Claire Voyant's Las Vegas Gossip Column

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

Claire Voyant  

Note: This is a past column from May 08, 2009
You can find the current column HERE

Las Vegas - May 8, 2009

Richel Kompst

Lea Salonga

Manny Pacquiao

Oh crap! We hate when this happens! Last Friday, under Reminders, we ran this item...
Richel Kompst repeats her Blame It On the Walleye - A Musical Journey Through the Neurotic Mind of a Norwegian Blonde, tonight at 7. This time, backed by The Nightcrawlers band, the multi-talented Richel does her thing at the Reed Whipple Theater, 821 Las Vegas Blvd. North. Tickets are only $7. Call (702) 229-6211. Check her out. So, what is the problem? The bad news is that the show wasn't LAST Friday, the 1st. The good news is that it's THIS Friday (as in tonight) at 7 p.m., which means you still have time to see this clever romp through shifting personalities in musical comedy and cabaret jazz.

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Last weekend, the Filipinos had two big winners in Las Vegas. On Friday night, it was the amazingly talented Lea Salonga who charmed and entertained an audience of about 959 in UNLV's Artemus Ham Concert Hall. A Tony Award-winner for her role as Kim in Miss Saigon, Lea closed out UNLV's 2008-2009 New York Stage & Beyond series. (As we mentioned last week, next year on May 1st, it will be Bernadette Peters performing in the same venue as part of the New York Stage & Beyond series.) The night after Ms. Salonga's appearance in our city, it was junior welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao in the spotlight, as he knocked out England's Ricky Hatton in the second round of a well-attended fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

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Friends Larry Raben (Leo Bloom in the Vegas production of Mel Brooks' The Producers) and David Engel (Smudge in Forever Plaid) are appearing in Forbidden Broadway, currently the entertainment offering from Musical Theatre West. Your favorite shows...The Lion King, Mary Poppins, Wicked, Les Miserables, Chicago, Annie, Cats, Joseph, The Phantom of the Opera. Your favorite stars...Liza, Carol Channing, Ethel Merman, Harvey Fierstein, Michael Crawford, Andrea McArdle...Nothing and no one is sacred to the sharp wit and barbed satire from the creators of Forbidden of the longest running Off-Broadway hits of all time! Charles Isherwood of the New York Times, called the tongue-in-cheek swipe at musical theater, "The most inviting introduction to the new season on Broadway may well be Gerard Allesandrini's merciless evisceration of the last one, in the consistently riotous latest edition of Forbidden Broadway."

Larry Raben as Daniel Radcliffe in Equus

David Engel as Harvey Fierstein in Hairspray

From Charlotte Stoudt of the Los Angeles Times comes this review...
Mandy Patinkin, watch out. Daniel Radcliffe, take cover (literally). The satirical revue "Forbidden Broadway" has come to Long Beach's Carpenter Performing Arts Center, and it's only just begun. Even the Wicked Witch of the West isn't safe. Gerard Alessandrini's ever-evolving take-off on American musical theatre began in a supper club in 1982 and ran in New York for an astonishing 27 years, spawning international tours and a string of cast albums. With only four performers, a pianist, and no set, the show's format is a cash-strapped artistic director's dream. It's also a terrific showcase for comic talent, and Larry Raben, an original cast member from "Forever Plaid," is a standout in this Musical Theatre West production. Accompanied by the upbeat piano of Michael Paternostro (also serving as musical director), Raben and crew sing and dash their way through sly parodies of Broadway hits from "Les Misérables" to "Wicked." Some of the jokes are visual, such as the tart Susanne Blakeslee's entrance as an "Annie" has-been in a mangy red wig, sucking on a cigarette. Others showcase Alessandrini's way with a lyric, as when "Avenue Q"'s sexually active puppets advise, "If you want a Tony/flash a cloth cojone." Disney takes a drubbing, what with "Lion King," "Little Mermaid," and "Mary Poppins" claiming so much real estate on the Rialto. At one point the ensemble (which includes the fine David Engel and Whitney Allen) staggers around in huge, Julie Taymor-inspired headdresses -- and neck braces -- in a song called "The Circle of Mice." But human targets inspire the best moments: Raben sends up "Harry Potter" star Radcliffe's nude turn in "Equus" with the song "Let Me Enter Naked" (to the tune of "Let Me Entertain You"). Blakeslee does a wacked-out Carol Channing, forever reviving "Hello, Dolly!" Later, Raben skewers the tortured vocal stylings of Patinkin in "Somewhat Overindulgent," sung to "Over The Rainbow." And Mandy thought serial killers were tough. Never mind if you haven't seen all the musicals in question. None of the sequences lasts more than a few minutes, and most of the jokes explain themselves. Best of all, the show, briskly directed by William Selby, takes the business of entertaining seriously, even as it lampoons the medium's worst excesses. It's a pleasure to watch seasoned performers hit their marks with such ease and command. Smart, irreverent and under two hours: What's not to love about "Forbidden Broadway"?

