Claire Voyant's Las Vegas Gossip Column



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Claire Voyant  

Note: This is a past column from June 22, 2007
You can find the current column HERE


Las Vegas - June 22, 2007

Brent Barrett Gordie & Dryden Brown Doris Troy

This question has puzzled mankind (AND womankind) for decades...can Broadway (and off-Broadway) coexist in the same county as lavish feather and rhinestone production shows and everything Cirque? The answer appears to be yes...and no. In past decades, musicals with Broadway roots - among them Flower Drum Song, Destry Rides Again, Guys and Dolls, Fiddler On the Roof, Mame, The Student Prince, 42nd Street, Pajama Game, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum, Anything Goes, A Chorus Line, Promises, Promises, Sugar Babies, Annie, South Pacific and Hello, Dolly!, with major Broadway and Hollywood stars such as Susan Hayward, Juliet Prowse, Jack Jones, Ann-Margret, Frank Gorshin, Maureen McGovern, Betty Grable, Dan Dailey, Jack Soo, Dorothy Lamour, Juanita Hall and Gene Barry - did well in Las Vegas. Then came an almost drought of musical theater offerings in the Entertainment Capital of the World, except for an occasional traveling company of shows such as Peter Pan (with Cathy Rigby), Rent, Camelot (with Robert Goulet), Les Miserables, Best Little Whorehouse In Texas and West Side Story that stopped in at places such as the Aladdin Theater for the Performing Arts (now housing The Beauty of Magic at Planet Hollywood) and Cashman Theatre near downtown. Dream Street, a well-cast original show, using familiar music, had moderate success at both the Dunes and the Desert Inn in the 1980s. In the past few years, there have been new entries in the field here - Chicago and Mamma Mia! (both at Mandalay Bay), We Will Rock You at Paris Las Vegas, Hairspray at the Luxor, Saturday Night Fever at the Sahara and Avenue Q at Wynn, to name some. Today, Phantom - The Las Vegas Spectacular plays in a beautiful, specially created theater at The Venetian, The Producers has found a home at Paris Las Vegas, Spamalot is at Wynn Las Vegas, and Mamma Mia! is still a hit at Mandalay Bay, four years and four months after opening. Jersey Boys is also scheduled for a run in Vegas. This week, we attended the first anniversary party for Phantom (with Brent Barrett playing the lead) and made our first visit to The Producers. This was our third Phantom experience. We saw Michael Crawford play the tormented masked man in Los Angeles some years ago, and we have seen Andrew Lloyd Webber's masterpiece twice in Las Vegas. For our money, Mr. Barrett is just as good in the lead role as Crawford. Last night, we checked out Defending the Caveman, a new entry in the fight for the dollars of both tourists and locals. Caveman is the longest running solo play in Broadway history, but will it fly here? Only time will tell. A one-person, Broadway show in a Las Vegas hotel showroom is definitely something different. If it proves to be successful, chances are other properties will follow suit. We will write more about the Caveman next week.

And speaking of musical theater, Spring Mountain Ranch, on the outskirts of Las Vegas, offers outdoor productions during their Super Summer Theatre series. A permanent stage in a lovely meadow setting awaits those willing to take the drive out to Red Rock. This summer's first production is Ragtime. Based on E.L. Doctorow's classic novel, Ragtime tells three intersecting turn-of-the-century America stories. Coalhouse Walker is a Harlem musician facing racism. He goes to extremes to get justice for himself and his lover Sarah. A white family in New Rochelle, N.Y., encounters the fast-changing times and a Latvian Jewish man, Tateh, whose skill making silhouettes puts him in the movie business. Mix in some historical figures such as Emma Goldman, Henry Ford, Harry Houdini and Stanford White, and the result is a more serious musical than is usually presented at the ranch. Director Terrence Williams of Stage Door Productions states, "It's an extremely beautiful story by the time you get to the end. Everything comes around full circle. It's a dark story with a happy ending." Much of the shows' original adult and frank language is retained. "The racial slurs are still in the show," Williams says. "They're necessary to the story, but we cleaned up the language a bit. The changes we made are very minor." With a book by Terrence McNally, lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and music by Stephen Flaherty, the 32-member Ragtime cast includes Keith Dotson as Coalhouse Walker, Kimmie Kidd as Sarah, Dryden Brown as Edgar, Brandalee Bluth as Mother and Rishi Shukla as Tateh.

