Claire Voyant's Las Vegas Gossip Column

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

Claire Voyant  

Note: This is a past column from February 26, 2011
You can find the current column HERE

Las Vegas - February 26, 2011

Richard Oberacker

Travis Cloer

Rebecca Spencer

What a nightmare! You have heard of Sleepless in Seattle? Well, since February 9th, we have been Computerless in Las Vegas (a much more serious issue than being Sleepless in Seattle). As a result of this catastrophe, we lost many of our documents and photos, as well as missed being able to write about a number of important (to us) things we had seen as well as things we wanted our readers to see (or, at least, know about). Some of the "upcoming things" may have already happened, as we don't know what time we will get this up on the Internet. For that, we apologize to the performers as well as the public who missed some great programs.

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Among the things we wanted you to know about were (operative word, WERE, as in, it's too late to see...this time)...
After a four month "hiatus," The Composers Showcase, presented in conjunction with PK Music and Creative Studios LV, returned to the delight of fans of the popular series. The once monthly offering, had come to a screeching halt when the Liberace Museum closed last October. Last week's February 24th showcase, featuring the original works of Vegas residents, sung and played by the most talented show folk anywhere, was held at Creative Studios LV, within the confines of the LoftWorks at 6415 S. Tenaya Way, Suite 140, featured the songs of The Apple Sisters (Kimmy Gatewood, Rebekka Johnson and Sarah Lowe), Michael Brennan, Wayne Green, Susan Haller, Richard Oberacker, Keith Thompson and others, performed by Travis Cloer, Kristen Hertzenberg, Christine Hudman, Greg Kata, Brandon Singleton, Joan Sobel, Rebecca Spencer, Nikka Wahl and Tina Walsh. The amazing musicians for the evening included Joel Ferguson, Philip Fortenberry, Don Meoli, Keith Nelson, Rebecca Ramsey, Joey Singer, Eric Tewalt and Moonlight Tran. About 150 music lovers found their way to Creative Studios, located in the southwest part of the city, near Rainbow and Sunset. Among those that we spotted in the audience were JoAnn Toranto, Jeanne Bavaro, Marcus Weiss, Carole Hassell, Larry Frost, Evan and Sandi Davis, Laura Blackburn, and Maythinee Washington. Will Adamson, president of Creative Studios, did a fine job as host for the late evening/early morning soiree.

And speaking of Richard Oberacker (he's the musical director for KA at the MGM Grand), his show, The Parenting Project (the new title of what was formerly called Don't Make Me Pull This Show Over), was a hit at the Flamingo Library Theater on Saturday and Sunday, February 19th and 20th. A number of songwriter Oberacker's creations from The Parenting Project had been performed at the above mentioned Composers Showcase in previous months. What was nice about this recent concert (benefiting Family Promise of Las Vegas) was the opportunity to try out four new songs in the show, added since the musical debuted at the Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati a year and a half ago. Songs that had been performed at the showcase were "I Don't Have The Right" (a mother's response to finding pot in her daughter's room), "E-Mails From China" (about a couple traveling to China to meet their newly adopted daughter for the first time - based on the real life e-mails of Tracy Lynn Thomas who was in the Las Vegas company of Mamma Mia!, "Against the Glass" (about a young single mother taking her child to the zoo and contemplating the ease at which a mother chimp tends to her baby), and "I Need Sleep" (which is pretty self-explanatory as it comes near the top of the show when parents are dealing with a new infant). Other titles include "The Talk" which concerns how one might approach the birds and the bees discussion, "Make It From Scratch" which comically depicts a young mother having a near breakdown over baking the perfect Toll House cookie, and "Reversal" which explores the delicate and graceful shift at the end of the parenting cycle when a grown child must become a parent to their own elderly parent. Richard stated that he was extremely excited about this benefit and the chance to hear this music performed by these singers. The show was originally conceived to be played by only five actors. For last weekends event, they had about 26 of the most talented performers in the city, including Bruce Ewing, Tina Walsh, Kristen Hertzenberg, Rochelle Collins, Christine Hudman, Corwyn Hodge, Kissy Simmons, Niles Rivers, Patrick Leveque, Randal Keith, Sarah Elizabeth Combs, Greg Kata, Damian Baldet, Robbie Swift, Thom Sesma, Sarah Lowe, and Vita Corimbi. "That means that I'll be able to hear some of the ensemble numbers with a much larger sound than I've ever heard," said Oberacker. He went on to say, "That should be thrilling! And with all the solo numbers distributed among many different singers of varying ages, it should be a very moving journey through the chronological cycle of parenting. I think the piece as a whole will have a much deeper and richer complexity to it when presented this way. I also think it will be funnier and more uplifting than it has ever been, given some of the new songs and the comedic talents of some of these singers, like Corimbi and Lowe." Richard had a right to be excited about this venture. What made the afternoons even more special was the fact that his proud mother, Phyllis Oberacker, visiting from Cleveland, was in the audience to share the experience.