Beginning as the Whittier Civic Light Opera in 1952, Musical Theatre West has grown into one of Southern California's most respected regional musical theatre companies. During the years, they have presented not only established and well known musicals, but a World Premiere (Hurry! Hurry! Hollywood! written by Star Search winner Sam Harris), a Los Angeles/Orange County premiere (a new version of Phantom by Kopit and Yeston), and the West Coast premieres of Cole Porter's The New Yorkers; Eleanor: An American Love Story, and a new version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Nothing is sacred to the sharp wit and barbed satire from the creators of Forbidden of the longest running off-Broadway hits of all time. Forbidden Broadway is a hilarious musical that, in reality, is 20 shows rolled into one - the big moments AND the big mistakes. Forbidden Broadway was first seen at Palsson's Supper Club on New York's Upper West Side in January 1982. An unemployed actor, Gerard Alessandrini, wanted a showcase for his talents. He decided to assemble some of the musical parodies of Broadway shows he had written since childhood into a nightclub act. Critics and audiences were wowed and it has since become New York's longest running musical comedy revue. Forbidden Broadway has won Drama Desk, Obie and Outer Critics Circle awards. Most of its victims (stars and casts) make a point of stopping by to see what Alessandrini has done to them. Updated regularly, Forbidden Broadway has had several editions, countless revisions, three New York City performance spaces, several national and international tours, and thousands of special performances. The show also became known for talented but as yet unknown actors, many of whom have gone on to stardom on Broadway, on television and in the movies. Looking back at Forbidden Broadway provides an informal and very funny history of the American musical theatre. It has remained one of the funniest evenings on or off-Broadway. As long as Broadway and Hollywood exist, there will be a Forbidden Broadway (or a Forbidden Hollywood or a Forbidden Vegas), poking, prodding, teasing, pleasing, jeering and cheering, but always with love. Performances of Forbidden Broadway Greatest Hits, Volume I, are Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m., through May 17th. Additional shows are scheduled for May 9th and 16th at 2 p.m. and May 10 at 7 p.m. Ticket prices range from $30 to $78. The Carpenter Performing Arts Center is located at 6200 Atherton Street in Long Beach. To purchase tickets online, call (562) 856-1999, Ext. 4.

Dom DeLuise

Liberace Museum

Bobby Slayton

And speaking of Mel Brooks, on Monday, Dom DeLuise, the cuddly actor-comedian whose affable nature made him a popular character actor for decades with movie and TV audiences as well as directors and fellow actors, died in his sleep after a long illness. He was 75. DeLuise appeared in a number of Mel Brooks movies - Blazing Saddles, The Twelve Chairs, Silent Movie, and Robin Hood: Men In Tights among them, and was often Burt Reynolds' on-screen sidekick. DeLuise's best-remembered films include The Cannonball Run, The End, Smokey & the Bandit II, and The Muppet Movie. A 1980 movie starring DeLuise as a fat man on a diet, Fatso, was generally panned by critics and avoided by audiences, but remains an unfairly neglected gem. DeLuise is survived by his wife of 43 years, actress Carol Arthur, their sons, actors Peter, Michael and David, and three grandchildren.

And still speaking of Mel Brooks, The Producers, is taking Adolf Elizabeth Hitler back to Berlin. More than six decades after the Nazi dictator killed himself in his Berlin bunker, a character parodying Hitler will be featured in the first production in Germany of Brooks' award-winning Broadway musical, The Producers, opening at Berlin's Admiralspalast theater, beginning May 17th. The musical comedy, created from Brooks' 1968 movie, won a record-breaking 12 Tony awards after it opened on Broadway in 2001 with Nathan Lane as scheming theatrical producer Max Bialystock, and Matthew Broderick as his accountant Leo Bloom. And speaking of The Producers, Billy Elliot, the tale of a British coal miner's son who dreams of becoming a dancer, has the potential of winning a record number of 2009 Tony Awards, honoring the best of a star-driven Broadway season. Its 15 nominations, which Tuesday tied the number received by The Producers in 2001, included one of the more unusual nods. The three boys who share the title role in Billy Elliot - David Alvarez, Trent Kowalik, and Kiril Kulish - were named together for the best actor-musical prize. Other major multiple Tony nominees were Next to Normal with 11, and Shrek The Musical, and the revival of Hair, both tied with eight. The music for Billy Elliot was written by Elton John and Lee Hall, who have both been nominated for Tonys. The Tony Award show will air on CBS, June 7th.

