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Sunset Strip Band

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By Esther Lynn

Anyone who has been on the Las Vegas Strip, or seen pictures on television or in magazines, knows that within a three mile drive up the Boulevard one can see the pyramids of Egypt, the New York City skyline, the Eiffel Tower of Paris and the canals of Venice, all without getting out of their automobile. Another famous location will become a part of this incredible landscape when the Aladdin morphs into Hollywood, make that Planet Hollywood, sometime in 2006.

One of the early transformations is taking place inside that south Strip property and inside the Aladdin Showroom Lounge (formerly Sinbad’s Lounge). Unable to find a show band hip enough and with the high energy required to meet their high expectations, Paul Davis, Vice President of Entertainment for Aladdin/Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino, decided to put together his own musical group.

Davis contacted Glenn Medas to assist in creating what would become known as The Sunset Strip Band. Medas then teamed up with Michael Chambers, an Emmy Award-winning Director and Choreographer. Longtime friend and associate Mark Barrett, who has worked with recording group Spiral Starecase and Wayne Newton as well as contracted orchestras for stars such as Tony Bennett, Sheryl Crow, Celine Dion, Gloria Estefan, Josh Groban, Don Henley, Gladys Knight, Johnny Mathis, Seal, Donna Summer and Tears For Fears, was brought in for his musical expertise. Together, the trio sought out acclaimed musician and composer Steven Lee to serve as the band’s Musical Director.

Executive Producer of The Sunset Strip Band, Glenn Medas, of TPG (THE Production Group), has been an important part of the evolution of Las Vegas entertainment through his Theatrical Entertainment Productions and Sporting Events. In the entertainment business for more than 25 years, Medas has held positions as Director of Entertainment with Bally’s Casino Resort, Vice President of Entertainment with MGM Grand, Vice President at Mandalay Bay, and Corporate Vice President of Entertainment at Mandalay Bay Resort Group.

Co-producer and President of MC Productions, Emmy Award-winning Michael Chambers is considered one of the top director/choreographers in the country. His work has been seen in live theater events, star acts, production spectaculars, corporate functions and on cruise lines.

Highly sought after for producing guaranteed excitement, Chambers has an impressive client list which includes Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, Warner Bros., Disney, ABC, Ford, Prudential, Microsoft, Redken, Intel, Mandalay Bay, and MGM Grand, to name a few. He has worked side-by-side with a number of stars including Janet Jackson, Ann Miller, Dolly Parton and Little Richard.

After auditioning many talented people, eight exceptional individuals were assembled to be the life blood of The Sunset Strip Band. Following three weeks of rehearsals, the group opened in the Aladdin’s Showroom Lounge on August 22. Made up of Brenda Leonard Cowart on keyboards and vocals; D’ LaVance on bass guitar, keyboards and vocals; Princell Kiptus "Kip" Mungin on drums, percussion and vocals; Andrea Adams and Lorena Peril on lead vocals; dancers/vocalists Nadia Albulet and Kayla Kalbfleisch, and Steven Lee on lead guitar and vocals, you won‘t find a more polished group of performers in the city.

Steven Lee (Cowart) has been a part of Nevada’s music scene for more than 25 years. Originally from Portsmouth, Virginia, he has been playing guitar and French horn since he was a teenager. While studying classical music at Wayne State in Detroit, Steven became a much sought after guitarist, performing in the Motor City’s hottest jazz clubs and recording for Motown and United Artists. He moved to Las Vegas from Detroit with a group of musician buddies and as Pazazz, Friends and Frenz, played in almost every hotel in the city. Steven spent a number of years in Northern Nevada before returning to Las Vegas where he entertained at the Excalibur, and as the Steven Lee Group, had a long run at both Sunset Station and in the beautiful Fontana Room at Bellagio. Prior to getting involved with the Sunset Strip Band, he was an integral part of the Gordie Brown show at the Golden Nugget. Steven Lee has performed with music greats Al Stewart, Tower of Power, B.B. King, Peter White, Kirk Whalum and The Rippingtons. As a producer and composer, this multi-talented musician has also been the driving force behind two CDs, Almost Like the Real Thing and his latest, From the Ground Up.

Brenda Leonard Cowart is as close to a Las Vegas native as you can get. Born in Southern California, the daughter of comedian Jack E. Leonard has been here since she was a child. A graduate of Valley High School, Brenda received her Bachelor of Arts degree in music theory and composition from UNLV, She also has a Juris Doctorate in law. Since 1983, the pretty redhead has performed as a keyboard artist and vocalist, accompanying jazz legends Marlena Shaw and Joe Williams, working with Boney James, Jonathan Butler and Richard Elliott, and performing with top musicians such as Carl Fontana and Don Menza. Brenda has served as keyboard player for Susan Anton and comic/impressionist Gordie Brown and a number of top production shows and revues including City Lites, Comedy Cabaret, Folies Bergere, Lido de Paris and MADhattan. For the last several years, Brenda has performed with the award-winning Steven Lee Group, co-producing and co-writing much of the material on From the Ground Up, along with her husband Steven Lee.

