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 May 31, 2013
You can find the current column HERE

Las Vegas - May 31, 2013

Michael Douglas Behind the Candelabra

Philip Fortenberry Plays Liberace's Piano

All the pre-publicity, and a cast of big-name stars - including Michael Douglas, Matt Damon, Dan Aykroyd, Scott Bakula, Rob Lowe, Tom Papa, Paul Reiser, and Debbie Reynolds - for HBO's Behind the Candelabra, resulted in impressive viewing numbers for the movie based on Scott Thorson's book of his relationship with Liberace. The Steven Soderbergh film attracted 2.4 million viewers in its first airing last Sunday, making it the most-watched HBO Film title since 2004. For its two Sunday airings, Behind the Candelabra earned 3.5 million viewers. This is especially impressive, coming on Memorial Day weekend, when TV viewing levels typically decline. Here is a review by Todd McCarthy from the Hollywood Reporter, written after the film's pre-HBO Cannes Film Festival (in competition) showing.

The Bottom Line

A wonderfully entertaining and revealing look at Liberace's final decade. Michael Douglas and Matt Damon shine in Steven Soderbergh's fabulous Liberace biopic, which is playing in competition at the festival ahead of its May 26 debut on HBO. Behind the Candelabra is fabulous -- so much so that, were it not for the fact that it reveals everything about his private life that he worked so hard to conceal, Liberace himself might well have loved it. The big screen's loss is HBO's gain in what is billed as Steven Soderbergh's farewell to the cinema, at least for the time being. Superbly scripted, brilliantly directed, smart but never smarmy and led by a lead performance by Michael Douglas so good you often forget you're watching an actor rather than the famous character he's playing, this is a rarity, a fully realized biographical drama shot through with real feeling and an abundance of sly humor. It's a winner all around.

Playing in competition in Cannes despite having been made for HBO, where it will debut in the U.S. on May 26, the film will go out theatrically in some foreign markets, including the U.K. and France. It's got a full-sized movie look in every way, the only difference being that it's far better than most of what plays in cinemas these days. The story spans the final decade of Liberace's life, from his meeting young Scott Thorson in 1977 to his death from an AIDS-related illness, which he tried to keep a secret, as he always had his sexual persuasion. "Oh, they have no idea he's gay," Thorson's buddy informs him when they attend a Liberace show in Las Vegas heavily attended by adoring female fans of a certain age. No matter the performer's outrageous fur coats, sequined garments, bejeweled fingers, immaculately coiffed hair and unbridled swish manner, anyone old enough to remember Liberace's TV show and live appearances can testify to the sincere and unquestioned appeal he held for women in America as well as Britain. It really was another time. Little did anyone suspect, then, that the handsome young chauffeur who nightly "drove" Liberace onstage in a gaudy Rolls-Royce actually was his bedmate in his celebrated Vegas mansion. The two come together at a fateful backstage meeting: out goes Liberace's "protoge" — another pianist with whom he shares an on-stage duet — and in comes Scott (Matt Damon), a blond and beefy teenager from a succession of foster families. "I promise to stay on my side of the bed," Liberace says upon encouraging him to sleep over, a promise kept until daybreak. There is a slightly creepy predatory aspect to the behavior of "Lee," as the pianist is known to his friends, in his initial overtures to the kid; he's 58 to Scott's 18 and was, for many years, the best-paid entertainer in show business. But in Douglas' fulsome, wonderfully shaded performance, there is also a sweetness and seemingly genuine concern for the deprived, difficult life his hunky companion has led up to now, as will as an impulse to open up about some of his own trials and private issues (not to mention how he was initiated sexually in his native Wisconsin by a member of the Green Bay Packers). Insisting at first that he's bisexual (as Lee later notes, there's never any evidence of this), Scott bristles at certain aspects of being a kept boy but offers little resistance to life at Liberace's monument to "palatial kitsch," a modern mansion stuffed with the most expensive gaudiness production designer Howard Cummings and costume designer Ellen Mirojnick can deliver: endless mirrors, chandeliers, marble, chintzy furniture, glittering tuxedos and shining and shimmering objects of all kinds, as well as those key sites of their relationship, the indoor marble Jacuzzi and ample bed. After a couple of years, however, Lee persuades Scott to have extensive plastic surgery, including adding a dimple in his chin to make the young man more closely resemble him. This is all supervised by a suspicious Dr. Feelgood-type played by Rob Lowe in a hilariously squint-eyed performance, and Behind the Candelabra must rank as the first film to feature explicit plastic surgery montages to the accompaniment of upbeat, jaunty music, just one of Soderbergh's many inspired touches.

