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Note: This is a past column from April 11, 2008
You can find the current column HERE
Las Vegas - April 11, 2008
Steven Brinberg as Barbra
Build it and they will come. Hopefully, that will be the case with the eNORMous NORM-a-THON, a benefit for ailing Norman Kaye, being put together by a group of hard-working and stressed friends. Norman, a founding member of the pioneer Las Vegas lounge group, The Mary Kaye Trio, suffered his second stroke a couple of months ago. He is currently in a rehabilitation facility and is anticipated to be there for some time. Unfortunately, his full Medicare benefits ran out after 20 days and, now, the co-pay costs are $128 a day (almost $900 a week). Kaye, 86, was always available to help someone in need. Now, he is the one. The response has been almost TOO good! Entertainers and musicians are heeding the call and coming forward to offer their services. In order to accommodate all of the talented people who would like to participate in this venture, it would have to be an all-day affair. We all know that can't happen. Among those scheduled to perform are Bill Acosta, Peter Anthony, Pete Barbutti, Charlie Callas, Kathleen Dunbar, Vincent Falcone, Clint Holmes, Jimmy Hopper, The Las Vegas Tenors, Jerry Lopez and The Fat City Horns, Gerry McCambridge, Bill Nolte, Sammy Shore and The Great Tomsoni & Co. The NORM-a-THON will take place on Sunday, April 20th in The Orleans showroom, beginning at 12 noon. Hopes are to sell out the 850 seat theater. Tickets are a ridiculously low $20 and may be purchased at The Orleans box office. For more details and updates, check the Web site, www.EnormousNorm-A-Thon.com. We will have more on this event next Friday.
On the same afternoon (April 20th) at 2 p.m., John Meren and Tom Gallagher, through their Performing Arts Society of Nevada Brown Bag Concert Series, will present Bert Anderson, Elly Brown, Laurie Caseres and Randy Hendrickson performing the music of Oscar Hammerstein, and Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe. Joey Singer will accompany at the piano. Songs from Brigadoon, My Fair Lady, Gigi, Camelot, Oklahoma!, Carousel, South Pacific, Cinderella, Flower Drum Song and the Sound of Music will be featured. The concert will take place at the Clark County Library Theater at 1401 E. Flamingo. Tickets are $15, and can be ordered by calling (702) 658-6741 or purchased at library box office beginning at 1 p.m. the day of show.
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Nobody asked us our opinion (that never stopped us from giving it before), but, based on the latest Las Vegas Tenors show at the Las Vegas Hilton last Sunday, we think that their second CD should be Broadway In Song! We always enjoy the Tenors, no matter what they sing, but Bill Fayne, Bobby Black, Teddy Davey and Mark Giovi's visit to Broadway could be expanded into a wonderful album. During their latest Hilton show, and in a nice touch, the fellows paid tribute to the late Robert Goulet by singing The Impossible Dream. Bill Fayne recalled that when Goulet and his wife, Vera, came backstage after their Hilton concert last September, Robert suggested that perhaps the quartet needed a fifth tenor to join the group. Ever the comic, it's hard to believe that only weeks later he would be gone.
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Cousin Claire has many friends who are impersonators. We know people who pay homage to Neil Diamond, Liberace, Elton John, Judy Garland, Cher, Frank Sinatra, Bette Midler, Dean Martin, Madonna, Michael Jackson and a host of other celebrities. These entertainers come in all sizes and both sexes. Most of them are very talented and have made much of their living as tribute artists. Possibly the most unique of those we have seen is Barbra Streisand, in the guise of Steven Brinberg, an East Coast resident who gave his first Las Vegas performance last Saturday night at the Starbright Theatre in Sun City Summerlin. This fellow was very impressive. We especially enjoyed his duet with himself, playing both Streisand and Neil Diamond for You Don't Bring Me Flowers and his I'm Still Here number, featuring Brinberg doing the voices of Eartha Kitt, Ethel Merman, Lena Horne, Cher, Julie Andrews, Bea Arthur, Billie Holiday, Bette Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, Katharine Hepburn, Carol Channing and Fran Drescher. Steven was accompanied by Dave Richardson at the piano. Not only was this Brinberg's first performance here, it was also his very first visit to Las Vegas. We spotted a couple of longtime friends, The Edwards Twins, Anthony and Eddie, at the Brinberg show. It's fun to watch a group of impersonators get together. In case you are not familiar with the Edwards Twins, who own homes in Vegas but work almost everywhere else, they have a very unique act. The identical bothers impersonate a range of celebrities, with Anthony Edwards taking on Neil Diamond, Elton John, Sonny Bono, Billy Joel and others, while his brother, Eddie Edwards, does takeoffs on Bette Midler, Cher, and, surprise, Barbra. We would like to recommend Brinberg's CD, Simply Barbra - The Duets Album. In his best Streisand voice, Brinberg is joined in song by some impressive entertainers, including Kaye Ballard, Claiborne Cary, Debbie Gravitte, Mimi Hines, Betsy Joslyn, Alix Korey, Heather MacRae, Karen Mason, Hugh Panaro, Mark Sendroff and KT Sullivan.
