Jason Corpuz, Larry Esparza, Mark Ferratt, Philip Fortenberry, Hubert Gall, Jess Gopen, Ivo Gradev, Josh Jones, Phil Kismartoni, Steven Lee, Chris Messa, Keith Nelson, John Plows, Anthony Rodriguez, Nick Schmitt, Angelo Stokes, Alex Stoppa, Kevin Stout, Christian Tamburr, Matt Taylor, Fernando Tort, Moonlight Tran, Justin Truitt, Marlo Valentin, John Wedemeyer, Tyler Williams and Megan Wingerter. The audience was almost as star-studded as the Cabaret Jazz stage, with people including Kelly Clinton, Jerry Jones of Fifth Avenue, Jerry Lopez of Santa Fe, Olivia Newton-John, Frankie Scinta, Earl Turner, and "adopted Scinta sister," Janien Valentine, among those in attendance - some of them for the very first time. The late night shows (they start at 10:30 p.m., after theater) sell out quickly, so early reservations are suggested. Tickets are #20 and $25. Call The Smith Center at (702) 749-2012

And speaking of Richard Oberacker, whose "night job" is as conductor for Cirque du Soleil's KA, we were in the audience at UNLV's Judy Bayley Theatre on Saturday afternoon for the first of two weekend performances of his and Robert Taylor's original musical, ACE.

Presented by the Nevada Conservatory Theatre, David H. Bell directed and choreographed the 16 member cast, comprised of Sam Cordes, Tina Walsh, Nicole Kaplan, Devin Archer, Niki Scalera, Joseph DeBenedetto, Gary Easton, Sydney Story, Nicole Pryor, Rochelle Collins, Nikka Wahl, Randal Keith, Brian Miller, Jeff Leibow, Jesse Bourque and Greg Kata. The 17 piece orchestra was conducted by Oberacker, and Christopher Lash served as Assistant Musical Director. As she should have been, Richard Oberacker's proud mother, Phyllis, was in Las Vegas to attend this special event. A very impressive production, put together by some very talented people.

The Bandstand, another Oberacker/Taylor collaboration, has its world premiere at the famed Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, New Jersey (just across the river from Manhattan!), on October 8th and runs through November 8th. Described as "A Heroic Story of Love," this sizzling new big-band swing musical with an amazing original score and a plot that is full of surprising twists and turns. Emotionally charged and beautifully crafted‚ this is the story of a mismatched band of WWII veterans. Battle-scarred and broke‚ dreaming of a better life‚ they join together to compete in a national radio contest with a prize that will guarantee instant stardom to the winners. Directed and choreographed by Tony Award winner Andy Blankenbuehler (Hamilton). Last September, following a backers showcase in New York, Michael Riedel headlined his New York Post article, "Broadway's next hit could be Bandstand," with the last line in the write-up reading, "You read it here first: The 2016 Tony Award goes to..."Bandstand"!"


Richard Oberacker

Loretta Holloway

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Songstress Loretta Holloway continues her Friday night performances at The Phoenix Inn in Greenville, South Carolina. The state's First Lady of Song, Ms. Holloway is accompanied on piano by "every singer's dream pianist," Russ Long, and Shannon Hoover on acoustic bass.

Loretta, with history as a popular Las Vegas entertainer, returns to the Palms Cabaret Room, this Friday the 28th.

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Lisa Gioia-Acres, of the Las Vegas Media Group, informs us that recent meeting speaker, former Nevada State Governor, Richard Bryan, was a great hit! For September, Carolyn Hamilton Proctor (yes, the one related to comic/actor/author, Cork Proctor) will be the presenter. Not only does she have great stories to tell about life in Las Vegas (and with Cork, ha ha), but she'll talk about her published books. Lunch begins at 11:30 a.m. at Las Ventanas, 10401 W. Charleston Blvd. For directions, call (702) 360-2662. Please email Lisa at gioiaacres1988@gmail.com<, or call her at (702) 245-9206, to let her know if you plan on attending.


Carolyn Hamilton Proctor

The Rat Pack Is Back at Tuscany

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Dick Feeney is a great example of someone who can turn unexpected very sour lemons into delicious sweet lemonade. His two successful shows, The Rat Pack Is Back (running here since 1999) and MJ Live, were displaced when the Rio decided to bring the Duck Commander Musical into their Crown Theater. What were they thinking??? So, in February, producer Feeney went looking for a new home for his productions. The show space he found for MJ Live, the Michael Jackson tribute concert, was in the main theater at the Stratosphere (onetime home of the late Danny Gans), where it is doing very well. Show times are at 7 p.m., daily. For MJ Live reservations, call (702) 380-7777. The new location for The Rat Pack Is Back was to be the renovated Versailles Theatre at the Riviera. As most people who keep up on Vegas happenings know, the Riviera, without much advance notice, closed in early May. The Strip property will be torn down to make way for new space for the Las Vegas Convention Center. So, once again, The Rat Pack was homeless. Not for long. The show is now in residence in the T Spot (now called the Copa, in honor of the room at the Sands where the original Rat Pack gained fame) at the Tuscany. Show times for Frank, Dean and Sammy (Joey has left the building), in The Rat Pack Is Back, is Mondays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. The Tuscany is at 255 E. Flamingo. Don't valet park there if you plan on staying late, as it will probably take a very long time before you see your car again. You have been warned!
Did we mention that the Duck Commander family only lasted for a few weeks at the Rio?