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Not surprisingly, our article on some of the recent and questionable goings on at the 30-year-old Liberace Museum generated feedback (we love feedback of any kind, since it indicates that people are reading our rants). Here is an example from one of our "fans"...
Marsha sent the following message (our response to each item is in bold type):
You should be ashamed of what you wrote regarding Darin Hollingsworth. We aren't ashamed at all. The truth needs to be told. He has done more to promote the Foundation and Museum than anyone who has served as the Executive Director/President. We feel that he has done more to ruin the once popular tourist spot than any other previous "administrator." Those comments in the Las Vegas Sun are from disgruntled employees and unsuccessful former entertainers who have an axe to grind. And your comments are very obviously from a friend or relative of Mr. Hollingsworth, who chooses to close their mind and eyes, and ignore the signs of serious problems at the museum. Why didn't you print the positive comments as well. We provided the Link to Kristen Peterson's Las Vegas Sun story, where those interested could read it, along with ALL of the follow-up comments, for themselves. Hide behind this website and "Claire Voyant"....we know who are, you should be ashamed of what you have written here. We are not "hiding" behind this Web site or "Claire Voyant," a name we have used around these parts since 1995 (and we are glad that you know who we are). And, as we stated earlier, we are not one bit ashamed of what we have written. What we ARE ashamed of is that this deplorable situation wasn't exposed sooner. No wonder the arts community struggles in this town. And, during these trying economic times, in EVERY town around the country. Then again, I wouldn't count you or this inane gossip website part of the arts or the community. Thank you for taking the time to read, and respond to, this "inane gossip website."

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Bobby Slayton, the Pitbull of Comedy, had his official Tropicana opening on Tuesday night, May 5th We are told there was a full house, including hypnotist Anthony Cools, in attendance. Slayton's shows, held in the space previously occupied by Bob Kephart's Comedy Stop, are Tuesdays through Sundays at 8 p.m. Tickets are $42.49. The room has been renamed The Bobby Slayton Room.

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Whoopi Goldberg


Danny Gans

During Memorial Day weekend, Whoopi Goldberg will take the stage of the 1,500-seat Encore Theater (formerly the home of Danny Gans) for performances on May 22nd and 23rd at 8 p.m. Best known for her film roles in The Color Purple, Ghost, Sister Act, and Jumpin' Jack Flash, Whoopi is one of a very elite group of artists who have won a Grammy, an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, an Emmy and a Tony. She is currently one of the hosts on ABC's The View. During her act, Whoopi (real name Caryn Elaine Johnson) will share her unique, candid and often humorous observations on a wide range of subjects. Tickets at $79, $89 and $99, plus service charge and tax, are now on sale. Call (702) 770-9966. Look for Beyonce to perform in the same theater, July 30th through August 2nd. No bargain ticket prices for this one. If you want to see this lady up close and personal, tickets will set you back anywhere from $250 to $1000, taxes and fees not included. For additional information, call (702) 770-DIVA, (702) 770-9966, or (888) 320-7110.

And speaking of Danny Gans, who died suddenly last Friday at the age of 52, the popular entertainer was laid to rest on Tuesday morning in a private service attended by his family and a few close friends. On Thursday, May 21st, a memorial service will be held in the theater at Encore where Gans performed his last show on Wednesday, April 29th. Due to the size of the theater, only invited guests will be permitted to attend.

Although some of the details are vague (it was 30 years ago, and we ain't getting any younger), it was the late 1970s, the place was the downtown Holiday International (just north of the Plaza and now the site of Main Street Station). There was a variety revue, hosted by Steve Rossi (of Marty Allen and... fame), with Stan Stahl as musical director. Among the folks featured in this show were the comedy act of JTO & Bobby Duck, Wayne Mortensen (not sure of the spelling on this one), and the late Danny Gans. Sadly, as of last Friday, all three of these talented gentlemen have passed on. It any readers remember this musical/comedy production, we would love to hear from you. We would like to fill in the blanks.

JTO & Bobby Duck

Fleetwood Mac

The Rat Pack Is Back!

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The legendary wit of Mark Twain comes to life with music and theatre in Mark Twain's Nevada at Floyd Lamb Park at Tule Springs tomorrow, Saturday, May 9th. This lively original musical, presented by the Rainbow Company Youth Theatre, is a delightfully entertaining Nevada history lesson. The 50-minute play, appropriate for ages from 5 to 105, will be performed at 10 a.m. and again at noon. The public is invited to bring blankets or folding chairs, but no pets or glass containers, please. The Rainbow Company's Artistic Director, Karen McKenney, is the playwright, choreographer and director of a cast of five adults, most of whom play several parts. Michael Button stars as Sam Clemens (Mark Twain). He is joined on stage by Michael Connolly, J. Neal, Ellis Rice and Martha Watson. Neal is also the composer and musical director. The park is located at 9200 Tule Springs Road. Admission is $6 per vehicle at the park entrance. Call (702) 229-6553 for information in advance, or (702) 229-8100 on event day.

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Late last year, Fleetwood Mac announced that, beginning in March, the band would tour in 2009. Titled Unleashed, the tour is branded as a "greatest hits" show, although they will also play album tracks such as Storms, Gold Dust Woman, and I Know I'm Not Wrong. The tour coincides with a new CD/DVD version of Rumours, which contains previously unreleased tracks and footage. On Saturday, May 30th, Stevie Nicks, Mick Fleetwood, John McVie and Lindsey Buckingham, will take over the MGM Grand Garden Arena "This is the first time we've gone on the road without an album," said Fleetwood. "This is truly a new experience for Fleetwood Mac to go out and play songs that we believe and hope people are going to be familiar with and love." Nicks stated that in regards to a new Fleetwood Mac album, "there isn't any plan at this point...for any album. We're going to get through this tour before deciding what to do with an album." Tickets, priced at $65, $85 and $165, plus the usual taxes and fees, are available through Ticketmaster or by calling (800) 745-3000.