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Breck Wall

Christopher Peterson as Marilyn

Brian Keith

There was a good turnout for the February 20th tribute to Breck Wall at the South Point. Wall, of Bottoms Up fame, passed away on November 15th at the age of 75. Wall had suffered from Alzheimer's Disease during the last couple of years of his life. Among those participating in the tribute, organized by Carrie Proffitt, Ken Owens and Jimmy Emerson, were Tony Arias, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Kenny Kerr, Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman and wife Carolyn, poet Billie Duncan, Ken Prescott, Martin Nievera (on tape), and Wes Winters, who did a beautiful job on his moving original composition, "Send Down An Angel." A highlight of the afternoon program was a tribute to the late choreographer/costume designer, Michael Darrin. Michael was an integral part of Bottoms Up and other Breck Wall and Patrick Maes productions. We were delighted to see some familiar faces in the crowd, among them, Suzanne Buhrer (in from San Antonio), B.J. Doolan (also traveling from Texas), Tim Dunn, Robert Beal, Christopher Peterson, Sue Motsinger, David Harris, Betty Bunch, Lee Plotkin, Robert Smith, Jerry Ritholz Jarvis, Grant Philipo, Mary Dee Mantle, Paul Hansell, Mary Marcella Schwartz, Kellie Wright and the Golden Nugget's Ron O'Neal.

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We went to The Onyx Theatre to see the multi-talented Christopher Peterson in his tour de force show called Eyecons. Although this Canadian-born entertainer has been compared to the legendary female impersonator, Jim Bailey, whereas Bailey performs as one celebrity (Miss Peggy Lee, Barbra Streisand, Phyllis Diller, or Judy Garland) during his show, Mr. Peterson does many. While never leaving the stage, or the audiences sight, he changes costumes and wigs behind a screen, transforming himself into Marilyn Monroe, Carol Channing, Bette Midler, Lucille Ball, Tina Turner, Judy Garland, Bette Davis, Liza Minnelli, Julie Andrews, and Joan Rivers, all the while sharing the story of how he became a female impersonator. Tonight is the last performance for this particular engagement. Showtime is at 8 p.m.

And speaking of female impersonators, Brian Keith is, once again, filling in for Frank Marino while the star of Divas Las Vegas is spending some time in Australia. Brian, who makes his home in the City By the Bay, where he works as an emergency room nurse, has stepped into his Monolo Blahniks and donned makeup and wigs to take over for Frank on previous occasions. Up until just a few months ago, Brian's hospital co-workers had no idea that his earlier career saw him doing drag at the world famous Finocchio's in San Francisco. Since they learned of his past life, Brian has become the hit of the hospital. A number of the staff members have traveled to Las Vegas to see Brian working in gowns instead of scrubs. His father, who had never seen his handsome son transform himself into a glamorous showgal, traveled from Cleveland for this engagement. Frank Marino's Divas Las Vegas plays at the Imperial Palace, with show times at 10 p.m. For tickets, priced at $39, $69 and $79, plus taxes and fees, call (888) 777-7664. You can catch Brian Keith in Divas, through Monday, March 1st.