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And yet another example of "what were they thinking?" played out at the Westgate Las Vegas (although, not for very long), with the "residency" booking of Suzanne Somers, who was scheduled to perform for 28 weeks between May 2015 and May of next year. Suzanne Sizzles opened on May 15th in the former Shimmer Cabaret, renamed "Suzanne's" for the anticipated one year engagement. Seems the powers that be jumped the gun. Suzanne Sizzles ran for about five weeks before going on an unannounced "hiatus." Publicity indicated that the show would reopen on September 15th...before the public was informed that the run was over, and Suzanne would not be part of the Westgate entertainment lineup. Sadly, Suzanne Sizzles turned out to be Suzanne Fizzles. Don't know what they are calling the room where she worked these days.


Suzanne Somers

Rebecca Spencer & Philip Fortenberry

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Broadway performer and BackStage Bistro Award-winning recording artist, Rebecca Spencer, celebrated her Palm Springs area concert debut with a performance on August 9th as part of the Summer Series at the Arthur Newman Theatre in Palm Desert. Working with her long-time collaborator, virtuoso pianist and Las Vegas resident Philip Fortenberry, their musical symmetry has been hailed by critics across the country, and heralded in BackStage as "collaboration at its finest." Rebecca created the role of Madame Giry for the $35 million production of Phantom – The Las Vegas Spectacular, under the direction of Harold Prince, who described her as "a consummate artist". She created the role of Emma Carew in the world premiere of Jekyll and Hyde and made her Broadway debut as an original cast member. Ms. Spencer also toured as guest soloist with the late, great, Marvin Hamlisch. Philip Fortenberry was the Associate Conductor and pianist for Broadway's Rocky, and is currently the Associate Conductor for Jersey Boys in Las Vegas. He was the Liberace hand and body double for Michael Douglas in the HBO film, Behind the Candelabra.

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It's the illusive Jimmy Hopper, Up Close and Personal, in the showroom at the Italian American Club, 2333 E. Sahara, on Thursday, September 18th at 8 p.m. Hopper, who established himself in Las Vegas during successful runs in the Rio's VooDoo Lounge, and the beautiful Fontana Room at Bellagio for a number of years, has been spending much of his times these nights entertaining in Southern California beach communities. The singer/ musician will perform an eclectic collection of Classical, Rock, Opera, Broadway and Big Band selections during this one night IAC engagement. Hopper's has been described as "The most amazing voice you'll ever love." See and hear for yourself. Tickets for Up Close and Personal are $25. For reservations, call (702) 457-3866.

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Jimmy Hopper

Jason Andino

One of our favorites, entertainer Jason Andino, will be performing in the lounge at the Italian American Club on Wednesday, September 9th, and on Friday, October 2nd at 7 p.m., Mark OToole returns to the Cabaret Jazz room at The Smith Center, this time performing The Music of Manilow.

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Brush Strokes, by Stephen Chinlund, and former Las Vegas theater maven, Jim Semmelman, will be part of the 2015 Thespis Theater Festival, with performances at Manhattan's Hudson Guild Theater on Monday, September 14th, Wednesday the 16th at 9 p.m., and Saturday, September 19th at 3:30 p.m. Brush Strokes reveals the journeys of Virginia and Eric, who find new love late in their lives; brought together by their passion for art, yet challenged by seemingly irreconcilable differences. Compromise may be key to their romance, but will it be enough and at what cost? The Hudson Guild Theater is located at 441 West 26th Street in Manhattan. Brush Strokes is certain to have a durable impact long after the last note is sung. For tickets, go to http://www.brownpapert ickets.com/event/1707956.


Mark OToole

Bart Williams

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In recent months, the Las Vegas entertainment community has experienced the loss of a number of its people.

Bart Williams, a veteran character actor who was active in Actors Equity, died from cancer at his home in Bullhead City, Arizona, on June 28. He was 65. Born in Los Angeles, he appeared in Equity productions nationwide over many decades, often reprising roles for which he became celebrated, such as Franklin D. Roosevelt in Annie, Cap'n Andy in Show Boat, Major General Stanley in The Pirates of Penzance, and the Wizard in The Wizard of Oz.