Within another couple of years, Lee's mother (an excellent and essentially unrecognizable Debbie Reynolds) dies, the couple has added heavy cocaine use to their steady champagne diet, Lee develops a porn addiction and soon proposes that he and Scott should be free to see other men. Although he has long stated that he regards Scott as a son he would adopt and inherit his holdings, the writing is very clearly on the wall, leading to Scott's eviction and his retaliatory $113 million palimony suit that brought the entertainer unwanted tabloid notoriety shortly before his death. Richard LaGravanese's screenplay is outstanding both in its dramatic structure and line-by-line writing, particularly in the intimate scenes that are mainly chatter but glancingly reveal both men's needs and even sexual tastes. He and Soderbergh also know how to darken the mood as gently as one might imperceptibly dial down a light dimmer, which underlines the gradual rather than sudden unraveling of the pair's relationship. And there are moments that are downright hilarious, some of it in a camp way and elsewhere just for the sheer spectacle of such an outlandish lifestyle. Yes, Rex Harrison and Richard Burton played a couple of old queens in the best-forgotten Staircase in 1969, but to see two major stars like Douglas and Damon go at it physically the way they do here periodically is quite something. And impressive. Having from all appearances bounced back from his serious bout with cancer a couple of years back, Douglas looks great and acts it too in one of the two or three most electric and dialed-in performances he's ever given onscreen. He catches Liberace's humor, self-regard and mocking self-deprecation, work ethic, iron whim, generosity, spitefulness and ultimate aloneness. The actor's accurate and speedy fingering in the piano-playing sequences is also dazzling. Far older than the real Scott Thorson but radiating an agelessness that makes the discrepancy a non-issue, Damon is also wonderful, expressing the lack of willpower that allows him go along with his mate's wishes but eventually the festering resentment and rage that builds up as he realizes he's about to be discarded. Both actors, but particularly Damon, look convincingly younger after their characters have had work done; the makeup department deserves major kudos for its work here. As with Reynolds playing Lee's old Polish-accented mother, you can barely tell it's Dan Aykroyd in the role of the entertainer's longtime attorney and fixer. Scott Bakula is enjoyably relaxed as Scott's old pal from pre-Lee days. Shot by Soderbergh under his longtime DP moniker Peter Andrews mostly in bright, vivid compositions (he also edited under the name Mary Ann Bernard), the film also benefits from the musical contributions of the late Marvin Hamlisch, in what was presumably his final film work.

Note: We have to point out, it WASN'T Michael Douglas' "accurate and speedy fingering in the piano-playing sequences," it was the accurate and speedy fingering of the amazingly talented, Philip Fortenberry, associate conductor at Jersey Boys in Las Vegas, who did all of the piano sequences.

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There was a Phantom - The Las Vegas Spectacular reunion of sorts at the Plaza Hotel's Phat Pack performance this past Sunday, May 26th, as former Las Vegas Phantom, Brent Barrett, attended the show starring his former Phantom cast mates - Bruce Ewing, Ted Keegan and Randal Keith. Barrett appeared as The Phantom for the first two years of the production's six-plus year run at The Venetian. The Phat Pack revue celebrates Broadway and American standards music, while tipping its hat to the excellence and fun of the former ‘50s and ‘60s Las Vegas stars known as The Rat Pack. The Phat Pack has been playing steadily at the Plaza Hotel & Casino since March, where it has earned rave reviews, standing ovations, and been named The Best Of Las Vegas 2013 - Best All Around Performers by the editors of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. If you love The Great White Way, you will love The Phat Pack! The three Broadway performers, Ewing (Forever Plaid), Keegan (Phantom of the Opera) and Keith (Les Miserables), sing musical theater hits, along with selections from the Great American Songbook, Las Vegas favorites, plus some hilarious new original songs, while sharing some stories of their lives and careers! The Phat Pack plays in the showroom at the Plaza Hotel, 1 N. Main Street in downtown Las Vegas, Wednesdays through Sundays at 5 p.m. (dark Mondays and Tuesdays). Tickets are available through the Plaza Box Office, by calling (702) 386-2507, or by visiting

The Phat Pack Cast Plus Phriends
Shown in accompanying photo by Dylan Musso (from left to right): Bruce Ewing, singer/actor Bernie Blanks, Ted Keegan, Phantom star Brent Barrett & Randal Keith.