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Tomorrow (Sunday, February 27th) at 2 p.m., the Performing Arts Society of Nevada Brown Bag Concert will present the magical husband and wife team of Joseph Gabriel and Katalin. The award- winning Joseph Gabriel will perform some of the highlights from his Broadway show. Katalin, one of Europe's premiere female magicians, will also display her talent, both as an individual and assisting Joseph. Also performing will be pianist/singer/entertainer, Wes Winters, and the amazing Nino Frediani, billed as "The World's Fastest Juggler." This variety show will take place at the Clark County Flamingo Library, 1401 E. Flamingo. Tickets are only $15, and may be purchased at the library box office an hour before show time. For additional information, call (702) 658-0741. The Performing Arts Society, now in its 21st year, is a 501 C3 not for profit corporation.

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We will have information about the F.I.O.R.E.'s most recent event (and maybe a photo or two) in Friday's column.

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Lucy Shropshire

Joseph Gabriel & Katalin

Wes Winters

Last Saturday, vocalist, Lucy Shropshire, performed at the popular Triad club in the Big Apple. A former Las Vegan, the lady with the "unusual name, unforgettable voice" was a principal in the Stardust's production, Enter the Night. When she isn't entertaining in a cabaret setting, Lucy tours with the Supreme Mary Wilson as one of her backup singers. The Triad show, directed by another onetime Las Vegan, Jim Semmelman, featured David Shenton on piano. Hope you New Yorkers had a chance to see this talented lady at work.

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At Southern California's Norris Center for the Performing Arts, Larry Raben and Nick Santa Maria, who were both in the Las Vegas production of Mel Brooks' The Producers, co-starred in Neil Simon's The Odd Couple, from January 28th through February 13th. One of the most famous stage comedies in American history, The Odd Couple tells the story of Felix Ungar, a neurotic, neat freak news writer who is thrown out by his wife, and moves in with his friend Oscar Madison, a slovenly sportswriter, with disastrous and hilarious results. These unforgettable characters have become cultural icons, and the play has spawned both popular film and television productions. Neil Simon has written 28 plays, and has had more hits in the theater than any other American playwright. Simon has won four Tony Awards, two Emmys, numerous Screen Writers Guild Awards and the Pulitzer Prize for drama. He has been showered with more Academy and Tony Award nominations than any other writer, and is the only playwright to have four Broadway productions running simultaneously. Some of Simon's best-known plays include, Plaza Suite, The Out of Towners, Rumors, Lost in Yonkers and The Goodbye Girl. This production of The Odd Couple, directed and produced by James Gruessing, stars equity actors Raben as Felix Ungar and Santa Maria as Oscar Madison. Larry Raben returned to the Norris after previously appearing as Bryce in The Big Bang. He played the role of Leo Bloom in The Producers on Broadway and in the entire run in Las Vegas (with co-star Nick Santa Maria). Larry, a Los Angeles and regional favorite, also appeared as Lt. Frank Cioffi in Curtains (Music Theatre of Wichita), Patrick in The Andrews Brothers (LA Ovation Award-Musical Theatre West/Cabrillo Music Theatre), Forbidden Broadway (Ovation nomination-MTW) Hysterium in ...Forum (Reprise!), Ross in Bright Ideas (Laguna Playhouse), I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change (Off Broadway and LA Canon Theatre), Jerry/Daphne in Sugar (Gateway Playhouse), Ensign Pulver in Mr. Roberts (Old Globe Theatre), Cornelius Hackl in Hello, Dolly! (Pittsburgh CLO), Finch in How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and Josh in Big. Off-Broadway, he was in the original company of Forever Plaid and can be seen as Sparky in Forever Plaid – The Movie which is scheduled to be released on DVD in the spring. Nick Santa Maria was recently seen in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee as Mr. Panch (3-D Theatricals), Mr. Bromhead in No Sex Please, We're British, and as Pseudolus in, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum at the Norris Theatre. Television: The Buffalo Bill Show, B.J. Stryker, and two Disney Christmas Specials. Off Broadway he was writer/composer/performer on Secrets Every Smart Traveler Should Know (Soundtrack on RCA Victor). Broadway: Vince Fontaine in Tommy Tune's production of Grease!. He also appeared in every domestic company of Mel Brooks' The Producers, understudying everyone from Nathan Lane and Jason Alexander, to Tony Danza, David Hasselhoff and Lee Roy Reams. He was the original Genie in Disney's Aladdin: a Musical Spectacular (soundtrack on Disney Records). The Odd Couple cast also included Sara J. Stuckey (Gwendolyn Pigeon), Rachel Scott (Cicely Pigeon), David Diestel (Roy), Jason Hammond (Vinnie), Jason Sluyter (Murray), and Craig Mitchell (Speed). Needless to say, we had intended to use this information BEFORE the show ended. Blame the computer.

