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.
Note: This is a past column from July 11, 2008
You can find the current column HERE
Las Vegas - July 11, 2008
The Four Freshmen
We are sorry to report the death of yet another member of the Las Vegas entertainment community. Last Sunday, July 6th, musician Michael Beisner died very unexpectedly. Only 53, Beisner was probably best known for the 13 years he spent with the pioneer vocal group, The Four Freshmen. Mike was born in Denver, attended grade school in Blue Springs, Mo., and graduated from Lawrence, Kan., High School in 1973. After working with Stan Kenton and Clark Terry, Beisner attended the University of Kansas at Lawrence. He began touring in 1975. In 1982, Mike received a call that would change his musical life. Bob Flanigan, an original member of the famed Freshmen, was inviting Beisner to join the group. Mike eagerly accepted the offer and performed, recorded and toured with the group until 1995. In 1985 and 1986, the Four Freshmen were nominated for two Grammy Awards. During the last eight years, Mike worked with various geotechnical engineering firms in Las Vegas, designing and managing multiple test labs, while still performing with lifelong friends in the music business. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Mike's first wife, Connie; and their children, Matthew, Corbin, and Lauren, all of Las Vegas; mother, Jeanie of Yuma, Ariz.; sister, Sheri Whitfield of Lawson, Mo.; and his second wife, Terry James. Mike also leaves behind many friends and music fans. Services were held yesterday (July 10th), at Griffith United Methodist Church, 1701 E. Oakey Blvd. in Las Vegas. The family would appreciate donations to help defray service expenses.
On the attached Fresh! album cover photo, the Freshmen are (from left to right) Rod Henley, Bob Flanigan, Mike Beisner and Autie Goodman.
The case of the apple not falling far from the tree, and history repeating itself, certainly applies to Connie and Mike Beisner's son, Corbin. Corbin Beisner was born in Las Vegas in 1988. He started playing piano at age five and shortly thereafter began studying jazz with Rick DeBella. At 12, Corbin began studying classical piano, and also became interested in composition. He has attended summer music festivals at Interlochen, Michigan, the Mannes School of Music in New York City, the Forum Internacional de Musica in Barcelona, Spain and the Lake Como Summer Piano Academy in Lake Como, Italy. He has won numerous awards at competitions including: the MTNA state competition, the International Liszt Competition in Asuza, California, the Liberace play-alike competition, and the Premier Prize in the Forum Internacional de Musica competition. Mr. Beisner has also studied intermittently and participated in various classes with teachers such as Mykola Suk, Daniel Pollack, Leslie Howard, Fabio Bidini, William Grant Nabore, Stanislav Ioudenitch, and Luiz de Moura Castro at the Hartt School of Music in Hartford, Connecticut. Last year, Corbin's appearances included a January performance as the featured pianist with the Las Vegas Philharmonic Orchestra. In November he presented a solo recital in Barcelona, Spain. Mr. Beisner continues to perform, compose and improvise, and plans on being a touring composer-pianist in the near future.
In one of those examples of "it's a small, small world," through sheer serendipity, Mike Beisner wound up as the third owner of a customized Dodge van that he purchased from a McCarran Airport employee. The original owner of that bronze beauty? Claire Voyant!
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On Wednesday, we were part of a group that spent about four hours in the showroom at the Greek Isles establishment on Convention Center Drive. At 7 p.m., we were in the audience for The World's Greatest Magic Show. We are pleased to say that the Star Theater was just about full. The very funny and clever Jeff Hobson is the current host/MC, introducing magicians Joseph Gabriel, Losander, Jason Baney and Roy Shenk. This is a terrific show for the entire family, especially appealing as children 12 and younger are admitted free (when accompanied by a paying adult, at only $19.95 plus tax). And speaking of Losander, he reports that his baby daughter, Ione (born on June 20th), is doing quite well after heart surgery performed when the little one was only 10 days old. (Dirk) Losander and his magician wife, Luna Shimada, thank all of those who donated money to help with Ione's medical care. A special mention goes to The World's Greatest Magic Show's producer, Dick Feeney, and magician David Copperfield, for their very generous contributions.
The magic show's opening dance number, featuring three attractive dancers - Debra, Hayley and Claire, had the unique touch of the late Michael Darrin all over it - from the costumes to the choreography. That's because it was Michael who put together the initial numbers when The World's Greatest Magic Show opened at the Sahara in October of 2003.
