Claire Voyant's Las Vegas Gossip Column



Displaying keen perception and great insight.  
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Claire Voyant  

Note: This is a past column from September 14, 2007
You can find the current column HERE


Las Vegas - September 14, 2007

Robert & Vera Goulet Angela Acosta Don Cherry

We have a little confession. Cousin Claire doesn't always have a chance to see everything she writes about. Sometimes, she sees things after the fact. Sometimes she never sees them at all. In last week's column, we wrote about The Las Vegas Tenors, describing who they are and what they were planning to do in their two night Las Vegas Hilton engagement. We had no idea what we were in for when we saw the concert on Saturday. After the fact, the word that comes immediately to mind is, WOW!

Combing these four individually talented musicians was a stroke of genius. Separately, Bobby Black, Teddy Davey, Bill Fayne and Mark Giovi are all first-class vocalists. Put them together and they create magic. The material presented offered a wide array of music genres, featuring everything from Italian opera, rock 'n' roll and pop standards, to a "boy band" medley, featuring tunes made famous by Queen, The Temptations, Bee Gees, Mills Brothers, Beach Boys, Gladys Knight's Pips, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, and the O'Jays. In solo spots, Bobby Black's version of Amazing Grace was just that, amazing. Teddy sang Beautiful Maria of My Soul (the Oscar-nominated song, sung by Antonio Banderas & The Mambo All-Stars in the film The Mambo Kings), beautifully. Mark did a powerful rendition of Bon Govi's Bed of Roses, and Bill put his own magic in Barry Manilow's Could It Be Magic. There was plenty of inspirational message music, with the quartet joining together for You Raise Me Up, The Prayer and an original song, You Can Believe Again, written by Fayne, the late songwriter Ron Miller (For Once In My Life, Touch Me In The Morning, If I Could, I've Never Been To Me), and Ron's daughter, Lisa Dawn Miller). The closer, in a tribute to the late Luciano Pavarotti, was Puccini's Nessun Dorma. With the accompaniment of 15 musicians, including the lovely ladies of Bella Rumore (Beautiful Noise), the multiple standing ovations given to this group were well earned. Look out Il Divo (and Simon Cowell). Can Carnegie Hall be far behind?

Among the recognizable faces seen in the audience were Don Cherry and Francine Bond Cherry; Robert Goulet and Vera; Domenick Allen and his stunning wife, Leigh "Ulla" Zimmerman; Sandy Hackett and bride, Lisa Dawn Miller (daughter of the late songwriter Ron Miller); singing impressionist Bill Acosta; executive chef/co-owner/singer of Fellini's, Chas La Forte (who was celebrating his birthday); Frank Lieberman and Karen; Jackie Brett and Mel Carter; Las Vegas Sun columnist, Jerry Fink; Nick Zuber (the Tenors‘ business manager); Las Vegan Carole Hassell and her sister, former Folies Bergere principal, Laura Freeman Blackburn visiting from Kenmore, Washington; Skye Dee Miles and Sandra Benton, on their night off from Menopause the Musical; and singing dentist, J.D. Smith. What we can say about the experience, (with credit to Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein's lyrics from State Fair...almost) "It was TWO grand nights for singing."

What we didn't know about Vita Corimbi, when we wrote about her last week, was that this songwriter/actress/Jill of all trades was also the pianist/accompanist for the Las Vegas Tenors concert. Is there no end to this woman's talent? The answer, obviously, is no.

And speaking of Bill Acosta, he and his wife Jeanne Bavaro Acosta are very proud of their daughter Angela Acosta. The young lady, a freshman at UNLV, is following in the show business steps of her parents. Not only is she a talented dancer (she studies at Delgado Dance Studios), she is also acting as an assistant to up-and-coming young illusionist, Mark Bennick. Mark and Angela will be performing at the Mohave County Fair in Arizona, through tomorrow (September 15th). If you happen to be in the neighborhood, stop by for a look.

Nice to see singer Don Cherry and his bride of 14 years, Francine Bond Cherry at this event. Don Cherry was a mainstay in the Starlight lounge at the Desert Inn before the hotel/casino was sold, closed, imploded and rebuilt, morphing into Wynn Las Vegas. Cherry had a number of hit records with his most successful being Band of Gold. Cherry's hits are not just confined to the radio. A top golfer, Cherry has also displayed some impressive hits on many courses around the country. You can learn more about him by checking out his Web site at www.doncherrysinger.com.