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Too Darn Hot!
Former Las Vegan Lucy Shropshire makes her second appearance at Manhattan's Metropolitan Room on Sunday, April 20th. The cabaret is located at 34 W. 22nd Street between 5th and 6th Avenues. Lucy, who was the principal singer in the Stardust's Enter the Night production and is currently touring with former Supreme, Mary Wilson, will be accompanied by David Shenton on piano and Mark Wade on drums, when she presents All Sides of Love. Shenton, who in addition to being a pianist is also a violinist and conductor, embraces every nuance that is breathed from the songstress. Under the direction of Jim Semmelman, a performer, writer and also a onetime Las Vegas resident, the 9:30 p.m. show promises excitement and surprises. Reservations can be made by calling (212) 200-0440. Discover Lucy Shropshire.
Lucy's photo by Richard Drew
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Brett Daniels might be the best magician on the planet (we don't know, as we haven't seen him yet), but we feel the title of his new show at the Sahara is self defeating. How many people would buy tickets to see Whoscigam? What is that, anyway? The counterpart to the popular Japanese muscle show, Matsuri (a great production that had a very short run at the Sahara)? Okay, here's the explanation. Whoscigam is magicshoW spelled backwards. WHOever thought this one up should be locked in a room and forced to listen to recent Wayne Newton recordings (maybe that is too cruel of a punishment, even for this crime). Rethink this one, Brett.
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Here we go again. Get out a coin, toss it in the air and see how it lands. Heads up? Heads down. Once again, it's decision time. On the same night, and practically at the same time, there are these choices to deal with...I Love a Piano, an off-Broadway musical featuring the songs of Irving Berlin, at the Henderson Pavilion, 200 S. Green Valley Parkway (just southeast of Green Valley Ranch) beginning at 8 p.m. next Friday, April 18th, and Too Darn Hot! The Golden Age of Broadway, featuring our Phavorite Phantom, Brent Barrett, Tina Walsh (also in Phantom - The Las Vegas Spectacular), and Spamalot's Reva Rice, starting at 7 p.m. at the Cashman Theater, just north of downtown Las Vegas.
The off-Broadway musical, I Love A Piano, honoring America's most prolific songwriter, Irving Berlin, makes its southern Nevada debut at the Henderson Pavilion, located at 200 S. Green Valley Parkway, on Friday, April 18th at 8 p.m. I Love A Piano spans seven decades of musical history, using 64 of Berlin's ever-lasting favorites. This quirky musical centers on the life of a piano with one sour key and the generations of singers and dancers who performed with it. Russian-born Berlin immigrated to New York with his family at five years old. A self-taught musician, he began his career as a singing waiter in Chinatown and eventually became a lyricist. He wrote the scores to more than a dozen Broadway musicals, including Annie Get Your Gun, and provided songs for dozens of Hollywood movie musicals. With a collection of more than 1,200 songs, Berlin defines the music of our country. Creators Ray Roderick and Michael Berkley capture the spirit of America in I Love A Piano. The musical celebrates the influences from the various eras through specially choreographed dance, memorable songs and decade-appropriate costumes. Tickets, ranging from $20 to $40, can be purchased online at www.HendersonLive.com or by calling the Henderson Pavilion Box Office at (702) 267-4TIX (4849).