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They were known as The Rat Pack. Sure they could sing and dance, but that wasn't the only hook that made this group of Merry Men legendary. When Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Joey Bishop took to the stage, one never knew what to expect but, whatever it was, the audience knew the ride would be fun. Long associated with Las Vegas (primarily in the Copa Room at the Sands hotel and casino), these nights, in the Entertainment Capital of the World, The Rat Pack is doing their thing in the newly renamed Copa Room at the downtown Plaza Hotel. In addition to the local version of The Rat Pack Is Back!, there are traveling companies of the show that pays tribute to those party boys of decades ago. Over the next couple of weeks, folks in Illinois, Connecticut and Virginia can see what all the fuss was, and still is, about when the Rat Pack comes their way. Tomorrow (May 9th) at 3 and 8 p.m., the boys will be cutting up at the North Shore Center For The Performing Arts in Skokie. On May 15th at 8 p.m. and May 16th at 2 and 8 p.m., The Rat Pack is Back! will be entertaining audiences at the Palace Theater in Waterbury, and on the 28th, at 8 p.m., the troupe will be at the Filene Center at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts in Vienna (Virginia, not Austria). "Some would swear they've stepped into a time machine" raves the Los Angeles Times of the stellar casts, which features some of the finest performers in the business, including Sandy Hackett, son of the legendary Buddy Hackett, who portrays Joey Bishop in The Rat pack Is Back!

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Tyne Daly

John McDaniel

Gina Eckstine

From May 12th through the 16th, Feinstein's at Loews Regency, currently celebrating its 10th Anniversary season, presents Emmy and Tony Award-winner Tyne Daly in Songs. This will be Daly's debut at Feinstein's, the nightclub proclaimed "Best of New York" by New York Magazine, and "an invaluable New York institution" by The New York Post. Tyne Daly is best known for her work on TV's Cagney and Lacey and Judging Amy, and her Tony-winning performance as Rose in the 1989 Broadway revival of Gypsy. She was also Tony-nominated for her most recent appearance on Broadway, in the Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Rabbit Hole. Daly's show at Feinstein's, directed by David Galligan, is a collection of songs from the last century, including selections by Jule Styne, Alan and Marilyn Bergman, and Cy Coleman. Accompanying Ms. Daly will be Grammy and two-time Emmy-winning composer/arranger/conductor, the talented John McDaniel (former musical director for Rosie O'Donnell, Bernadette Peters, Patti LuPone) and an all-star quintet. Tickets are $71.53 and $88. Call (212) 339-4095 for reservations. Feinstein's at Loews Regency is located at 540 Park Avenue at 61st Street in Manhattan.

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A reminder about the upcoming May 17th fundraiser to aid victims of the earthquake that struck the central region of Italy on April 6th. The Sunday afternoon benefit will take place in the theater at The Orleans and will feature about 40 performers, among them, Linda Angeline, Peter Anthony, Pete Barbutti, Susan Beaubian, Michaelina Bellamy, Arian Black, Dennis Bono, Jeanne Brei, Lance Burton, Charlie Callas, Paul Campanella, Leigh Christensen, Denise Clemente, Kelly Clinton, Tommy Deering, Joan DuKore, Kathleen Dunbar, Robert Ensler, Vincent Falcone, Mark Giovi, Shecky Greene, Roy Hammock, Don Hill, Scott Hitchcock, Clint Holmes, Lorraine Hunt-Bono, Joni Illi, Ty Lemley, Sammy Ligouri, Rich Little, Mafalda, Tommy Marth, Nik Mastrangelo, Phyllis McGuire, Linda November, Gary Olds, Chuck Pacino, Babe Pier, Lena Prima, Cork Proctor, Frankie Randall, Scott Record, Sal Richards, Dr. George Ritter, Ronnie Rose, Artie Schroeck, Frankie Scinta, Sasha Semenoff, Sammy Shore, Felix Silla, Joe Sirola, Swing City Dolls, Allen Tramont, Gabriella Versace, and cast members from Tony 'n Tina's Wedding. That great humanitarian, Nelson Sardelli, will serve as host/MC. Approximately 300 people died, and more than 40,000 people have been left homeless as a result of the quake. An Affair of the Heart...To Italy with Love will take place from 1 to 4 p.m. with doors to the theater opening at noon. Tickets are priced at $35, and can be purchased in advance, or in person, at The Orleans box office. T-shirts to commemorate the fundraiser will be for sale at the event. Mr. Sardelli says that if every member of the Italian community here in Las Vegas gave just one dollar, the city could raise two hundred thousand American bucks.