At 9 p.m., we were in the audience for Wizard - The Musical Journey of Oz Composer Harold Arlen. This was a very different picture than the earlier magic show, with only about 80 people in attendance. Wizard celebrates the songs of Oscar-winning songwriter, Harold Arlen. You say you are not familiar with the name Harold Arlen? That may be part of the problem in marketing this show. Although anyone older than 35 probably knows many of Arlen‘s songs - among them, Hooray for Love, Get Happy, Accentuate the Positive, Shining Hour, Let's Fall In Love, This Time the Dream's On Me, My Shining Hour, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, Hit the Road to Dreamland, The Man/Gal That Got Away, It's Only a Paper Moon, Blues In the Night, I've Got a Right To Sing the Blues, I Love a Parade, Stormy Weather, I've Got the World On A String, That Old Black Magic, One For My Baby, and, of course, all the music from The Wizard of Oz - they couldn't tell you who wrote them. This production, originally scheduled for a six week run, stars George Bugatti's Three Crooners and is hosted by the composer's son, Sam Arlen. We see a number of problems here, starting with the name of the show. Numerous people we spoke to thought the title was Wicked, confusing it with the Broadway musical inspired by the Wizard of Oz. Perhaps Over the Rainbow - The Musical Journey of Oz Composer Harold Arlen would have been a better choice. Maybe it would help get more people into whatever venue the revue might play in. As for the billing of George Bugatti's Three Crooners, we didn't know if that meant Bugatti had put three crooners into the show and he was just the manager, or what. How about George Bugatti and Two Crooners? At least you would know that Bugatti was actually one of the performers. With the material they have to work with, we expected to like this presentation more than we did. The show takes you from the Hollywood years, to the Cotton Club, to the Broadway stage. There is an exclusive video interview with Tony Bennett, and behind the scenes footage from the Wizard of Oz. There is Sam Arlen talking about his father's history (Sam also is an excellent sax player) . And, most important, there is the incredible music of Harold Arlen. Given all the standards that he wrote, one wonders why his name isn't as well known as Cole Porter, Johnny Mercer, Jerome Kern, Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart, Oscar Hammerstein, George and Ira Gershwin, Jimmy McHugh, Frank Loesser, Alan Jay Lerner, Sammy Cahn, Duke Ellington, Jule Styne, Gus Kahn, and others of his era. So, what's missing from Wizard? Maybe it's "heart." Maybe the performers aren't strong enough to deliver the material in an exciting, Broadway-style way. There is definitely a show using the songbook created by Harold Arlen. This just doesn't appear to be it. And as long as we're being critical, the fact that the live musicians, other than Vince Falcone at the piano, were not identified by name is unforgivable. We did recognize Fred Watstein on bass, but had no idea who the other four players were. Wizard is in for a limited run. Show times are Tuesdays through Sundays at 9 p.m. Call (702) 737-5540 for reservations.
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Las Vegas musician Woody Woods invites Claire Voyant readers to check out http://www.myrecordlabel.net/artistdetails.php?id=679, and listen to one of his original tunes called So Smooth. That's Jamie Pomerleau, former background singer for Earl Turner and Martin Nievera, doing the "smooth" vocals. This is a music contest, so if you listen to the song and like what you hear, cast a vote for Mr. Woods. He thanks you in advance.
Eric Michael Gillett
Super Summer Theater's 1776
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F.I.O.R.E. (Fun Italians Organizing Ridiculous Events) will celebrate their 4th anniversary/birthday with a luncheon on Tuesday, July 15th, at Ben Ardito's Take 1 Nightclub in downtown Las Vegas. We might make it known that being Italian isn't a requirement for being involved with F.I.O.R.E. (although it doesn't hurt). Like all of their previous functions, this one promises to be a memorable event. Although we are still open for some brilliant suggestions, we can guarantee that it will be lots of fun - with live music, surprise guest entertainers, dancing, flowers and chocolates for the ladies. All the 50/50 money collected will be given back as prizes, and some other prizes will be given to some lucky participant. There will be birthday cake. The luncheon (buffet style) will be first class. There will be a no host bar and there is ample parking. Doors will open (exclusively for this function) at 11:30 a.m. Usually a "boys non club club," for the birthday/anniversary get-togethers (as well as Valentine's Day and a few other special occasions), the gatherings aren't limited to just Presidents (everyone is a President at F.I.O.R.E.)...First Ladies are also invited. And Cousin Claire wants to say that the presidents know how to treat their First Ladies, plying them with roses and chocolates! Take 1 is located at 707 E. Fremont at the corner of 7th. To make a reservation, call event organizer Nelson Sardelli at (702) 646-1813, or e-mail to Sardelli or Conrad Villella at [email protected] or [email protected]. Just a minor detail...there is a $25 per person luncheon charge (all the widows of former presidents are F.I.O.R.E. guests).