Film credits include The Doomsday Clock, Short Circuit 2, Hello, Dolly! and An Enemy of the People, while highlights of his career in television include Mad TV, Weird Science, Abbott & Costello Meet Jerry Seinfeld, Totally Hidden Video and General Hospital. In Las Vegas, Bart appeared in a number of Maynard Sloate productions at the downtown Union Plaza Hotel, including Top Banana, Anything Goes and A Funny Thing Happened On the Way To the Forum. He also starred as Nicely Nicely Johnson (singing the show stopping number "Sit Down You're Rockin' the Boat"), with Jack Jones, Maureen McGovern and Frank Gorshin in Guys and Dolls at the Desert Inn. Bart was also a successful writer, director and producer, garnering numerous festival awards for his feature documentary, The Last First Comic, about Irving Benson, now 101 years of age, and the only surviving burlesque comedy headliner. For Actors Equity Association, Bart served as principal councilor on the Western Regional Board and National Council plus the Hollywood Boulevard Theaters and Membership Education Committees. His encyclopedic knowledge of theater, radio, film and television history was nearly matchless. Bart Williams is survived by a brother and two nieces. Donations in his memory may be made to the Actors Fund.

Renee Lee passed away on May 24th. She was a well- known and much loved Las Vegas entertainer and resident. Renee was a powerhouse singer, dancer, and actress who graced the stages of Broadway, Las Vegas and around the world. In her later years, she was a popular performer at the senior homes, and was featured in numerous commercials for the senior community. In 1995, she was crowned Ms. Senior Clark County. Renee was a class act, beautiful, elegant and gracious. To have her as a friend was a true gift!! She is survived by two nephews and their respective families. Memorial services were held on July 8th.

Performer and composer, Larry Hart, died June 19th in his condo at Regency Towers in the Las Vegas Country Club. He was 57. Larry was a member of the musical Hart Family, made up of his mother Toni, brother Gary, and sister Linda. The family's 31,000 square foot home on 6th Street and Park Paseo near downtown Las Vegas, known as the Hartland Mansion, was a famous party house. Larry won a Grammy for best gospel performance in 1978 for the song "What a Friend." In 1996, following an early 1990's musical called Larr!Bear!, staged at Cashman Field, there was Sisterella. Michael Jackson was a producer. It was said to be the only time Jackson financed a work that did not involve him as a songwriter or performer. Larry Hart's death, and how he died, has been shrouded in mystery, much like Hart himself.

Friend Brenda Weems informed us of the passing of Ken Sands on August 3rd. Ken was 77, a 20-year Army veteran, and the recipient of a Purple Heart. He and his late wife, Margie Toledo Sands, managed the famed show band, The Treniers, for quite a number of years.

We were shocked to see the word "late" in front of Bob Dunkerly's name in a theater review in a local newspaper. We were not aware that Dunkerly had passed away. Never a mention in the paper, which we find puzzling since Mr. Dunkerly was very active in the local theater community. He was a teacher at the College of Southern Nevada and directed numerous plays in the city. We have no idea exactly when he died, what the cause of death was, or how old he was when he passed. If any readers know anything more, we would like to hear from them.

Ben Morgan (Marinoff) passed away in Las Vegas on August 11th. Ben, who was born in 1954, had suffered a stroke about a year-and-a-half ago, and had been in physical recovery ever since. Ben's history in Las Vegas was clouded with somewhat questionable behavior. He fancied himself a producer...among other things. Anyone remember a production show at the now-but-a-memory Landmark hotel, called Magic Magic? What was supposed to star Kirby Van Burch, wound up with Dirk Arthur in the lead, and the "vanishing baby panda" never appeared at all. The Landmark locked the cast out of backstage and the show was closed, as bills were not being paid by Morgan. Performers and musicians, who were also victims, were not able to retrieve their personal possessions. After all of this, one media-type renamed the show, Tragic Tragic. And then, there was Calendar Girls, produced at the long ago closed Maxim by Morgan and Joe Jackson, patriarch of the musical Jackson family. Does anyone remember Ba Da Bing? Produced by Mr. Morgan/Marinoff, who was also a cast member, in 2001, the interactive dinner theater opened at Alexis Park, a non-gaming off-Strip property. The following year, it was at the Greek Isles on Convention Center Drive (the soon to be demolished building was most recently known as the Clarion). Ba Da Bing became a moving target. Over a couple of years, the production, that at different times had talented people like Ted Davey and Kelly Clinton in its cast, was housed at the Stardust, Orleans and other locations. On the internet, you can find negative tales from "investors" in Ba Da Bing, and they were none to happy, describing Ben Morgan as a scam artist and warning others to avoid doing business with him. Morgan was also involved with a number of questionable "museums" around Ls Vegas - featuring, supposedly, Elvis Presley material, boxing memorabilia and collectible dolls. It is not nice to speak ill of the dead, but these are some of the facts when it comes to Ben Morgan. He is survived by his mother and a sister.

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