Here's a bit information you may not know...The above mentioned Dryden Brown is the 12-year-old son of entertainer Gordie Brown. This is Dryden's first acting job and he comes off looking like a pro. It must be genetic. Dryden and the rest of the Ragtime cast can be seen through June 30th. Tickets are $10 to $15. Call (702) 895-2787 for dates and to make reservations. All shows are at 8 p.m., but plan to go out hours earlier. Take a picnic basket, have supper and enjoy nature before the performance. A jacket or sweater is recommended as it actually can get cold once the sun sets. Comic/singer/ impressionist Gordie is at The Venetian. Daddy Gordie's show times are at 7:30 p.m., every day but Wednesday. Call (702) 414-7469. Go see them both.

Here's news that will be of interest to a number of Las Vegans as well worldwide fans of the late singer, Doris Troy. Mama, I Want To Sing, a long running off-Broadway hit, will

be made into a movie. The gospel musical, which originally opened at the Hecksher Theater in 1984, was written by Doris' sister, Vy Higgensen, and tells the story of the singer/ recording artist. Doris, who maintained a home in Las Vegas for about 15 years before her death in 2004 at the age of 67, was best known for her hit, Just One Look.

Mama, scheduled for release next year, will star 21-year-old Grammy Award-winning singer Ciara in her first major movie role. She will portray Amara, a preacher's daughter who transforms from church choir singer to an international pop superstar. Rhythm and blues legend, Patti LaBelle, and Lynn Whitfield, Emmy-winner for her role in HBO's The Josephine Baker Story, will also star. Filming will start in Louisiana this month.

As far as theater in New York, it's interesting to note that Broadway is just winding up a record of sorts, selling 12.3 million theater tickets during this season. Our advice...Don't give up on musical theater, Las Vegas power brokers. Choose the right shows and do some creative TV advertising...both here and in neighboring states.

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Jeanne Bavaro is at it again...this time at the Starbright Theater in Sun City Summerlin. Tomorrow, Saturday, June 23rd, Bavaro presents Lisa Donovan, and on Sunday, the 24th, Denise Clemente will take to the Starbright stage. Singer Denise has been a Vegas staple for almost 30 years. She has rarely been out of work, performing in lounges around the city and occasionally opening for a showroom headliner (she last served as opening act for Bob Newhart at the Stardust). Lisa Donovan may not be as familiar a name to current Las Vegas residents and tourists, but she should be. In the mid-1990s, Lisa, who is making her second appearance at the Starbright, was a regular in the Desert Inn lounge where she alternated with Keely Smith and Sam Butera. She has also shared main room stages with George Burns, Donald O'Connor and Don Rickles. Although she now calls Las Vegas home, these days Donovan does most of her entertaining at sea where she is a favorite of cruise ship passengers. This triple-threat lady (she sings, dances and does some comedy) should be seen and heard more often in our (and her) city. Catch her act and see if you don't agree. Both shows are at 7:30 p.m. Ticket prices are $12 for Summerlin residents and $15 for the rest of us. The Starbright is located at 2225 Thomas Ryan Blvd. at West Lake Mead. Call (800) 595-4849.

Lisa Donovan Denise Clemente Louie Anderson & Roseanne Barr

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Last Friday, two nights before her closing at New York-New York, Roseanne Barr was surprised on stage by comic Louie Anderson, who is currently headlining at the Excalibur. Louie brought out the audience question cards for "psychic" portion of Roseanne's shows. This was a return gesture on Louie's part, as Roseanne, along with fellow comics George Wallace and Carrot Top surprised Anderson on his stage to honor his one year anniversary at the Castle on the Corner. Roseanne and Louie have a longtime Las Vegas connection. In the 1980s, the comedy duo co-headlined at the Desert Inn. This was a unique booking for the time. It was very unusual for two comics to appear together, especially if they were virtual unknowns. For many television viewers, Roseanne was best known for her Pizza Hut commercials. It was her 1985 appearance on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson that launched her national career. After 1988, and the debut of her Emmy-winning hit TV series, everyone knew who Roseanne Barr was. It's good to see her back doing stand-up comedy again. Hopefully, she will return to perform in Vegas again in the not too distant future.