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Birthday wishes to our Taurus (April 21-May 21) friends, Brenda Leonard Cowart, Babe Pier, Lucy Shropshire, Howard Jochsberger, April Archer, Aurora Miller, Nancy Archer, Wes Davis, Clint Holmes, Darcus, Grant Philipo, Peter Gordon, Jerri Spencer and Frankie Valli, who turned 75 on May 3rd.

Also, happy anniversary to Whitney and Marianne Phoenix, and Eric and Wanda Dee Floyd.

And speaking of birthdays, a big celebration was held at the National Arts Club in New York in honor of songwriter Ervin Drake's 90th. Music legends, including Billie Holiday (Good Morning Heartache), Frankie Laine (I Believe), Frank Sinatra (It Was a Very Good Year), and Steve Lawrence (A Room Without Windows, from What Makes Sammy Run), all had hits with Ervin Drake songs. Among the entertainers helping Drake turn 90, were former Las Vegan, Eric Michael Gillett; Sidney Myer; Tovah Feldshuh; KT Sullivan; Christine Lavin; Richard Skipper as Carol Channing; Leslie Uggams, Alan Harris; and Valerie Lemmon. Of course, Ervin's bride, Edith, shared in the festivities.

And speaking of Mr. Valli...For those who were disappointed not to see Oh What a Night at the Starbright Theatre on April 4th, we suggest you act fast so as not to get shut out again. Due to last month's quickly sold out performance, and the many audience requests, the celebration and tribute to the music of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, returns to the Starbright, 2215 Thomas Ryan Blvd. in Sun City Summerlin, on Saturday, May 30th, for a 7 p.m. show. A Michael Chapman and ChapQuist Entertainment production, Oh What a Night is written, staged and directed by George Solomon, and choreographed by Paul Holmquist. Tickets are $18 for Sun City Summerlin residents, and $23 for visitors. To charge tickets by phone, call (702) 869-2064. For theater information, call (702) 240-1301.

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Gina Eckstine is more than a little excited about the release of her new CD, Everything I Have Is Yours.

The daughter of the great jazz legend, Billy Eckstine, Gina pays tribute to her iconic father with sultry, smoky ballads, classic swing, and a touch of hip Latin, all sung by this dynamic vocalist. Gina is the youngest child of model/actress Carolle Drake and Billy Eckstine. Her career began at the age of seven, when she was invited on stage with her father during his nightclub act. Gina says, "From then on, I was hooked. I knew what I wanted to do...SING!" With family friends like the Four Tops, Quincy Jones, Sammy Davis Jr., and Sarah Vaughan, Gina's household was a constant source of inspiration and guidance. At age 13, Gina began extensive vocal training and music study. She was a student at the Ira Lee's Studio, Phil Moore's For Singers Only Workshop, and the Dick Grove School of Music. After witnessing Gina's graduation performance, Billy decided that his daughter was ready for his "College Of The Road." She joined her father in his show and traveled the world, sharing the stage with the likes of Count Basie, Sammy, and Bill Cosby. Gina also had the distinct pleasure of performing on The Tonight Show. After three years with The Billy Eckstine Show, Gina moved to California and started her own nightclub act, working exclusively for the La Costa Resort Hotel. Her show was a tremendous success and the Las Vegas connection was made. For nine years, Gina performed in all the major hotels and casinos in Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe. Currently residing in Los Angeles, Gina still performs as an opening act for major performers in Las Vegas, most recently for comic Brad Garrett at The Mirage. Blessed with her mother's beauty and her father's talent, Gina is definitely a star on the rise! Backed by Ric Mandell on piano, Jack Daro on acoustic bass, Ric Craig on drums, Jimmy Mahlis on guitar, Mike Nelson on saxophone, and Dan Weinstein alternating on trombone and violin, Everything I Have Is Yours contains 13 tracks, including seven of Billy's beautiful songs. The CD can be found at: By the way...Unlike some delusional character who has been claiming to be the son of Billy Eckstine, Gina is the REAL McCoy. Billy Eckstine had seven children - Guy, Ed, Ken, Ron, CC, Billy Jr., and, of course, Gina. Note that not a one of them was named Freddie.

Lisa Dawn Miller


And speaking of young ladies with talented fathers...Lisa Dawn Miller returns to The Metropolitan Room in New York City on May 14th. Show time for I Want To Come Back As A Song: Ron Miller, A Knight of Lyrics, is at 7:30 p.m. Lisa celebrates the music of her father, legendary songwriter, Ron Miller. While the show includes some of her father's well known standards - A Place In the Sun (with Bryan Wells), Yester-me, Yester-you, Yesterday (with Wells), Touch Me In the Morning (with Michael Nasser), I've Never Been To Me (with Ken Hirsch), If I Could (also with Hirsch and Marti Sharron), and Heaven Help Us All - Lisa performs mostly the never-before-heard and unpublished writings of Ron Miller, that she describes as "standards waiting to be born." Russ Kassoff serves as music director.