Boulder City's Red Mountain Music Company is presenting Too Darn Hot: The Golden Age of Broadway, for one night only, April 18th at 7 p.m. at Cashman Theatre (850 Las Vegas Blvd., N.). This sizzling production features the Red Mountain Choir, along with Broadway and Las Vegas Strip sensations Barrett, Rice and Walsh, as well as a 30-piece orchestra. Under the direction of Artistic Director Jeffrey Skouson and Musical Director David Skouson, the cast and orchestra will perform favorites from Gypsy, South Pacific, Oklahoma!, Kiss Me Kate, The Music Man and West Side Story, to name a few. Tickets are $15, $25 and $35 and can be purchased online at www.redmountainmusic.org, on the phone at (702) 294-0043, at the Boulder City Chamber of Commerce (465 Nevada Way). They're selling like hot cakes, so get yours today!
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Again, we are faced with a conflict of musical interests. As a reminder, this Sunday (April 13th), it's Phantom's Nicole Pryor with two shows (1:30 and 3 p.m.) in the Wes Winters Showroom at the Liberace Museum, 1775 E. Tropicana. A $10 donation to the Liberace Foundation is requestedâ€¦well worth it, for both the performance by a pro AND to support Liberace's continuing efforts in encouraging and assisting the fine arts and its artists. At the same time (2 p.m.), it's Michael Kessler, Melinda Jackson and their M&M American Dance Theatre cast performing Dancin' Feet at the Starbright Theatre in Sun City Summerlin. Tickets are $25 and are on sale at the Starbright box office. Call (702) 363-1341 for additional information. If that's not enough, at 3 p.m., it's C.J. Harding paying tribute to Patsy Cline at the Charleston Heights Arts Center. Tickets are $10 or $12, depending when you purchase them. The theater is located at 800 S. Brush Street (near Charleston and Decatur). Call (702) 229-6383 for additional information and reservations.
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Current Las Vegan David Loeb's impressive credits include orchestrations for George Benson, Doc Severinsen and Miriam Makeba in her performance with The Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. The musical arranger/conductor has composed music for the Disney Channel's Cycling through China along with And Thou Shalt Honor on PBS and has written for Dolly Parton on Columbia Records. Loeb has been the principal pianist with The Hollywood Bowl Orchestra and accompanied many artists, including Garth Brooks, Peabo Bryson, Bonnie Raitt, Nell Carter, Barry Manilow, Jennifer Holiday, Curtis Mayfield, Jewell, Nancy Wilson, Joe Williams, Freddie Hubbard and Anita O' Day. David conducted The Philadelphia Orchestra with jazz vocalist, and now Las Vegas resident, Dee Dee Bridgewater for the Marian Anderson Award Gala honoring actor Danny Glover. Mr. Loeb has performed for the Emmy award-winning 2002 Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony, Comic Relief on HBO, and The Emmy Awards. He has served as the assistant professor of music at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and is head of UNLV's Jazz department. While The Producers musical director, Keith Thompson, was preparing for his job with Jersey Boys (now up and running at Palazzo), Loeb took over for Thompson. This weekend, David Loeb will serve as musical director for Ben Vereen in Vereen's weekend appearance at the South Point Hotel/Casino.