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Quite a number of Las Vegans got face time on ABC's new reality show, The Next Best Thing. The premise is to find the best in celebrity impersonators and what better place to do that than Las Vegas? We recognized a number of familiar faces (and voices) during the past couple of elimination weeks. Sometimes it was just a glimpse and sometimes it was a few minutes but among the locals we spotted were Sandy Anderson as Dolly Parton, Sebastian Anzaldo as Frank Sinatra, Trent Carlini as Elvis Presley), Will Collins as Liberace, (Proud) Larry Edwards as Tina Turner), Marcel Forestieri as Jay Leno, Sharon Owens as Barbra Streisand, Ivor Price as W. C. Fields and Doug Starks as Sammy Davis Jr. To see how these folks (and others we missed) have done, and will do, tune in on Wednesdays.

America's Got Talent is also showcasing some of our local entertainers. Magician Kevin James (and his assistant, Antonio Hoyos), now appearing in The World's Greatest Magic Show at the Greek Isles, along with Gregory Popovich, of the Popovich Comedy Pet Theater (at Planet Hollywood's V Theater), were both moved forward and will show up on the NBC show again over the next few weeks. We like the addition of Jerry Springer as host (replacing last season's Regis Philbin). Judges are David Hasselhoff (remember him?), Piers Morgan (doing his best Simon Cowell impression) and newcomer, Sharon Osbourne, replacing last year's token female, Brandy Norwood.

Also seen on the tube in recent days were magician Hans Klok and his current assistant, Pamela Anderson, during Wednesday morning's Today show. After completing an illusion, the duo were asked how long they would be appearing in The Beauty of Magic at Planet Hollywood. Anderson stated she had a three month contract. Klok said he hoped to be there for 15 years. Although this is a city known for gambling and taking chances, we suggest the handsome Mr. Klok not bet too much on being here for 15 years. If we were to make a prediction, based on what we saw and didn't hear (enthusiastic applause) at the media opening on June 2nd, we would say the whole show could end at the same time as Ms. Anderson's contract.

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As talented as Wayne Brady is (and he certainly is), the singer/dancer/improv artist owes much of his improvisational success to his cohort, Jonathan Mangum. Jonathan is Brady's foil in just about every sketch and setup used in his show, Making %@it Up, currently playing at The Venetian. The two are quite a team, making it all seem effortless and as if it were scripted material. After working together for some time, including on the TV series, Whose Line Is It Anyway?, these two go together like scotch and soda. This is a very enjoyable, and different for Las Vegas, show. Brady, and Mangum, can be seen Thursdays through Sundays at 9:30 p.m. Call (702) 414-9000 for reservations.

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Described as having the "Most Mind Boggling Show in Las Vegas," Gerry McCambridge not only stimulates laughter, he also amazes his audience by reading their minds! For years, Gerry was known as the "Mentalist to the Stars," performing at Ultra private celebrity A-List parties and at comedy clubs across the country. On June 18, The Mentalist opened in the Night Owl Showroom at Hooters Casino Hotel. In his 70-minute Hooters show, the master of the mind will perform audience favorites displayed on his NBC primetime special and developed during his stints at the Rampart and Stardust hotel/casinos in Vegas. Audience members can also expect McCambridge to unleash some never before seen mind-bending routines. Prepare to be blown away by The Mentalist. Show times for McCambridge at Hooters (where he shares alternates with The Pit Bull of Comedy, Bobby Slayton) are Mondays and Tuesdays at 8 p.m., and Saturdays at 6 p.m. Call (866) 584-6687 for reservations.

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If you happen to be in New York City on Monday (June 25th), you have the opportunity to be an audience member as the very talented Mark Nadler records a new CD. Called Tschaikowsky (and Other Russians), the pianist/singer/dancer/comic will perform his popular one-man tour de force at 8 p.m. in Carnegie Hall‘s Weill‘s Recital Hall. Nadler, who is always a sellout during his all too rare appearances in Las Vegas, states that "People have been asking me for a long time to make a recording of Tschaikowsky (and Other Russians). I'm ecstatic to announce that I will finally be making this recording - at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall!! (How perfect is that?! After all, the music for the title song is by Kurt Weill?!) I will record the entire show, audience and all, so if you're in the audience, YOU'LL BE ON THE RECORDING!" Nadler has convinced the powers that be to keep the ticket prices as low as possible. The cost for tickets is an amazingly affordable (especially for New York) $10 to $35 a person. They can be purchased at the Carnegie Hall Box Office, or by calling Carnegie Charge at (212) 247-7800. The old line goes something like, "How do you get to Carnegie Hall?" The answer is "Practice. Practice. Practice." The answer is also, "It's at 154 W. 57th St. (between 6th and 7th Avenues). If you have the opportunity to be there, not only will you see a brilliant entertainer at work (and play), you will also be part of this once-in-a-lifetime event!