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More than 20 years after his death, Liberace continues to influence the next generation of pianists. One of the many ways that his legacy lives on is through the annual Liberace Piano Competitions. The initial phases of this year's competition took place on August 12th and September 9th. The finals will take place this Sunday, September 16th, at the Community Lutheran Church, located at 3720 E. Tropicana, a couple of miles east of the museum. Hear the best-of-the-best from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets for this portion of the playoffs are $10 for adults and $5 for children 12 and under. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Family Promise of Las Vegas (formerly Interfaith Hospitality Network), committed to helping homeless families in the Las Vegas Valley to achieve lasting independence. They do this by helping the community mobilize to provide safe shelter, meals, and support services for homeless families. For additional information, call Shirley Swift at (702) 798-5595.

And another musical program, with proceeds going to a worthy cause, will take place tomorrow (Saturday) afternoon, at 2 p.m., when the public can see and hear members of the cast and orchestras of Spamalot, The Producers, Phantom - The Las Vegas Spectacular and Mamma Mia! in a concert reading of God Lives In Glass. Based on children's descriptions of God, the book and lyrics are by Robert J. Landy and Keith Thompson, with music by Thompson. The concert will take place at Faith Community Lutheran Church, 2700 South Town Center Drive (just south of Sahara). A minimum $35 per person donation will benefit the Southern Nevada chapter of Make-A-Wish (granting the desires of critically ill children). For reservations, call (702) 686-7034, or e-mail to [email protected] more info online at www.GodLivesinGlass.com.

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Rich Little Patti LuPone Dolly Coulter

Look for Rich Little to move into the Golden Nugget theater in late October. The plan is for the impressionist to perform late night shows (probably starting at around 9:30), where he will follow Defending the Caveman. The Nugget hopes to attract other entertainers, getting them to drop by after their shows, like in the old days of Vegas. Little, who will turn 69 in November, is also a talented impressionist of another kind. He creates pencil portraits of celebrities. Among his subjects on paper are many of the people he impersonates, Jack Benny, Humphrey Bogart, George Burns, Johnny Carson, Sean Connery, Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, W. C. Fields, Clark Gable, Cary Grant, Ronald Reagan (and other presidents), Frank Sinatra, John Wayne, Orson Welles and Mae West. Rich Little's deal with the Golden Nugget is scheduled to run until April 6th.

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Joe Bologna and Renee Taylor had such a good time in their recent Suncoast engagement (and so did the audiences during the three sold out nights), rumor has it that the longtime married couple (42 years) may be seeking a more permanent gig in Vegas. Their funny history together, portrayed in their self-penned If You Ever Leave Me...I'm Going With You, makes for a night of good theater. Congratulations to the Suncoast for presenting new and different forms of entertainment for Las Vegas audiences. They must be doing something right, as most of their shows generate full houses for the off-Strip property.

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If you are reading this early enough on Friday, you may still be able to get tickets to see Brian Stokes Mitchell, tonight at UNLV. Show starts at 8 p.m. in the Artemus W. Ham Concert Hall. Mitchell, a 2000 Tony-winner for his role in Kiss Me Kate, launches this season's New York Stage & Beyond series. The Broadway star with the powerful baritone voice also had leading roles in Kiss of the Spider Woman, Ragtime, Man of La Mancha and Sweeney Todd. Mitchell starred with Reba McEntire and Alec Baldwin in South Pacific. Performed at Carnegie Hall, the production was telecast on PBS last year. Call UNLV's Performing Arts Center at (702) 895- 2787 for additional information.

And speaking of big Broadway stars, rumor has it that Patti LuPone may be turning up on a stage in Las Vegas...and not at UNLV. LuPone, also a Tony-winner for her role as Eva Peron in Evita, has starred in Anything Goes, Sunset Boulevard, Master Class, Oliver! and Sweeney Todd. She also co-starred on the ABC series, Life Goes On. Stay tuned for additional information on this one.