This just in...
After a successful Mother‘s Day guest appearance, The Phat Pack has announced that Kristen Hertzenberg will be back for four more performances. Kristen, who played Christine Daae in Phantom - The Las Vegas Spectacular, will be the special guest with The Phat Pack, from Thursday, June 6th, through Sunday the 9th, with shows at 5 p.m. Kristen was a member of the Las Vegas Phantom company for the entire run in Las Vegas, and is thrilled to reunite with "some of her boys," to sing and have a great time!

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The Las Vegas entertainment community has lost another member, with the death earlier this week of multi-talented keyboardist, composer and singer, Billy Tragesser, also known as Billy T. Heidi Thompson has provided us with the following information, for which we thank her.
The Billy Tragesser memorial service is at 11 a.m. tomorrow, Saturday, June 1st, at Palm Mortuary, 1600 S. Jones Blvd., between Oakey and Charleston.

Billy Tragesser 1945-2013

Heidi Thompson as Cher

Good morning and welcome. I am Reverend Gene Sironen and I am honored to be conducting this memorial service today for a man who was of the highest artistic caliber, both as a musician and as a human being. During his meaningful life, Billy Tragesser composed thoughts and actions which touched everyone he met, as only a true Master could. On behalf of Billy's loving wife, Marilyn, and his children, Vanessa and Mark, I thank you all for being here. Billy was born July 20, 1945, to Anna and Glen Tragesser in Greensburg, PA. He had a brother Bob, who passed away before did his father, Glen. His 97 year-old mother, Anna, is still going strong. Billy married his soul mate, Marilyn, in 1975. Together, they had two beautiful children, Vanessa and Mark. Vanessa later married Larry Esparza and together, they gave Billy and Marilyn two beautiful grandchildren, Fiona and Owen. It was obvious that Billy was destined to be a great musician. After all, not many three-year-olds create a drum set fashioned from pots and pans and play them so well that he inspired his parents to buy him a drum set in lieu of their much needed screen door! At just five-years-old, Billy and his drum set became a national sensation when he won a talent competition on a national TV show...and for 13 weeks in a row! This five-year-old drummer won television sets, appliances and a Nash Rambler car!!!! Billy always commented that his career went downhill from there. But we all know differently. He learned to play the trumpet and tuba, and received his Masters Degree in Music Composition. Although he was shy about it, his singing voice was amazingly accomplished. And, he was a sheer genius at the keyboards. Billy had a very full and productive life. So full, in fact, that we've invited a few of his closest friends to tell you about some of the highlights. To begin, I'd like to invite up Heidi Thompson to read a letter of acknowledgement from one of Billy's longtime musical partners and closest friends, Karen Nelson Bell.

Gene Sironen

Karen Nelson Bell

"HEY BILLY," letter from Karen Nelson Bell:

Hey Billy, do you remember the time we were driving down Santa Monica Boulevard in the limo AVI Records hired for us to go talk to radio stations, and as we were driving, our first hit, "Between Hello and Goodbye" came on the radio for the first time? We rolled the windows down and told all the passing cars, "Hey, hey, hey that's our song!" You and I had some crazy, wonderful adventures in between the hello and the goodbye. Hey Billy, remember when we went to Japan to represent the U.S. in the international song festival? Can you believe second place in the world?!!! With a song we wrote for your beautiful wife Marilyn? We did some focus drills backstage, because there were so many steps to the design of the podium and many of the contestants were falling down! Well, we didn't fall down, did we, and when we sang the second verse in Japanese, the place erupted... 10,000 people thrilled with "Ah ee no oo tah Mah-lee-lyn." Many times during the seventies, we saw more of each other than you and Marilyn did, but I never got the feeling that she minded how much I love you. She always knew it was this musical sister/brother thing. Hey Billy, how about the song we wrote when your daughter was born? Vanessa? Wasn't it Kansas City when we were all camped out at my folk's house? Marilyn was pregnant... where in the heck were we playing? Maybe we were on the way to somewhere... we were always on the way to somewhere. Oh my gosh... remember when we thought we were going to play the hottest jazz spot in Helsinki, Finland, because we were following Ella Fitzgerald, and it turned out that during December, all the reindeer farmers come down from Iceland to polka. There we were playing the song of the day, "Sir Duke," and the whole audience was just staring at us, because they couldn't quite figure out how to polka to Stevie Wonder! Ahhhh, but we got our first record deal out of the trip! RCA Records and Johani Altonen producing! Yeah, who else but you would think up "Whistle While You Work" in 5/4? What an honor that your dear friend Chick Corea signed the liner notes for the album that would go on to become a classic that even got pirated on the internet! I'm not totally sure, but I think that's an honor! Later, there was Seymour Heller (Liberace's manager) and Ed Cobb... then we had the great fortune to be produced by famous film arranger David Campbell... brilliant pop music from those days, huh? What a pop catalogue we created!

Hey Billy, can you remember the low point of the band's jazz career? Redbeard booked us into Des Moines, Iowa, and the accommodations were a little tiny, raggedy mobile home out behind the bar. You, me, Bill Plavan, and Carmen Castaldi... jazzers dyed in the wool, and no one bothered to mention that this was a country music hall frequented by senior citizens, mostly over 80. They really, really, really hated us. "Play some Johnny Cash," they pleaded, and we would have if we could have! Well, we launched into our unique version of "Lazy Afternoon" intertwined with Debussy's "Prelude to the Afternoon of a Fawn." Somewhere in the middle, we lost our place in the complicated arrangement, and since the dance floor was empty, and the folks at the bar hated us, we just stopped playing. Just stopped and then started laughing and laughed until we were crying. But my favorite memory was at the Hacienda when Jamey Haddad joined the band on percussion. We felt like we finally had arrived, because we were playing all originals, all jazz, and it was right there in a casino, where we used to get told we were playing too loud about every 15 minutes. The room was jammed tight with people hanging around the outside railing, and we had standing ovations after every number. By the end of the night, we felt so completely validated, like the music we created had done its job of lifting people up. From the time we said hello, you've done that... lifted everyone up. Not just the audiences, Billy... you lifted up everyone who worked with you. We played and sang better because of you. And you never showed anything but humble love of the music, even though you were so clearly, at least to us, a giant among us. Your music, your very beingness lifted us up. We were better because of you, my old friend. If Heidi finds it hard to read this because there are tears stains on the page, just know that I'll be focused on the great honor of having had 39 years with a great artist, a great man. If we all can focus on the astonishing joy we had from our associations with you, maybe the pain of losing you too soon will ease. I'm listening to your music, our music, and it makes me weep but at the same time it lifts me up. Thank you forever for introducing me to the joys of music at the top of the aesthetic spectrum, as well as for introducing me to the way you looked at life... I'm forever changed because of your friendship. It's almost unbearable to imagine that there has be a farewell, but the majesty of what came Between "Hello and Goodbye" was surely a life well lived. Rest in peace, Billy... but only for a little while, OK? Get that new band going and spread your magic from the stars. We'll be listening.

Eulogy: Mark Barrett

Message from family and closing: Heidi Thompson

The song that was, and is, Billy Tragesser will forever live on in our hearts. But the melody has been set free to take new form in some new place and time. Perhaps, we will meet again. And we will know you by some familiar refrain. For now, dear Billy, we thank you for having lived...for writing your life as if it were a most beautiful symphony delivered by an orchestra too humble for its magnificence. All the piano keys you've ever touched have fulfilled their instrumental destiny. They were waiting for you to touch them. And you did so with more eloquence of touch than most could ever conceive. All the souls you've ever touched have fulfilled your destiny, for you touched them with your song, Billy. And your song was destined to be heard. I don't think you ever realized the greatness of that song. Perhaps true greatness is something with which someone is born? And as such, maybe it feels "normal" and therefore not worthy of your idea of what greatness should be. But, to all of us who knew you, you were like the Hope Diamond who thought he was a zircon. Billy spent many years studying the works of L. Ron Hubbard. So, I thought this quote from Mr. Hubbard to be appropriate to share with you right now: "We distinctively revere the great artist, painter or musician, and society as a whole looks upon them as not quite ordinary beings. And they are not. They are a cut above man...He who can truly communicate to others is a higher being who builds new worlds." L. Ron Hubbard. Wherever your song is played from this point forward, Billy, we know it will last forever. And so, to quote your own words, here is Gene Sironen to sing a song by one of his favorite composers...YOU, Billy. Here's a song written by YOU which tells us all that you believe, that you are forever!

