Claire Voyant's Las Vegas Gossip Column

Displaying keen perception and great insight.  
She's a little bit naughty. She’s a little bit nice.  
She calls ‘em like she sees (and hears) ‘em.  

Claire Voyant  

Note: This is a past column from September 21, 2007
You can find the current column HERE

Las Vegas - September 21, 2007

Brian Stokes Mitchell Mark Nadler & KT Sullivan Brent Barrett

Last Friday night, we attended the performance of Broadway favorite Brian Stokes Mitchell at UNLV. A three-time Tony-nominee (for Ragtime and the revivals of Kiss Me Kate and Man of La Mancha - he won the Tony Award for his performance as Fred Graham/Petruchio in Kiss Me Kate), Stokes, as he calls himself, put on one hell of a show. Backed by Gerard D'Angelo on piano, Gary Haase on bass and Victor Jones on drums, Stokes presented an eclectic mix of music - offering everything from standards such as The Very Thought of You, They Can't Take That Away From Me, The Best Is Yet To Come, Love For Sale, How Long Has This Been Going On and I'm Beginning To See the Light, to It's Not Easy Being Green, New Words and a Losing My Mind/Twisted medley, to Some Enchanted Evening, The Impossible Dream, So In Love, Wheels of a Dream and an a cappella version of This Nearly Was Mine, from musicals Mr. Mitchell has starred in. The gentleman has a warm and friendly stage presence and seemed delighted to be in Las Vegas. It was a terrific night of entertainment, with even the Review-Journal's tough-as-nails theater critic, one Anthony Del Valle, giving Mr. Mitchell a well-deserved "A" rating. Heck, the man is playing Carnegie Hall on October 15th.

Since cabaret and good musical theater are Cousin Claire's favorite type of entertainment, one would think that the old broad would be deliriously happy. She isn't. Why, you ask? We expected the Artemus Ham Concert Hall to be full for the first act of the 2007-2008 New York Stage & Beyond season. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case. The theater, which seats 1830, had less than 450 patrons there to enjoy the evening. For those of us that want more East Coast-style entertainment here, it won't happen if the community doesn't support it. How do we generate that much needed support? Cousin Claire has two suggestions, (1) more advertising, perhaps on television, and (2) lower ticket prices. The university presentations are geared to, and primarily attract (or not), locals, not folks on vacation with vacation money to spend. Instead of ticket prices at $40, $55 and $85, all tiers should be dropped by at least $15. Do the math. If the theater was full (it seats 1830), even at the lower prices, more revenue would be generated. Let's fill up the place, not just for the income, but also for the moral of the performers and for the moral of the audience members who spent their hard-earned dollars and dressed up (we hope) to attend the theater.

With venues like the Charleston Heights Arts Center presenting well-known pop and Broadway stars such as Mark Nadler, KT Sullivan, Christine Andreas, Kevin Spirtas, Gloria Loring and Renee Taylor in her one-woman tribute to Golda Meir, the onetime Prime Minister of Israel, and charging only $10 and $15 a ticket (the Charleston Heights theater seats 364), is it any wonder that they sell out so quickly? Just a month ago, the Suncoast presented Linda Eder in their 500-seat showroom. Eder sold out her three nights. Joe Bologna and wife Renee Taylor did SRO business at the same property when they performed their If You Ever Leave Me...I'm Going With You show. Ticket prices for both shows ran from $22 to $44, including taxes and fees. Tony-winner Patti LuPone is on approach at the same property, with ticket prices at $29.95, $39.95 and $54.95 plus taxes and fees (a bit higher than usual for the Suncoast, but still considerably lower than those at UNLV). We realize that the hotel/casinos, unlike our university, can make additional money on customers once they have them inside their walls (those video poker machines are very tempting), where UNLV can't. That's just the way it is.

We have another suggestion for the folks at UNLV when they are deciding who they should and shouldn't bring in to perform. Being told that Las Vegas audiences wouldn't come out to see Amanda McBroom, Jason Graae, Kaye Ballard, Ray Jessel, Sam Harris and lots of other talented performers who have been suggested, because "the ticket buyers don't know who those people are," makes very little sense. Many of these performers have won MAC Awards (presented by Manhattan cabaret owners), and all of them have CDs available and very successful acts that they perform around the country...but not here. Based on the poor attendance for his show, apparently locals don't know who Tony-winner Brian Stokes Mitchell is either. Or Tony-winner Harvey Fierstein, who did very little to add to the bottom line of Hairspray during its brief run at the Luxor. The series used to be called Best of the New York Stage. It is now called the New York Stage and Beyond. We are not New York. We are way Beyond New York. Who better than an educational institution to educate the community about top talent from around the country? The university could, and should, be teaching more than just the enrolled students. They should also be educating the general public by presenting a variety of performers, even if they aren't yet household names.