As for Ben Vereen, he is a true triple-threat performer - singer, dancer, actor. On Broadway, he has appeared in Wicked, Fosse, the critically acclaimed, I'm Not Rappaport, Sweet Charity, Hair, Jesus Christ Superstar, Pippin, Grind, Jelly's Last Jam, A Christmas Carol, and Chicago (Ben played Billy Flynn in the Mandalay Bay version of Chicago as well). His role in Pippin earned Vereen both the prestigious Tony and the Drama Desk Award for Best Actor in a Musical. Clive Barnes of the New York Post stated "Ben Vereen, unquestionably one of the finest performances seen on Broadway." During the past 25 years, Ben's ever-changing cabaret-style show has won him many accolades, including that of Entertainer of the Year, Rising Star and the American Guild of Variety Artists (AGVA) Song and Dance Star, making him the first simultaneous winner of those three awards. He has also earned a coveted spot in Las Vegas' Casino Legends Hall of Fame. Vereen is currently touring with his one man show, Vereen Sings a Tribute to Sammy Davis Jr. As an actor, Ben is probably best remembered for his role as the unforgettable Chicken George in Alex Haley's groundbreaking television mini-series, Roots. Vereen's film appearances include All That Jazz, Funny Lady (Golden Globe nomination), Why Do Fools Fall in Love, the animated movie Once Upon a Forest, and The Painting which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival last year. He also played the lead character in Louis Armstrong - Chicago Style, and had roles in Anne Rice's Feast of All Saints, Intruders They are Among Us (Emmy nomination), The Jesse Owens Story, Ellis Island (Golden Globe Nomination), Lost in London, Salute to Liberty Special, Christmas in Washington and Faerie Tale Theatre's Puss N' Boots with Gregory Hines. His own network specials include Ben Vereen: His Roots (Seven Emmy Awards), Tenspeed and Brownshoe, You Write the Songs and Zoobilee Zoo. Vereen's television guest appearances include OZ, Touched By An Angel, Second Noah, New York Undercover, The Nanny, Star Trek - The Next Generation, The Jamie Foxx Show, Promised Land, and Fresh Prince of Bel-Air as well as recurring roles on Silk Stockings, Webster, J.J. Starbuck and Booker. This past spring Ben co-stared opposite Vanessa Williams in the film, And Then Came Love and opposite Ciara and Patti LaBelle in Mama I Want to Sing (the story of the late Doris Troy, a longtime Las Vegan). In June, he celebrated Eartha Kitt's 80th birthday in concert at Carnegie Hall to multiple standing ovations. This September, he honored Martin Luther King Jr. in The Dream Concert at Radio City Music Hall and presented Outstanding Mini-series for the 2007 Emmy Awards. For Nickelodeon, Ben provided voice-overs on the show, Wonder Pets! Recently Ben guest starred on ABC's hit primetime drama Grey's Anatomy and soon after appeared on The View. Watch for Ben to guest star on an upcoming episode of Law & Order: Criminal Intent. In the meantime, catch Ben Vereen and David Loeb at Michael Gaughan's South Point Hotel, 9777 Las Vegas Blvd. South. Shows are at 7:30 p.m., tonight through this Sunday. Tickets are range from $35 to $55, plus applicable taxes and fees. Call (702) 797-8055 for reservations.
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For those who have been asking when the next Composers Showcase will take place, the answer is Wednesday, April 23rd (that's WEDNESDAY, not the usual Tuesday). We will have more details next Friday. And for those who have been asking when Vita Corimbi would be back to perform in the showcase, the answer is not in April. Ms. Talented Talented is also Ms. Busy Busy. Vita is a cast member of Menopause the Musical at the Las Vegas Hilton, one of Killian's Angels, an accompanist for the above mentioned Las Vegas Tenors and a much sought after voiceover actress. If that weren't enough to keep her occupied, she is also a wife, mother, and daughter, caring for her own mother who is recovering from hip surgery. One would think this gal could find a few minutes a month to come and display yet another side of her talent, that of a songwriter. Instead of showing up at the Liberace Museum to entertain her adoring fans, Ms. Corimbi is going out on a short tour of Menopause. We will happily announce her next Composers Showcase performance as soon as we find out when it will occur.
And speaking of the Composers Showcase, we received an e-mail from a reader inquiring about the talented Joan Sobel, a frequent participant in the monthly showcase. The e-mail came from C.O. in Charlotte, North Carolina. He says, "I went to North Carolina School of the Arts with Joan Sobel (Eubank) and was a huge fan of her voice. Any suggestions on how I could get in touch with her? I will be in Las Vegas in the next couple of months and would love to hear her sing again." Well, Mr. O, we have good news for you. The lady with the beautiful soprano voice is a cast member in Phantom - The Las Vegas Spectacular cast member, where she plays Madame Firmin and understudies Carlotta in the incredible opera house/theater at The Venetian. If you happen to be in Las Vegas on April 23rd, Joan Sobel will sing a song written by Richard Oberacker, the musical director for Cirque du Soleil's Ka at the MGM Grand, at the Composers Showcase.
Bon Jovi Tribute
Randy Carlson and Cork Proctor
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Can't catch Bon Jovi at the MGM Grand Garden arena tomorrow night, or can't come up with the big bucks to do so? We have a suggestion for you. You can see Have a Nice Day - The Tribute to Jon Bon Jovi, featuring Larry Atello as Jon Bon Jovi, with Seth Yudof on guitar/vocals, Derek VanDervort-MacElwain on bass, Jazz Dimazana on keyboards/vocals, and Jim Norris on drums instead (or in addition to). Atello and company will perform two shows on Tuesday, April 15th, starting at 10 p.m., in Roxy's Lounge at Sam's Town. In addition to his position in Have a Nice Day, Larry Atello is also a cast member of the interactive Tony 'n Tina's Wedding, now in its sixth year at the Rio.