Will Collins Jonathan Mangum Anton Apolo Ohno & Julianne Hough

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When celebrity Anton Apolo Ohno and Julianne Hough were declared the winners of this seasons' Dancing With the Stars, most people knew something about him (he‘s a multiple Olympic Gold Medal winner), but very little, if anything, about his beautiful blonde partner...that is unless they were from Salt Lake City or Las Vegas. The Utah-born Hough hopes to parlay her TV success into a singing career, which is her true calling. During her free time, Hough is in the studio recording demos. Those reading her ABC bio would know only that Hough was from Utah, as there is no mention of her Las Vegas connection. Her mother and stepfather, Marriann and Aaron Nelson, have lived in Southern Nevada since 1998. Hough attended Kirk Adams Elementary School for six months before moving to London to study dance. She moved back to Las Vegas when she was 14, where she attended the much respected Las Vegas Academy for a year. She finished up high school in Utah, where her father lives. We don't know if there is any truth to the rumors that Anton and Julianne are now a couple off-camera, but if it's so, we predict lots of dancing in their future.

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The Las Vegas Rainbow Bar & Grill welcomes back hometown punk-pop band The Screaming MeeMees, Wednesday, June 27th, at 9 p.m. Their performance will be filmed by WatchIt Entertainment for internet broadcast, and will air online as well as on cable television. The Screaming MeeMees is fronted by fiery and charismatic lead female singer, Evan Page. With Christian Brady, Jason Walker, Tyler Nelson and Nick Rich, the Screaming MeeMees are all the more amazing considering that the quintet officially formed only one year ago. Since then, The Screaming MeeMees have played more than 80 shows to SRO crowds at major Las Vegas hotspots (Hard Rock, The Joint, Empire Ballroom), and in Los Angeles (The Whisky, Key Club, Viper Room). The group has recorded and released their first independent album, The Chronicles Part IV. The Rainbow Bar & Grill is located at 4480 Paradise Road, across the street from the Hard Rock Hotel and Café. The show is free to those over 21.

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Last minute reminder...Golden Rainbow's Ribbon of Life show takes place this weekend. For those unfamiliar with Golden Rainbow, it is a 20-year-old organization, made up primarily of caring people from the local entertainment community. Two decades ago, when a young production show dancer with AIDS lived out his final days in a garage because his family rejected him, fellow performers united to offer an alternative. Of course the most logical way for performers to raise funds is to put on a show. They have been doing just that for two decades. The monies raised - small amounts in the beginning, more than $250,000 last year - has been used to provide housing and needed supplies for HIV/AIDS victims and their families. Hopefully, no Las Vegan will ever have to die in a garage because they are homeless. This year's Red Carpet event, will feature performers from the best shows, nightclubs and dance companies in the city. Among those donating their time and talent, American Superstars, The Asian Pacific Performing Arts Alliance, Celine Dion's A New Day, Chippendales, Crazy Horse Paris, Fantasy, Folies Bergere, Jubilee!, Ka, Le Reve, Mamma Mia!, MGM Grand Productions, Missy Cochran Entertainment, O, Phantom - The Las Vegas Spectacular, The Producers, Pussycat Dolls, The Rat Pack, Rio Bevertainers, Searcy Entertainment Inc., Sirens of TI, Spamalot, Studio 54, Tangerine, Toni Braxton Revealed and The World's Greatest Magic Show. John O'Hurley, from Spamalot at Wynn Las Vegas, will be the special guest. The dates for the all-singing, all-dancing Ribbon of Life fundraisers are Saturday and Sunday, June 23rd and 24th. The times are at 1 p.m. both days. The place for this weekend's movie-themed spectacular is the Jubilee Theater inside Bally's Las Vegas. Tickets are $50, $75, $100, $200 and $250. Call (702) 384-2899.



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