And speaking of Sweeney Todd, musician Dolly Coulter, a onetime Excalibur singing "Princess," is back at The Castle On the Corner, where she entertains visitors, playing piano near the registration desk. Busy, multi-talented Dolly is also part of Killian's Angels, who perform regularly in Brendan's Irish Pub at The Orleans, is a cast member of the Rio's Tony n' Tina's Wedding, and frequently has roles in local theatrical productions such as Sweeney Todd.

As for Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, look for the World Premiere of the School Edition of the Stephen Sondheim musical (with book by Hugh Wheeler) to be presented by the downtown Las Vegas Academy in November. In order for a high school to be granted permission to do a show of this nature, they have to have proven themselves worthy of the honor. Our local, award-winning performing arts high school has more than done that. Over the years, the academy's earlier productions of musicals such as Thoroughly Modern Millie, Little Women, Miss Saigon, Ragtime and Once On This Island, have won the hearts of both critics and audiences alike. Evening performances of Sweeney Todd will take place in the state-of-the-art Lowden Theater for the Performing Arts at 7 p.m. on November 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 8th, 9th and 10th. A 1 p.m. matinee will be offered on Saturday, November 10th. For information, and to purchase tickets, call StarTickets at (800) 585-3737.

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The 2007 Super Summer Theatre's final show of the season is Johnny Guitar, the stage musical. Based on the 1954 film of the same name (starring Joan Crawford and Mercedes McCambridge), Johnny Guitar debuted off-Broadway in 2004, with book by Nicholas van Hoogstraten, lyrics by Joel Higgins, and music by Martin Silvestri and Higgins. According to their press release, "It tells the tale of Vienna, a sultry saloonkeeper, and her rival Emma, the town's tycoon. When Johnny Guitar, the handsome stranger with a secret past, rides into town and faces off with Vienna's lover, the stage is set for a hilarious showdown." Produced by Stage Door Entertainment, this production continues at the Spring Mountain Ranch, Thursdays through Saturdays, ending on September 22nd. Park gates open at 6 p.m. and the show starts at 7. Take a picnic dinner, a blanket (or rent chairs at the ranch), and a sweater or jacket (yes, it gets cold out there when the sun goes down). Tickets are only $10. Call (702) 594-PLAY. Here's a bit of fun trivia regarding Johnny Guitar the musical. Music writer Joel Higgins, is the very same Joel Higgins that played Ed Stratton on the 1982-1986 TV series Silver Spoons (co-starring a very young Ricky Schroeder). And co-writer, Martin Silvestri, accompanied his significant other, cabaret/musical theater performer Christine Andreas, when the duo performed Love Is Good at the Charleston Heights Art Center last November.

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This week, we saw The Producers for the second time. In our opinion, the two major cast changes result in good and not-so-good news. Bringing in Broadway veteran Lee Roy Reams to portray the flamboyant, hysterically funny Roger DeBris, was a no-brainer. David Hasselhoff, who played (a key word) the role when the Las Vegas version of Mel Brooks' Tony-award winning musical (it won an unprecedented 12 Tonys) was a publicity-generating gimmick. Reams, on the other hand, is the consummate actor and song and dance man. He adds the right touch to this Paris Las Vegas production. In the case of Tony Danza, the new Max Bialystock, we feel he isn't sleazy enough or loud enough to do this role justice. Although we have enjoyed seeing Danza play himself in cabaret-type shows at The Orleans, we much prefer Brad Oscar (the actor who originated the role of Max when the show opened here in February). As for the rest of the cast, all strong in their individual roles, special kudos go to principals Larry Raben in his role as Leo Bloom, Leigh Zimmerman as Ulla, Bill Nolte as Franz Liebkind, Rich Affannato as Carmen Ghia, and the real live orchestra lead by Keith Thompson with assistance by David Kancsar. A note of possible interest, Sam Harris, Star Search's first big winner in the male singer category, was one of the actors who played the role of Carmen Ghia on Broadway.