And speaking of Ron Miller...There is a new Frank Sinatra DVD being advertised on TV these days. In the commercial promoting Live at the Meadowlands, the song that Sinatra opens with is For Once In My Life, one of the many songs written by Miller, who died in July of 2007. For Once In My Life was the late songwriter's most famous, and most recorded, song. In addition to the Stevie Wonder version, more than 200 artists, including Sinatra (alone, and with Gladys Knight), Vic Damone, Vikki Carr, Carmen McRae, Sylvia Syms, Buddy Greco, Nancy Wilson, O.C. Smith, The Temptations and Vonda Shepard, have covered the song. A version by Tony Bennett and Stevie won a Grammy Award in 2007. And in 2008, Miller's amazingly talented, now eight-year-old grandson, Oliver Richman, recorded the tune.

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Hit Man, a concert featuring David Foster & Friends, takes the stage at Mandalay Bay Events Center, tomorrow night, beginning at 8 p.m. With David Foster leading the pack, the evening will feature Philip Bailey of Earth, Wind & Fire fame; 16-year-old (she turns 17 on Sunday) Charice Pempengco; Tony Award-winner (for AIDA) singer/actress, Heather Headley; singer/songwriter/pianist, Peter Cincotti; and Grammy-nominated singer, Brian McKnight. Foster will perform some of the hits he has written or produced during his 40-year musical career. Tickets, priced from $55.50 to $134.25, plus taxes and fees, are available through the Mandalay Bay Box Office at (702) 632-7580, or TicketMaster at (702) 474-4000.

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In case you forgot, Sunday is Mother's Day. If you are a mother, plan to ever be a mother, know a mother, or had a mother, you might want to celebrate the day (or the Friday or Saturday before the day) at the Suncoast seeing Shades of Sinatra or perhaps at the South Point with M&M American Dance Theatre's Dancin' Feet. If you play your cards right, you can do both! Tonight, tomorrow and Sunday, Shades of Sinatra - with Ryan Baker, Larry Liso, Carmine Mandia and Lisa Smith - pay a loving tribute to the music and career of Frank Sinatra. The original 90-minute production, with Ned Mills on piano, Gary Olds on drums, Dick Jones on bass, Isaac Tubb on trumpet, and Steve Golden on sax, alto sax, bass clarinet and flute (hell, this guy blows!), features more than 30 Sinatra hits, as well as a handful of tunes that might be new to some audience members. In between songs and poignant stories, there is plenty of zany humor and good-natured ribbing among the cast, creating the vintage, off-the-cuff Vegas show atmosphere that is associated with Ol' Blue Eyes himself. Tickets start at $19.95 plus taxes and fees, and may be purchased at the Sun Coast Box Office or by calling (702) 636-7075. Shades shows are at 7:30 p.m.

Shades of Sinatra

Melinda Jackson & Michael Kessler

And over at the South Point, it's M&M American Dance Theatre's Dancin' Feet, a romantic, musical comedy, featuring Michael Kessler and Melinda Jackson, and a company of a dozen international artists. Dancin' Feet tells the tale of Dancinmannio and Twinkletoenia, two showbiz muses who are banished from Mt. Olympus and sent to the planet Earth after being voted off the reality TV competition show, Dancing with the Gods. In order to get their immortality back, the two muses have to bring joy and inspiration to a couple of mortals on earth. With some great songs to accompany them - including They Can't Take That Away from Me, Night and Day, Mona Lisa, and Let Yourself Go - and new musical arrangements by Keith Thompson (Musical Director of Jersey Boys), and Broadway legend, Peter Howard (Chicago, Raiders of the Lost Ark), Dancinmannio and Twinkletoenia's quest to inspire others unexpectedly teaches them something very important about joy, inspiration and love. The Las Vegas Sun called the M&M American Dance Theatre "Showstoppers!," while the New York Times described it as "An evening of fun." The Las Vegas Review-Journal, described the company's show as "Top notch entertainment," and the Journal la Suisse, Geneva noted the performances as "Imaginative and wildly humorous." The fun takes place at 7:30 p.m., this Sunday at the South Point Hotel & Casino, 9777 Las Vegas Blvd. South. Tickets are $25 $20 and $15, plus applicable taxes and fees. For reservations, call (702) 797-8055, or (866) 796-7111.

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It's Ronnie Rose at Mandalay Bay's House of Blues Courtyard Restaurant, tonight and tomorrow at 10 p.m., and Monday, May 11th, at 9 p.m. Tonight, Ronnie will be accompanied by Harvey Hughes on drums, Billy T on keys, James Davis on guitar, and Chris Gordan on bass. Saturday night, it's Hughes on drums again, Tom Lipps on keys, Mark Speights on guitar, and Gordan on bass. Monday, Rose has Jess Gopen on drums, Billy T on keys, Chris Clermont on guitar, and Tommy Alvarado on sax. Check out the gentlemen.