On October 20th, UNLV brings in The Broadway Divas, made up of Kate Baldwin, Julia Murney, and Emily Skinner. Kimberly Grigsby will conduct the orchestra. We will give you more information about the ladies as it gets closer to October 20th.

And speaking of Broadway and cabaret, and specifically the Charleston Heights Arts Center, look for Vegas favorites, Mark Nadler and KT Sullivan mentioned above, to return to the theater on March 2nd. This will be KT's third time at Charleston Heights, and Mark's fourth (he did his Mark Nadler in a Nutshell solo show). Together, these two talents performed their well-researched and entertaining tributes to George Gershwin and Irving Berlin. This time, the program will be Time After Time, offering a mix of a number of their successful revues. If you love musical theater and/or cabaret, this is a no-brainer. Tickets are an unbelievably low $10 and $15 (if you buy them at the door the day of the show) and the small theater sells out quickly (there are never tickets at the door for these two). Call (702) 229-6383, but hurry!

And here's a bit of trivia...We spotted handsome Brent Barrett, the star of Phantom - The Vegas Spectacular, in Brian Stokes Mitchell's Friday night audience at UNLV. Coincidentally, Brent played the role of Fred Graham in the London production of Kiss Me Kate, where he was nominated for an Olivier Award (London's equivalent of the Tony). That is the same role that Mitchell played in the Broadway revival of the Cole Porter musical. Brent's London Kiss Me Kate performance is available on DVD. On the Maury Yeston Songbook compilation album, Barrett sings the beautiful song, New Words, which was performed by Stokes as part of his UNLV concert. You never know when this information might come in handy.

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Want to have an amazing and fun-filled night out? If so, we suggest the double bill currently entertaining audiences at Hooters. The first feature is mentalist Gerry McCambridge. He is followed by the outrageously funny Bobby Slayton. Hooters has wisely extended the contract of mental magician McCambridge. Originally, he was doing three shows a week at the East Tropicana, just off the Strip, hotel/ casino. McCambridge recently added a fourth show to his schedule. He will now be performing five shows a week. You can catch this mind-boggling act at 6 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, and at 8 p.m. on Mondays and Tuesdays. Slayton does two shows Wednesdays through Saturdays, at 8 and 10 p.m. On Sundays, the Pitbull of Comedy does only one show, at 8 p.m.

The Mentalist, Gerry McCambridge, is the brains behind Vegas Seat Fillers, a company he started last January. A concept of using the Internet to give away theater seats around the city, McCambridge recently sold Vegas Seat Fillers to talent manager/restaurateur Chip Lightman and his partner, public relations maven Laura Herlovich. They have renamed the service ShowTickets4Locals. Now, it seems that entertainer and entrepreneur McCambridge has too much free time on his hands. He is now adding another credit to his resume, that of producer. The savvy businessman is producing Bonk!, the comedy game show that launched at Hooters last Sunday. Hosted by comic/magician/inventor Kerry Pollock, and co-hosted by Penny Wiggins (who is also the assistant for the Amazing Johnathan), audience members have the opportunity to win all types of prizes, from cash to free dinners, show tickets and more.

Gerry McCambridge Tina Walsh Mark Bennick & Angela Acosta

Bonk host Kerry Pollock has consulted and manufactured illusions and special electronic effects for world-famous magic venues, among them Villa Livera-Magic Mansion and Disney, both in Orlando; Caesars Magical Empire in Las Vegas; and Malone's Magic Bar in Boca Raton. He has also built effects for world-class performers, including Lance Burton, Penn & Teller, Harry Anderson, Criss Angel, Amazing Johnathan, David Copperfield and others. Pollock, a comedy writer for more than 20 years, is also the creator and developer of Bonk!, a game show with lots of prizes, music, comedy and plenty of audience participation. You can get in on the action at 3 p.m., every day except Saturday. Tickets are $14.95. Hooters' Night Owl Lounge is where all of this activity takes place. Check it out.