Jazz Diamaza, mentioned above, also is the keyboardist for a separate band called The One Hit Wonders, that performs the music of, surprise, "one hit wonders" from the past three decades. If the venue has a video screen, the group has fun with the audience on one hit wonder trivia. This band is unique in the fact that it inspires everyone in the room to think about other one hit wonders and the bands that created them. "No matter where we perform," says Jazz, "we can look out into the audience and they are all having the same conversation. They are all thinking about songs and bands that may be one hit wonders. They also are talking about the bands that have secondary hits and what qualifies as a one hit wonder." Since we haven't had the opportunity to see One Hit Wonders in action, we don't know who they include in their tribute and who they omit. We hope that our friend, the late Doris Troy who lived in Las Vegas for many years, is remembered for her big hit, Just One Look. Harry Elston, the lead singer of the Friends of Distinction, also has a residence here. Maybe the Friends hit, Grazing In the Grass, is part of the One Hit Wonders repertoire. When we have a chance to check out the act, we will let you know. See them, also appearing at Sam's Town on Tuesday the 15th, beginning at 8 p.m.
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A belated happy birthday to Shecky Greene who turned 82 on Tuesday.
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We made our first trip out to the South Point (it should be called the WAY South Point) on Sunday to attend For the Love of Joe, the 19th Annual Joe Williams Music Scholarship Fund Concert. Comic Cork Proctor served as Master of Ceremonies, introducing performers including The Cunninghams, Pete Barbutti, Artie Butler, Marlena Shaw, and headliner Bob Anderson, in from Branson, MO, to participate in the show. Vince Falcone was Anderson's musical director. The College of Southern Nevada's 17-piece All-Star Big Band was featured, as were the CSN Jazz Singers. Randy Carlson presented a large framed reproduction of a 1999 Las Vegas Life magazine Christmas cover, featuring Joe Williams as Santa Claus, a gift to Joe's widow, Jillean Williams, from the Greenspun Media Group. It appeared that the South Point showroom was just about full, with the Four Freshmen's original lead singer/musician Bob Flanigan and his wife, Mary; Bill Acosta and wife Jeanne Bavaro; Nelson Sardelli, Susan Abbott, Peggy (Mrs. Sonny) King, Clint Holmes, Carolyn Hamilton Proctor, Martha (Mrs. Will) Jordan, and Mary Ann Barbutti among those in attendance. A tip of the hat goes to producer Ed Foster for a job well done.
What do singers Louis Armstrong, Joe Cocker, Neil Diamond, Janis Ian, Gladys Knight, Maria Muldaur, Barry Manilow, Helen Reddy, Neal Sedaka and Dionne Warwick all have in common? Artie Butler. What is an Artie Butler, you may ask? NOT a man servant in a painters smock. Artie Butler is the brilliant arranger, producer of a slew of hit songs, including What a Wonderful World, Copacabana, Midnight At the Oasis, Neither One of Us Wants To Be the First To Say Goodbye, Laughter In the Rain, Solitary Man, I Know I'll Never Love This Way Again, Even Now, Midnight Train To Georgia, You and Me Against the World and Society's Child, to name some. He can be heard playing piano on a number of albums, including the legendary opening on Joe Cocker's Feeling Alright. There are very few albums released under his own name, so Classic Broadway, issued in 1995, is a special treat. The selections are all well-known standards, mostly instrumentals superbly executed by the Hollywood Rainbow Pops and arranged and conducted by Mr. Butler. Guest vocalists on the album include Michael Dees (Try to Remember and If I Loved You), and Julie Budd (All I Ask of You). It was Artie Butler, along with Phyllis Molinary, who wrote Here's To Life, recorded by both Joe Williams and Shirley Horn. A newer Butler song, the touching I Don't Remember Ever Growing Up, has been recorded by both Nancy Wilson and 80-year-old Andy Williams. Based on just these two songs, we would love to see Artie Butler put pen to paper more often.
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Claire Voyant's portrait by Charlie Frye