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Eric Michael Gillett's first solo show in five years, takes him back to the stage of New York City's popular Metropolitan Room. Gillett previously presented his Hook, Line & Singer revue at the Metropolitan Room. His new show, Best of My Love, "takes a wry and moving look at the intricate ways of the heart and the universal paths we all tread as we stumble our way to true romance." Gillett's repertoire for this engagement includes an eclectic array of material, from Sondheim to Jim Brickman, the Backstreet Boys, Madonna, and beyond. Musical director is Don Rebic, with Steve Doyle on bass. A past MAC and Bistro Award-winner, Eric has an impressive history in Las Vegas. He was a principal singer in Donn Arden production shows at the MGM Grand (now Bally's) and Bill Moore and George Arnold shows at the Las Vegas Hilton, as well as in Maynard Sloate book shows at the downtown Union Plaza (now known as the Plaza). Eric, who spent more than 10 years as Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey's Singing Ringmaster, played in Kiss Me Kate, Sweet Smell of Success and The Frogs on Broadway, appeared in the Mel Brooks' film The Producers (musical version), has a couple of solo CDs (Sing a Rainbow and Cast of Thousands, the music of Craig Carnelia), and is a favorite on the cabaret scene. If you are in the neighborhood (the Metropolitan Room is at 34 W. 22nd Street in Manhattan), check out Eric tonight and tomorrow night at 7:30, and Tuesday, July 29th, at 7 p.m. There is a $20 music charge, plus a two drink minimum for this engagement. For reservations, call (212) 206-0440.
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Super Summer Theater, now in its 33rd season, is currently presenting 1776, at Spring Mountain Ranch State Park. The production, about the roots of America, features a striking score by Sherman Edwards, and is based on the legendary book by Peter Stone. It's the summer of 1776, and the nation is ready to declare independence...if only our founding fathers can agree to it!! 1776 follows John Adams of Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, and Richard Henry Lee and Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, as they attempt to convince the members of the Second Continental Congress to vote for independence from the shackles of the British monarchy by signing the Declaration of Independence. The 1969 Tony Award-winner as Best Musical, 1776, a funny, insightful and compelling drama, is produced by Stage Door Entertainment and is directed by Terrence Williams. The 1776 cast (in order of appearance): Nick Caruso (as John Adams), Jennifer King (Abigail Adams), Kevin Ruud (Benjamin Franklin), Joe Hynes (Richard Henry Lee), Jerry Brooks (Andrew McNair), Chris Yanez (Dr. Lyman Hall), Don Lance (Stephen Hopkins), Mark Weinberg (Edward Rutledge), Jerome Vital (Col. Thomas McKean), Bobby Rodgers (Caesar Rodney), Chris Mayse (John Dickinson), Joel Ruud (James Wilson), Stephen Maeder (John Hancock), Larry Linehan (Sec. Charles Thompson), Joey DeBenedetto (Thomas Jefferson), Davis Bauman (Dr. Josiah Bartlett), Stephen Rinck (George Read), Justin Tinker (Roger Sherman), Daniel Farris (Lewis Morris), Anthony Pecora (Robert Livingston), Conner McBride (Samuel Chase), Mvnte July (Joseph Hewes), Tim Doyle (Rev. John Witherspoon), Kyle Van Son (Courier), Maria May (Painter/a Leather Apron), and Lisa Marie Smith (Martha Jefferson). Terrence Williams produces and directs, Stephanie Benson is stage manager, Nancy West is music director, Dan Bernbach is vocal director, and Anthony Pecora choreographs. On Wednesday (the preview night), approximately 800 took the drive out to the mountains, very impressive numbers for a mid-week performance (not to mention gasoline prices of more than $4 a gallon). Nestled in the heart of Red Rock Canyon, 10 miles west of 215 on Charleston Ave., Spring Mountain Ranch State Park and Super Summer Theatre provide theatergoers with a special evening of relaxation, enjoyment and family-friendly entertainment. Gates open at 6 p.m. Show starts at 8 p.m. Guests are encouraged to bring a blanket, or bring or rent a chair at the park. Bring your own picnic dinner or indulge in treats from the concession stand and enjoy the outdoors before settling in under the stars for some super theatre. 1776 will play Wednesdays through Saturdays, July 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th, 23rd, 24th, 25th and 26th. Tickets can be purchased in advance for $10 at the UNLV Box Office, Prestige Travel at Lake Mead and Rampart, or online at unlvtickets.com. Children five and under are free. A limited number of tickets are available at the gate the night of the show for $15. For more information, call (702) 895-2787, or (702) 594-PLAY. See you at the Ranch.