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This month's Composers Showcase will take place on Tuesday, September 25th. The time is 10:30 p.m. (after theater!) and the place is the Wes Winters Showroom at the Liberace Museum. The evening will feature the material of local composers and songwriters: Jason Andino, Michael Brennan, Vita Corimbi, Thom Culcasi, Bill Fayne, Wayne Green, Clint Holmes, Richard Oberacker, Nicole Pryor and Keith Thompson, sung by Jim Ambler, Gail Bennett, Aaron DeJesus, Jessica Sheridan, Reva Rice, Rebecca Spencer, Rob Sutton and Tina Walsh. There will likely be a few other interesting contributors, as well as the amazing instrumental chops of Philip Fortenberry and Abe Gumroyan. The Liberace Museum is located at the corner of Tropicana and Spencer (enter off Spencer), next to Carluccio's Tivoli Gardens. Come early and have dinner at Carluccio's (they serve until 10 p.m.). Although there is no set charge to attend these wonderful evenings, Cousin Claire very strongly suggests a minimum $5 per person donation to keep wonderful programs like this going. You won't find a better bargain anywhere. Proceeds go to support the Liberace Foundation, whose mission it is to help talented students pursue careers in the performing and creative arts through scholarship assistance. The showcase's technical support costs are generously covered by John Meren and Tom Gallagher of the Performing Arts Society of Nevada. There is a cash bar (no credit cards, please).

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We are saddened to report the death of musician David Akins. Mr. Akins, who died in Las Vegas on September 16th, played drums with the Treniers for more than 30 years. In addition to being a fine musician, friends describe Akins as "a real gentleman, a kind man and a credit to his profession." A memorial gathering will take place tonight from 6 to 8 p.m. at Odyssey Health Care, 4011 McLeod Drive. Services for Akins will be held at Desert Memorial, located at 1111 North Las Vegas Boulevard, tomorrow (Saturday, the 22nd) at 3 p.m. For additional information, call (702) 382-1000. Dave Akins was 73.

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Young illusionist Mark Bennick and his pretty, and also young, assistant Angela Acosta, will perform at the famed Magic Castle in Hollywood, September 24th through 30th. Bennick was contacted earlier this year by the Castle's coordinator of entertainment, Dale Salwak, and asked to bring his amazing show to the Castle's Palace of Mystery stage. Castle members are in for a real treat, with three shows nightly, at 8:30, 10 and 11 p.m. Bennick, who is only 21, has been performing his own shows in Las Vegas for more than 10 years, as an opening act and for corporate conventions. Over the past two years, since appearing on television's Show Time at the Apollo in New York, Mark has taken his shows to a new level. He has added appearances on Holland America Cruise Lines and sold out performances at Northern Lights Casino in Washington to his growing list of credits. Mark Bennick and Angela Acosta are both names to watch. Angela is the daughter of Bill Acosta and Jeanne Bavaro Acosta.

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Entertainer Sandy Kastel e-mails us from Nashville where she recently sang at the 18th Annual Franklin Jazz Festival. On Wednesday, October 24th, Sandy, a former Miss Nevada will perform her Tribute to Las Vegas act at the Suncoast Hotel & Casino. In addition to the show, there will be a reception and silent auction, with proceeds benefiting the Children's Miracle Network. The auction will take place at 7:30 p.m. with the entertainment following at 8. Ticket prices will be announced closer to the date. Call (703) 636-7111for more information and reservations. Stay tuned for more details.

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The Aquarius Casino Resort in Laughlin will present the legendary Kenny Rogers on Saturday, September 22nd at 8 p.m. in the Aquarius Outdoor Amphitheater. This exclusive, one night only concert, will be the first single night performance that Rogers has done at the resort in many years. For more than five decades, Rogers has consistently dominated the pop charts with songs that had universal appeal. Some of his most recognized classics include Lady, She Believes In Me, Ruby Don't Take Your Love to Town, Lucille, The Gambler and Islands In the Stream (with Dolly Parton). Rogers will perform in the 3,300-seat Aquarius Outdoor Amphitheater, situated along the Colorado River. Ticket prices for start at $40 plus tax, and are on sale now at the Aquarius box office. Call (800) 435-8469.

Kenny Rogers Mikalah Gordon Michaelina Bellamy

Also a little out of town, and on the same day (September 22nd), comedian Paul Rodriguez will headline at Buffalo Bill's Star of the Desert Arena in Primm. Rodriguez's career has spanned more than two decades and includes starring roles and featured appearances in more than 30 films and countless television series and specials. He has performed his live stand-up comedy to well over one million concertgoers from coast-to-coast and is referred to as the "Original Latin King of Comedy." Tickets for the 8 p.m. performance are $19.95 and $29.95 plus applicable taxes and fees and are available at Buffalo Bill's Box Office or by calling 1-800-FUN-STOP, and through Ticketmaster outlets. Charge by phone at (702) 474-4000. Buffalo Bill's Hotel and Casino is located 25 minutes south of Las Vegas on Interstate 15 at the Southern Nevada/California state line.

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Happy birthday to Kelly Clinton who turned another year older on September 18th. We hear she got a very nice birthday present from her man, Clint Holmes - a bunch of carrots. Er, we mean carats, as in a diamond engagement ring. Congratulations, you two.