Tony Danza Leigh Zimmerman Shelly Taylor

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How time flies when you're doing good business. David Saxe's V - The Ultimate Variety Show celebrates its fifth anniversary next week. Originally opened in 2002 at The Venetian, V moved to the Aladdin's (now Planet Hollywood) V Theater in 2004. Saxe took a dandy idea - using novelty/variety acts that normally performed within large production shows - and turned it into a successful concept. It doesn't seem that many years ago when a young David was handling lights for his sister Melinda's show at the downtown Lady Luck casino. Within a few years, he was producing Showgirls of Magic at the San Remo (now Hooters). Showgirls was originally conceived by David's mother, Bonnie Saxe. Today, in addition to V - The Ultimate Variety Show, David Saxe produces shows such as Fab Four Beatle Mania, Gregory Popovich's Comedy Pet Theater, Nathan Burton's Comedy Magic and Mesmerized, all at his V Theater in Planet Hollywood's Miracle Mile Shops area. Saxe also produces Matsuri at the Sahara, and Dirk Arthur's Xtreme Magic at the Tropicana.

As for Melinda Saxe, once billed as The First Lady of Magic, she is now retired, living in Arizona, and raising a family. As for the Lady Luck, it has been closed since February of 2006. The original story was that it was going to be remodeled and reopened. It was taking way too long and showing very little (can you say "no"?) results. In more recent months, it has been announced that the downtown property has been sold and new owners have plans to turn the place into a "boutique" hotel. Only time will tell on that one. The real survivor in this tale seems to be David Saxe.

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Raised in Denver, Shelly Taylor began playing piano at age five. She continued studying several instruments while earning her Bachelor's Degree in Music from the University of Colorado. Shelly also developed a deep passion for singing. She always had an interest in jazz, and listening to the great singers and instrumentalists of that genre. Eventually, she moved to the San Francisco Bay Area where she performed solo as well as with her trio in the finest rooms in the city, including the historic St. Francis Hotel in Union Square and the Ritz-Carlton Hotel on Nob Hill. During this period, she also traveled to Asia, performing in Japan at the legendary Compass Rose Room at the top of the Westin Hotel in Tokyo. Since moving to Las Vegas in 1999, Shelly has appeared at many of the resorts and casinos on the Strip. From 2000 to 2005, she entertained at the Mirage and, in 2005, opened Wynn Las Vegas where she headlined with her trio. Since 2006, Miss Taylor has been performing, Thursdays through Saturdays, at Harrah's elegant Range Steakhouse. On Sundays and Mondays, she plays in the Baccarat Lounge at Bellagio. In 2001, Shelly released her debut CD, Sugar, and recently released a second one called All of You. Oscar Fields III, President of Tiburon Music Consultants (Formerly Executive Vice President/General Manager of Motown Record Company) says of Shelly, "Every so often a new singer comes along that knocks you off your feet from the first listen. Shelly Taylor fits that bill. Shelly's gorgeous voice and versatility makes each song her own with a smooth, self-assured vocal delivery. A new jazz star has indeed arrived." Tomorrow night, September 15th, Shelly Taylor, billed as "New York Cabaret comes to the Bootlegger," will perform at the South Strip bistro as part of Kelly Clinton‘s Celebrity Spot Light series. Dinner seating is at 7 p.m. with the show following at 8. Tonight (Friday the14th), Elissa Fiorillo will perform at the Bootlegger. All we know about Elissa is what we read in the very limited press release we received. Wish we could add something to the described "Jazzy Soul-full Torch." If we had more information, we would be more than happy to share it with our readers. Sorry.

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The Pitbull of Comedy, that would be one Bobby Slayton, paid an early morning visit to Waking Up With the Wagners (news anchors Dana Wagner and Kim Capozzo Wagner) on Thursday morning. The purpose for stopping by channel 3 was to take a gift to the newest member of the news crew, L. J. L. J., standing for Little Jordan, is the new puppy of weatherman John Fredericks. If you recall, Fredericks recently lost his beloved sidekick, a yellow lab named Jordan. A dog lover, John needed another canine in his life. He now has that, in the form of L. J. We think that taking a giant bone to the pup was a dandy gesture on pitbull Slayton's part. After all, members of the same species should stick together. The comic can be seen at Hooters Casino Hotel, Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8 and 10 p.m., and Sundays at 8 p.m. only. For one heck of a double bill, spend a Saturday or Sunday evening at Hooters, seeing the extremely clever and mystifying Gerry McCambridge, known as The Mentalist, early, and the outrageous Bobby Slayton late. McCambridge performs at 8 p.m. on Mondays and Tuesdays, and at 6 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Call (866) LVHoots for reservations.



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Claire Voyant's portrait by Charlie Frye