A word of advice from Cousin Claire. Take a warm jacket or coat for everyone in your party. It may be hard to believe, with temperatures in the triple digits in the Valley, after the sun sets behind the mountains at the Ranch, it gets COLD. Really!
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If you happen to be in the Florida, area, we suggest you check out Eric Comstock and Barbara Fasano at the Colony Hotel Palm Beach's Royal Room. The musical duo, who happen to be husband and wife, are back at the club by popular demand. They appear at 8 p.m. tonight and tomorrow (July 11th and 12th). Paul Blair of Hot House Florida has this to say about the twosome..."Two of New York's brightest stars. Both Comstock and Fasano have extended their repertoires beyond the usual Great American Songbook standards to interpret fresh new material. Both have chosen wisely in picking accompanists for their latest albums (No One Knows and Written In The Stars, respectively) adding some of New York's best jazz players. They stand steps above the competition ... " Michael Gladstone, of All About Jazz, states "Comstock sports an encyclopedic, yet never snobbish, knowledge of the singers and songwriters of the American Songbook. The breathlessness of Fasano's beautiful singing comes fully through. A natural romantic interpreter of the American Songbook ... the real deal!" Cabaret Scenes magazines' Elizabeth Ahlfors writes, "The sophisticated Nick and Nora of cabaret are getting better all the time. A fresh, fast-moving mix of pop and jazz." The Colony is located at 155 Hammon Avenue. For reservations, call (561) 655-5430.
Eric Comstock & Barbara Fasano
Jeff "J. Boogie" Kelley
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What Trader Vic's at Planet Hollywood used to call the Lava Room, is now known as the LA Comedy Club. Formerly, and very briefly, the home of singer Jimmy Hopper, the upstairs room with the great Strip view, is currently the home of some funny stuff. The LA Comedy Club, at Trader Vic's inside Planet Hollywood, hosts top-notch comedians from around the country. Show times are at 7 and 9 p.m., Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Purchase LA Comedy Club tickets by calling (866) 678-2582. Mondays through Thursdays, at 8 p.m., it's hypnotist Marc Savard performing in the upstairs club. Savard's family-friendly show (for audiences ages 12 and up) offers comedy, hypnosis and unpredictable fun! Ticket prices are $32 and $42, plus taxes and fees, and can be purchased at the Travelocity box office located in front of Trader Vic's in the Miracle Mile shops at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino, or over the phone at (702) 691-9927. For more information, please visit www.marcsavard.net.
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On ABC's under-publicized Dance Machine presents "Ordinary people, extraordinary dancers" competing for $100,000. The series, which premiered on June 27th, features six real people from all walks of life who will face off in a series of one-on-one "dance-offs" to the most popular songs of all time. A 70-year-old grandmother could be competing against a 25-year-old gravedigger to the tune of Michael Jackson's Thriller. Throughout the night, contestants will be eliminated by voters in the studio audience. By the end of the evening, just two finalists will be left to challenge each other for the honor of being crowned that night's Dance Machine - and to take home $100,000 in cash. The dance reality show is hosted by Jason Kennedy of E! News, and DJ Rodney Perry spins the tunes. The premiere episode contestants were Vinny Cardinale, 25, a circus acrobat from Monterey, CA; Michelle Garcia, 28, a fashion designer from Inglewood, CA; Jeff Kelly, 23, a mixed martial artist from Las Vegas; Dan Nier, 33, a PE teacher from Rochester, NY; Sandra Purpuro, 38, a student from Clifton, NJ, and Elvis Tognia, 31, a cashier from Cameroon, Africa. The first person to win $100,000 and the Dance Machine Disco Bubble was Jeff Kelley, also known as J. Boogie. Kelley was formerly a star performer at Mandalay Bay's Kitty Club Show. Dance Machine airs on Fridays (check your local TV listings for times.
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The efforts to create a memorial spot in Sunset Park, where friends of comic Bernie Allen can gather to remember and talk about the veteran entertainer, seems to have been successful. Thanks to generous friends, the project has raised enough to create a "mini-forest" in the southeast Las Vegas park. When the dedication time is set (with a plaque and maybe even a bench or two in place), we will let our readers know the date, time and exact location. We have a feeling that Bernie would be pleased.