This Sunday (the 23rd), Kelly's Celebrity Spotlight, held at the Bootlegger Bistro, will present vocalist Serena Henry. Henry, who works as a backup singer with Smokey Robinson and toured with Gladys Knight as a guest vocalist for five years, was a contestant on 2003's Debbie Allen-hosted Fame TV talent show. Out of 24 competitors, Serena was one of the top four finalists. She also was a three-time winner at the famed Apollo Theatre. And if you are reading this early enough, on Saturday the 22nd, it's Teddy Davey, from the Las Vegas Tenors, on the Bootlegger stage. For reservations and/or additional information, call the Bootlegger at (702) 736-4939.

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Normally Cousin Claire would not be writing about a new master-planned community. In this case, though, we will make an exception. Why? Because friend Lisa Keim Carr (formerly at the Tropicana Hotel and currently with The Firm Public Relations & Marketing) is promoting this event, and because Mikalah Gordon is involved. Everyone knows Lisa, but some of you may have forgotten who Mikalah is. She is a Las Vegan who, at 17, was a competitor on the fourth season of American Idol. The hometown girl did pretty well on the talent show, winding up in the top 12, making her the show's youngest finalist. Although she didn't take home the big prize (that went to Carrie Underwood), Gordon, using a nasally-sounding, Fran Drescher (The Nanny) speaking voice, has expanded her 15 minutes of fame. She wound up appearing on Drescher's Nanny follow-up show, Living With Fran (playing Fran's cousin Brianna), and also landed a spot as a correspondent on both American Idol Extra and The Tyra Banks Show. Now, it seems that the 19-year-old has scored a guest role (not a starring role as reported elsewhere) in the CBS television series, The Unit. Inspirada, a new master-planned community located in the southern foothills of the Las Vegas Valley, decided that Mikalah Gordon would make a good Grand Marshal for their official opening ceremony's parade, taking place tomorrow (Saturday, the 22nd) at 11 a.m. She will also sing the Star Spangled Banner. The Saturday festivities will continue until 4 p.m. Additional planned events will take place on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. In addition to Gordon, there will be stilt walkers, jugglers and balloon artists entertaining attendees. Booths will have interactive demonstrations featuring science experiments by Mad Science Productions, craft making by the Mad Hatters and ceramics demonstrations by a local potter. A chalk artist will create original sidewalk art, and a representative from the nearby Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area will discuss exploration. On Saturday, the main stage in the center of the park will feature local performing groups throughout the day including the Broadway Bound Divas, City of Lights Barber Shop Chorus and a hip-hop dance troupe, among others. The Desert Mermaids will perform at the park's swimming pool. Games such as sack and relay races, hula-hoop lessons and tug of war will take place at the parks massive lawns, along with checkers and chess set up at game tables. Both park swimming pools will be open and operating to let participants cool off. There will be games, prizes and free food for visitors. The main purpose of the attractions is to introduce Solista Community Park, and all of its amenities. Situated on nearly 2,000 acres, the seven villages that make up Inspirada, and the homes that will fill them, takes one back to the close-knit community feeling of traditional city neighborhoods while highlighting the conveniences of modern life. Inspirada is located at 1890 Via Firenze in Henderson. To visit, from 215 East, exit Eastern Avenue and head south to St. Rose Parkway. Turn west to Starr/Executive Airport Road and turn south. Follow the signs to the community entrance. The Inspirada information center is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For further information, call 866-758-LIVE (5483).

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And speaking of Henderson, Up with People - Bringing the World Together, will play at the Henderson Pavilion next Friday, the 28th. Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for children under 12 and may be purchased at the Pavilion Box Office or by calling (702) 267-4849. Proceeds benefit the Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Foundation of Nevada, "because kids can't fight cancer alone." Sponsored by the Las Vegas Review-Journal and Las Vegas Sun, Up with People starts at 7:30 p.m.

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Yesterday (Thursday, September 20th), Father George Chaanine pleaded guilty to the January assault on former Folies Bergere principal singer, Michaelina Bellamy. In a plea bargain deal, the other charges (sexual assault, kidnapping and attempted murder) against Chaanine were dropped. If you are not knowledgeable about this case, Bellamy claims that Chaanine hit her over the head with a wine bottle as she worked at Our Lady of Las Vegas Catholic Church. Her injuries confirmed the physical assault. As for the rest of the charges, it is a case of "she said, he said." The guilty plea will mean no trial (probably a good thing for all concerned). The former priest, who has been locked up since he was caught in February (Chaanine fled the scene of the attack), is scheduled to be sentenced in early November. He could receive probation (and time served) or incarceration for up to 15 years. We will stay on top of this drama. Can a book or TV movie be far behind?

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