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Nino Frediani

Larry Raben

Nick Santa Maria

Belated birthday greetings to some of our fellow Aquarians (January 21st through February 19th), including Wyntergrace Williams, Keith Thompson, Neil Diamond, Jim Seagrave, Terry Jenkins, Walter Mason, Eve Quillin, Doug Saleeby, Nino Frediani, Ariann Black, Ashleigh Hackett, Irving Benson, Jim Semmelman, Ron Andrews, Nancy Lee Parker Andrews, Joe Krathwohl, John Meren, Cindy Raft, Martin Nievera, Natalie Cole, Eddie Foy III, Dacoda Collins, Norm Johnson, Joey Zarzecki, Phyllis McGuire, Sean Grady, Eddie Van Halen, Ellen DeGeneres, Adam Lambert, Harold Prince, Phil Collins, Brett Butler, Carol Channing, Harry Wayne Casey (KC of the Sunshine Band), Don Everley, Sherman Hemsley, Lisa Marie Presley, Pauly Shore, Alice Cooper, Oscar De La Hoya, Natalie Cole, Fabian, Garth Brooks, Robert Klein, Vince Neil, Carole King, Travis Tritt, Sergio Mendes, Sheryl Crow, Michael McDonald, Peter Tork (of The Monkees), Teller (the quiet half of Penn & Teller), Melissa Manchester, Dame Edna (Barry Humphries), Ronnie Vannucci (The Killers), and Larry the Cable Guy. Also, anniversary greetings to Jimmy and Sheri Hopper, and Harry and Piper Goldson.

And speaking of Vince Neil...Yesterday, the bad boy rocker was released from jail after serving only 10 days of his 15 day sentence for a drunk driving incident in Las Vegas last June. Are we the only ones who find this barely-a-slap-on-the-wrist "punishment" disturbing...especially when you consider that the Motley Crue member was involved in a DUI fatality in the '80s? This is shameful! Let's see what kind of sentence poor Lindsay Lohan gets for her latest of many crimes...this one for shoplifting. No wonder these pampered celebrities keep repeating their dirty deeds.

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Beautiful Brittney Porter just won Spy on Vegas' Sexiest Server contest. The grand prize is $10,000! Brittney, who has been figure skating since she was a little girl and has taught for the past nine years (her parents are ice skating veterans, Sally Porter Coombs and Richard Porter) represented all the Station Casino's as she works as a bartender at the Santa Fe's Revolver. She had more than 32,000 votes, while the second place winner received 18,000. The beautiful brunette received the most votes, ever, for all the years that the contest has been running.

Kevin Spirtas

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It appears that Triumph, which was an on again, off again production in the main showroom at the Las Vegas Hilton, has run out of steam and closed, permanently, on Wednesday. We hate to see a large show like this fail, but there is an expensive lesson here. Perhaps the saying about "biting off more than you can chew" applies in this case. Most of the time, you only get one chance to make a good first impression.