Ronnie Rose

Dionne Warwick

Paul Anka

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One person we spoke to following last weekend's event to raise money to get celebrity impersonator, Trina Johnson-Finn, out of a Suriname prison and back home to Las Vegas, described the Saturday afternoon event as "a horror." Not only was there a poor turnout for the fundraiser (we were told there were about 50 people), held at John Stuart's Legends Ranch, the "producer," one Cheryl T, was totally disorganized. The people who gave of their time and talent, outnumbered the guests. Although Mr. Stuart was welcoming and hospitable, Cheryl T was rude and condescending, acting like she was doing the performers a favor by allowing them to be a part of this. As we have mentioned before, when it comes to local benefits for a worthy cause, there are always caring people (especially entertainers) who are more than ready to pitch in and help. At the very least, those people should be shown appreciation and thanked. Apparently, neither of those things were done in this case. Also, we can think of a few reasons why this particular event didn't generate more interest. Being practical, there are so many benefits taking place - most for worthwhile causes, others questionable - that the public can't attend or financially support them all. The people putting on these fundraisers need to be able to tell the potential ticket buyers EXACTLY where the money will go and what it will be used for. There needs to be a workable, explainable plan that the public can relate to. In the case of this fundraiser, there didn't seem to be a well thought out plan. We pray for Trina's safe return home, but this didn't seem to be the solution, or even a way to make that happen.

On this subject, we received this e-mail from Carolyn Hamilton Proctor, who knows Suriname, and how it operates, since she spent a couple of years there as a member of the Peace Corps. This is what Carolyn has to say regarding this unfortunate situation...
I'm concerned about how the monies from this "fund-raiser" for Trina will be distributed. As you know, Cork and I served in the Peace Corps in Suriname, so I can tell you something about the mentality of the country. My advice to anyone involved in fund-raising for this cause, is: Be VERY careful who you send money to. Do not let anyone MAIL money to anyone in Suriname. Do not send "care packages" unless it is to someone in Suriname you know and trust who can personally deliver them to her, otherwise she will never get them. In any case, packages will take weeks to get there. If Trina's husband or Suriname lawyers have opened a bank account at a legitimate Paramaribo bank like RBTT or Hakrinbank, wire transfers can be arranged (and even "instant" wire transfers can take a week or more). Nothing in Suriname moves quickly. This is a laid-back culture in a tropical climate. The capitol only has a population of about 350,000, so Trina's arrest and trial is a big news event and will sell a lot of newspapers and TV ads there. Frankly, even continued pressure from America may not make the government move to end her imprisonment in an honest and timely fashion. But we must continue to try. I was (momentarily) amused to read that Trina has lost 14 pounds while she has been in prison. Cork and I each lost 25 in the first 90 days in the Peace Corps. While I have not personally seen the conditions of Paramaribo's prison system, I can assure you that the water in Paramaribo is drinkable from the faucet, and most adults speak some English, two things Americans don't often find in foreign prisons. I believe this story will run its course in Paramaribo and I believe Trina will be let out, not sentenced to any "hard prison time." There are some sane heads in the capitol, but no one is in any hurry (this is, as I mentioned, a tropical country). As for Trina, if she's journaling, she could parlay this into a book deal or movie-of-the-week when she gets out.

Today (Friday, May 8th), this story by Arny Belfor of the Associated Press appeared.
PARAMARIBO, Suriname - A Suriname promoter acknowledged trying to pass off a Las Vegas-based entertainer as six-time Grammy winner Toni Braxton at a disastrous show dubbed the "Phony Toni" concert by local media, his lawyer said Thursday. Angel Ventura told a judge he scammed people into paying up to $53 thinking they would hear the famous singer at a much-hyped show in this poor South American country more than two months ago, defense lawyer Lamure Latour told The Associated Press. "He confessed in front of the investigating judge to the charges and said that he was aware of what he was doing," Latour said. The Feb. 28 show ended abruptly after Braxton impersonator Trina Johnson-Finn hit a sour note at the beginning of the second song. She was rushed off the stage to a loud chorus of boos and a volley of trash. Prosecutors have accused Johnson-Finn, 40, of trying to pass herself off as Braxton, best known for the hit song "Un-break My Heart" and appearances on ABC's "Dancing With the Stars." She has been in jail for the last two months awaiting a scheduled trial May 26 for allegedly defrauding the nearly 3,000 people who bought tickets — though she says she was an unwitting participant in the scam. Prosecutor Duncan Nanhoe said the promoter's confession does not necessarily clear Johnson-Finn. "Yes, Ventura confessed. But I don't think that his admission of guilt dismisses Johnson as a suspect," Nanhoe said. It was not immediately clear if Johnson-Finn and Ventura would be tried together. Johnson-Finn's husband, Raymond Finn, said she has augmented her 20-year singing career by impersonating various stars as a "tribute artist" and was also the victim of Ventura, who aggressively promoted her as the real Braxton without her knowledge. The show was the first time she had performed as a Braxton look-a-like, he said. Finn also alleged that Ventura, who was arrested Monday in a bar in Paramaribo, the capital of this small former Dutch colony, pilfered the box office proceeds. Finn, during a Thursday telephone interview from Washington, where he is getting U.S. politicians such as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Rep. Shelley Berkley of Nevada involved in her case, said he was "ecstatic" that Ventura confessed but that Nanhoe's comments made clear his wife's ordeal in Suriname was far from over. Meanwhile, police have detained Ventura's girlfriend, Signet Sampson. Investigators said she had gone into hiding immediately after the Paramaribo concert turned into a melee. Supporters in Las Vegas have come to Johnson-Finn's defense, waging an Internet campaign on her behalf.