The Long Twins
Rosario Dawson & Stomp Out Loud
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Mosaic, the six-man a cappella group that opened this year‘s Ribbon of Life for Golden Rainbow, will host and perform two exclusive 75-minute performances at Harrah's Las Vegas. This is the first time Mosaic has performed a full-length show for Las Vegas audiences. Proceeds from the Harrah's events will benefit the Public Education Foundation of the Clark County School District. The Public Education Foundation was established in 1991 as an independent 501 (c)(3) non-profit Nevada corporation. Inspired by a belief that improving local public schools was too big a task for a school district to undertake alone, the Foundation partnered with the Clark County School District and strives to mobilize community and global resources to support and impact public education through initiatives, programs and promising practices designed to improve student performance and advance quality educational opportunities. "Las Vegas has been really great to us and has allowed us to achieve great success doing what we love, so we're anxious to give back to this great city," said Mosaic founder, Josh Huslig. "With all the proceeds of this event going directly back into the schools, it's an honor to be part of such a worthwhile program." Mosaic will perform in Harrah's main showroom on Sunday, July 13th at 1:30 p.m. and again Monday, July 14th at 7:30 p.m. The groups' show includes renditions from Sly and the Family Stone's Thank You, to TV tunes, and much in between. As a special presentation, high school dancers will perform alongside professional Las Vegas dancers from the Stratosphere's show, Bite, and the Rio's Show in the Sky, in a beautiful mentoring-theme routine choreographed by Katy Tate of Bette Midler's The Show Girl Must Go On. Mosaic is an instrument-free, all vocals group that blends elements of funk, jazz, hip-hop and opera. Mosaic performs regularly with comedian George Wallace at the Flamingo Las Vegas, and was recently crowned winner of CBS's The Early Show‘s search for The Next Great A Cappella Group. Tickets are $45 (plus tax and fees) and are available at the Harrah's Las Vegas box office, online at www.harrahs.com, or by calling (702) 369-5111.
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The Long Twins have joined the cast of the Tropicana‘s legendary Folies Bergere. The highly accomplished acrobatic performers, Bing and Jun Long, are one of two variety acts in the show, with juggler/comedian, Michael Holly, being the other. The Long Twins have performed as part of several production shows up and down the Las Vegas Strip. Their signature act is the barrel routine, which can be seen during their performance in Folies Bergere, but they also specialize in hoop diving, contortion rings, double pole climbing, and ring and hat juggling. The Long Twins have made several television appearances throughout their career, most recently as part of the NBC series, Celebrity Circus. They have also been special guests on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, The Late Show with David Letterman, Penn and Teller's Sin City Spectacular and more. Bing and Jun Long have achieved several accomplishments within the acrobatic field. Career highlights include being Gold Cup winners for the International Acrobatic Competition in Monte Carlo, Silver Cup winners for the Wu Qiao International Acrobatics Festival, Bronze Cup winners for the Chinese National Acrobatic Competition and Gold Medalists for the Southwest China Regional Acrobatic Championship. The Long Twins can be seen in the Folies Bergere, performed nightly (except Sundays) at 7:30 p.m. (covered), and 10 p.m. (topless) on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday and at 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday and Friday. Tickets are $35 (plus tax and surcharge) for table seating, and $45 for booth seating (plus tax and surcharge). Tickets can be purchased through the Tropicana Box Office by calling (702) 739-2411, or by logging onto the website at www.tropicanalv.com.
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Back by popular demand...Lucy Shropshire, who lived and worked in Las Vegas for a number of years before relocating to New York, returns to the Metropolitan Room at Gotham to perform All Sides of Love. Directed by Jim Semmelman (also a onetime Las Vegan), with David Shenton on piano and Mark Wade on bass, Lucy's show dates are Tuesday, July 15th, and Sunday, July 20th, both evenings at 7. For reservations, call (212) 206-0440. Lucy Shropshire, "unusual name, unforgettable voice."
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Actress/singer Rosario Dawson recently took in Stomp Out Loud at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino. After seeing the high energy show, Dawson, best known for her roles in the films, Rent, Sin City, He Got Game, Kids, and Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof, posed for photos with the cast. Rosario is shown with Stomp Out Loud cast members (from left to right) Rochelle Patterson, Lynn Wactor, Rosario, Carlos Thomas, Michael Oakley, and Harmony Costa. Stomp Out Loud, blending percussion, movement and visual comedy into one unique show, plays at 7 p.m. daily. Call (702) 785-5000 for reservations.
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Due to time and space limitations, we will hold our additional/updated news about the questionable theater group, COLABO.BIZ, until next Friday. Stay tuned.
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Claire Voyant's portrait by Charlie Frye