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Our friend Bill Nolte (he played Franz Liebkind in the Las Vegas production of The Producers), has left the Broadway cast of La Cage aux Folles to join the cast of The Road to Qatar. Jeffrey Tambor has also pulled out of Broadway's latest revival of the Jerry Herman musical, citing complications from recent hip surgery. Tambor is probably best known for his roles on TV in The Larry Sanders Show and Arrested Development. On February 15th, the actor replaced Kelsey Grammer in the lead role of Georges, the owner of a glitzy drag club on the French Riviera. Yesterday, February 25th, Grammer married Kayte Walsh in a ceremony held at the Longacre Theater in New York, where La Cage aux Folles is currently playing.

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Former Las Vegas Hilton entertainment maven, Walter Mason, is the producer and director of Hands Across the Arts: The Music of Duke Ellington Meets the Music of Count Basie, playing at the Nicholas Horn Theatre at the College of Southern Nevada, tonight (February 26th) at 7:30 p.m., and tomorrow at 2 p.m. Veteran trombone player, Jimmy Wilkins, who is a onetime member of the Basie Band, will lead the 17-piece orchestra. Also performing will be tap dancer Lindell Blake, singers Moronette Stephens and the Soprano Sisters, violinist Chase Nighter, and Louis Armstrong tribute artist, Anthony Brady. Tickets are $10 and $15. CSN is located at 3200 E. Cheyenne in North Las Vegas. For additional information, call (702) 651-5483.

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From Kevin Spirtas, who performed his one man show, Night and Days, in Las Vegas at both the Starbright Theatre and the Charleston Heights Art Center and also appeared as Corny Collins in the Luxor's production of the Broadway musical, Hairspray, comes this information.
Kevin is on the producing team of the new Broadway musical: Priscilla - Queen of the Desert. Two days ago the show released a PSA for the "It Gets Better" campaign. The campaign focuses on cheering up gay, lesbian, and transgender teenagers who have been victims of bullying. This is the first show in the Broadway community to take a stand with this message and support the cause. Kevin has received dozens of calls, texts and e-mails about it from people who let him know how proud they are for his and the show's involvement in this important cause. One writer said, "This is the reason we are in the ARTS!" Kevin agrees. He also feels that the action the show has taken with this campaign simply mirrors the very heart and spirit of the story that he so fell in love with when he read the Priscilla script for the first time. Attached are links to the New York Times article and the actual PSA! I highly encourage you to click on them both and see why 'It Gets Better.' 'It Gets Better,' the Public Service Announcement (NY Times - Article) by Patrick Healy. Take the PLEDGE and spread the word! better-the-public-service-announcement/ 'It Gets Better,' (PSA) Priscilla marks Spirtas-Mauro Productions' second Broadway collaboration. Kevin Spirtas is a 25-year veteran actor of Broadway, film and television. He is most recognized around the world as Dr. Craig Wesley from televisions' Days of Our Lives. His Broadway acting credits include, A Chorus Line and The Boy from Oz, where Spirtas served a Hugh Jackman's standby. Kevin made his debut as a Broadway producer with the critically acclaimed revival of Finian's Rainbow. Scott Mauro is an award-winning producer of live events and television specials. A Broadway marketing veteran, his producing credits include the 40th, 50th, 51st and 52nd annual Tony Awards (CBS), Night of 100 Stars (NBC), Soap Update Awards (Lifetime), Cher Live at the Mirage, Rosemary Clooney: An All-Star Tribute (A&E), Palm Springs Film Festival Awards, Princess Grace Awards, Richard Rodgers Centennial, Dreamgirls - 20th Anniversary Reunion, 20th Anniversary of Hair, and numerous Broadway tributes. Previews of Priscilla Queen of the Desert start on Monday, February 28th at New York's Palace Theatre.

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Look for our next column on Friday, March 4th (fingers are crossed).

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