We will keep you posted on developments in this troubling case.

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On Monday (May 11th), beginning at 6 p.m., auditions will be held for the smash hit musical comedy, Naked Boys Singing! (yep, that's what we said!). Starr Pro Productions, LLC and Rack Media/Onyx Theatre, LLC, are seeking additional performers for the Robert Schrock conceived revue. Applicants must be able to sing, dance and have no aversions to performing totally in the nude. They also must have a well-toned body and be physically fit. Age range from 18 to mid-40s. Please prepare 16 bars of an up beat popular or Broadway song and provide a head shot and resume at the time of the audition. An accompanist will be provided. You will first be asked to sing, and then learn a dance combination (Brad Barnes is choreographer). You will then be asked to disrobe. If you have any questions regarding this audition, please contact director Hank Emerson at (702) 639-1776, or you can e-mail your head shot and resume to [email protected]. They ask that you already live in, or are planning on moving to, Las Vegas. There is pay involved. Auditions for Naked Boys Singing are at the Onyx Theatre, 953 E. Sahara, just west of Maryland Parkway, in the Commercial Center.

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Look for the long-absent from Las Vegas stages, Dionne Warwick, to return to Southern Nevada for a one night only performance in October. The date is the 10th, the time is 8 p.m., and the location is, not on or near the Strip, but, at the North Las Vegas Cannery. Ticket prices have not yet been announced. We have to admit that, when we saw Warwick perform live many years ago, we were disappointed. She is/was not a performer. Yes, she sang her familiar hits, but they had all been rearranged in a comfortable-for-her mid-range, requiring no highs and no lows. There was an invisible barrier between Ms. Warwick and her audience and, except for an unexpected incident that occurred the second time we saw her, she came across as wooden and cold. When the heel of her shoe caught in a spot on the stage of the Las Vegas Hilton, Dionne walked right out of her Monolo Blahnik. She turned, walked back to her shoe, retrieved the footwear and said something like, "If I had gotten hurt, this place would be renamed the Warwick Hilton." It was the most human moment she exhibited in either of the two shows that we saw. Hopefully, age has mellowed and improved the diva.

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With more than 125 albums, 15 million records sold, and 22 Top 20 hits, Paul Anka has been one of the most influential voices in pop music since emerging as a teen idol in the 1950s. On May 8th, 9th and 10th, Anka will be bringing his incomparable sound to The Orleans Showroom. Anka always knew he wanted to be a singer and songwriter. He received his big break in 1957, when he recorded Diana. The song became one of the best-selling 45s in music history, rocketing to No. 1 on the charts and bringing Anka worldwide fame. He followed up with four No. 1 songs in 1958 including, It's Time to Cry, and (All of a Sudden) My Heart Sings, turning the then-17-year-old into one of the biggest teen idols of all time. At the age of 20, Anka made his first Las Vegas appearance at the Sahara Hotel. Though the music world shifted in the 1960s, Anka was determined not to fade from the scene. Between tours of Europe and Asia, where his popularity remained high, Anka began building a reputation as one of pop music's most gifted songwriters. In 1962, he penned the theme song to The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, creating what became one of the most recognized theme songs in television history. But it was a song that he wrote for Frank Sinatra - 1969's My Way - that helped catapult Anka back to stardom in the United States. While continuing to create some of the music world's best-known songs (including She's A Lady for Tom Jones), Anka returned to his chart-topping ways through the 1970s and 1980s, recording such hits as the No. 1 (You're) Having My Baby, One Man Woman, One Woman Man, I Don't Like to Sleep Alone, (I Believe) There's Nothing Stronger Than Love, Times of Your Life (which became associated with the Kodak camera company), and Hold Me 'Til The Morning Comes.
To date, Anka has 900 songs to his credit, including 130 written for other artists (including Elvis Presley, Barbra Streisand, Linda Ronstadt, Robbie Williams, Buddy Holly and Donny Osmond). His latest album, Classic Songs, My Way features Anka giving his unique touch and sound to songs by such artists as Joni Mitchell, Billy Joel, Bryan Adams and The Killers, closing with a duet of My Way with Jon Bon Jovi. The Orleans Showroom is an 827-seat venue featuring theater-style seating. Tickets, starting from $79.95, plus tax, can be purchased by calling the Box Office at (702) 365-7075 or visiting Showtime is 8 p.m.

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