Epic Records recording artist D’ LaVance has had an impressive and varied career. In addition to being an accomplished vocalist and bass and keyboard player, he is a much respected session player and producer. His production credits include work with George Clinton, Kool & The Gang’s "J.T." Taylor, Parliament’s Dawn Silva, and Bell Biv DeVoe. D‘ LaVance’s dynamic stage presence and musical abilities has resulted in his touring internationally with a number of top artists including Johnny Gill, the Isley Brothers and Stevie Wonder.

Florida native "Kip" Mungin comes from a musical family. He has been singing and playing piano since he was seven years old. By nine, he was performing in numerous churches around Jacksonville and soon began receiving offers from various musical groups to play in clubs. Kip studied percussion and was head drum major at Ribault High School. After graduating, he began touring internationally. During his career, Kip has worked on a number of cruise lines, including Disney, and in numerous casinos worldwide. Kip has recorded and traveled with Bobby Blue Bland, R&B singer William Bell, and Prince, among others.

Raised in the Midwest, Andrea Adams has been performing professionally since she was 17. One year later, she was signed by Sony Japan and Big Boy Records. Seeking sunshine and an acting career, took Andrea to California where she landed recording contracts with Critique Records and BMG. A dance hit, Where Did Our Love Go, launched her European tour. Andrea founded Sweetwater Junction, experiencing success within the country music industry including a single called Never Far From Home. She has opened for acts such as the Kentucky Headhunters, Collin Raye and other up and coming country stars. Her love of musical theater landed Andrea a guest entertainer spot on Princess Cruise Lines prior to her coming to Las Vegas to join the Sunset Strip Band.

San Francisco native Lorena Peril was destined for a career in show business. As a small child, she sang in her father’s church. When she was old enough, Lorena began singing in local Bay Area clubs and was a favorite at annual Cinco De Mayo festivals. She was sought out by Carnival Cruise Lines and offered a five year contract as a headlining singer/dancer. Although a relative newcomer to Las Vegas, Lorena’s talent had her performing here with a number of local bands before becoming an important part of the Sunset Strip Band.

Raised in Las Vegas, Nadia Albulet has been dancing since she was four years old. After graduating from the Las Vegas Academy of International Studies, Visual and Performing Arts at 16, she landed her first professional job as a dancer in "Les Folies Bergere," becoming the youngest cast member of the Tropicana’s world famous show. In addition, Nadia has toured the United States, China, Japan and Saipan where she performed as well as assisted in choreographing a number of production shows. Nadia has appeared on television in The Surreal Life, Latin People’s Choice Awards, Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Telethon and Wayne Brady Show. Nadia toured with the talented Spanish guitarist/performer and international "cuchi cuchi lady," Charo, before earning a spot with the Sunset Strip Band.

Kayla Kalbfleisch started out as a gymnast. It was during her gymnastic training that it was suggested she take dancing classes in order to perfect her floor routine. She soon realized that her real love was dancing. During auditions for Warner Bros. and the Disney Corporations, Kayla met choreographers such as Michael Chambers. She then moved east and went to work for Radio City. She was seen on TV’s Star Search and traveled extensively, where she assisted in many dance conventions including Jump, America’s first "Alternative Convention." Jump is the only event in the world whose National is a Broadway show live in New York City. On each regional weekend, participants take classes from the youngest, most innovative faculty in the country. After years on the road, Kayla is very happy to be at home in Las Vegas and a part of the Sunset Strip Band.

Sunset Strip offers sizzling cutting-edge style music, video inspired choreography, dazzling costumes and remarkable vocals. Comments like "incredible," "sexy," "totally hot," and "super talented," keep audience members in their seats during show breaks, anxiously waiting to see what’s coming next. With different shows featuring different costumes and different music, it isn’t unusual for contemporary music lovers to stay for all three sets.

This is not your grandma’s music...unless your grandma is one swinging chick. What the Sunset Strip Band delivers, in their own unique style, are contemporary moves combined with chart topping hits of today and yesterday made famous by artists such as Christina Aguilera, Anastacia, Pat Benetar, Beyonce, Blondie, Kelly Clarkson, Destiny’s Child, Missy Elliott, En Vogue, Eve, Evenescense, Janis Joplin, Alicia Keys, Chaka Khan, Kiss, Jennifer Lopez, Madison Ave., Nelly, No Doubt, Pink, Prince, Republica, Shakira, Ashlee Simpson, Jessica Simpson, Nancy Sinatra, Gwen Stefani, Donna Summer, Tina Turner and Stevie Wonder. If this sounds like the kind of music that makes you want to tap your feet and/or get up and dance, head for the Las Vegas Strip’s version of the Sunset Strip. No matter what the temperature is outside, things inside the Aladdin are steaming.

Based on the full houses the Sunset Strip Band has been generating since the summer, it should come as no surprise that this top-notch musical/dance ensemble has been extended well into 2006 (and possibly longer). The Las Vegas Strip is a whole lot hotter these nights, thanks to Sunset Strip, the city‘s newest show band.

The Sunset Strip Band
Aladdin/Planet Hollywood
Curve Ultra Lounge
Tuesdays through Saturdays
at 7:30 pm, 8:40 and 9:50 pm
Two drink minimum

Addendum: In the spring, after remodeling is completed, The Sunset Strip Band will move into Planet Hollywood’s brand new state-of-the-art theater/lounge.

Earlier Rating

      Rating: 7.667 Total Times Rated: 6

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