Song, "You Are Forever," sung by Gene Sironen.

Our condolences to the Tragesser family on their loss.

Mark Barrett

Les Paul & Mary Ford

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If you are in the New York area, on Tuesday, June 4th, entertainers Eric Comstock and his bride, Barbara Fasano, will celebrate Les Paul and Mary Ford as part of the Iridium Jazz Club's weeklong Les Paul Birthday Bash. Show times are at 8 and 10 p.m., when Comstock and Fasano will be joined by Randy Napoleon on guitar, and Elias Bailey on bass. For those too young to remember, Les Paul and Mary Ford were a popular 1950s husband-and-wife/group musical team in which Les Paul played the guitar and Mary Ford sang. The couple were introduced to each other by Gene Autry in 1946 and were married in 1949. Between the years 1950 and 1954, Les Paul and Mary Ford had 16 Top 10 hits. In 1951 alone, they sold six million records. Among their hits were "Tennessee Waltz," "Mockin' Bird Hill," "How High the Moon" (No. 1 for nine weeks), "The World Is Waiting for the Sunrise" "I'm Confessin' That I Love You," and "Whispering." From August 1952 to March 1953, they had five more Top 10 hits - "My Baby's Coming Home," "Lady of Spain," "Bye Bye Blues," "I'm Sitting on Top of the World" and "Vaya Con Dios" (No. 1 for 11 weeks). In 2009, they were inducted into the Hit Parade Hall of Fame. Les Paul and Mary Ford, who have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, divorced in 1963, which also ended the collaborations between the two. Mary Ford passed away in 1977. She was 53. Les Paul died in 2009 at the age 0f 94. The Iridium Jazz Club is located at 1650 Broadway at 51st Street in New York City. For reservations, call (212) 582-2121.

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Josh Strickland

Niki Scalera

UNLV's Judy Bayley Theatre should have been almost full on the Sunday afternoon that we saw the revue, Putting On a Show. This bigger-theater-ready contained a terrific bunch of songs, written by the amazingly talented, and young, Christopher Lash, presented by some of the best singers around Southern Nevada. Tickets were a reasonable $10 and $20. So, where was the crowd? Personally, we feel if there had been as much "business" involved as there was "show," the 550-seat Judy Bayley Theatre would have been almost full. Although we tried to get a cast list, and perhaps the titles of some of the songs, to pique potential audience members interest, we were unable to achieve our goal. Maybe if folks had known that entertainers Ben Hale (Johnny Cash in Million Dollar Quartet) and Martin Kaye (Kaye, who portrays Jerry Lee Lewis in the same show, and accompanied himself on piano during his song, "Remember Love"), were in the show, as was Josh Strickland from Peepshow, Savannah Smith from Vegas! The Show, Niki Scalera from Broadway's Tarzan and Hairspray, Phillip Officer in Broadway's Side Show, and Sheldon Craig star of The Unforgettable Nat "King" Cole, and that these talented people were backed by a live 17-piece orchestra, more of them would have turned out for this theater piece, six years in the making.
By the way, we had no idea that Ms. Scalera, who we know, was playing the schoolgirl in the Oldies Montage number with Mr. Craig. She had us fooled. Good job, Niki.

Sheldon Craig

And speaking of UNLV, on Sunday night, May 26th, at Las Vegas' South Point Hotel, Casino & Spa's Arena, Tuff-N-Uff "FestiBrawl," UNLV student, Montel Brian Williams II, known by his family and friends as "Gootch," won his Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) amateur fight against 35-year-old Jason Weyrich, half way into the second round. The 19-year-old champ is the son of Grace Coronel, and TV pitchman, Montel Williams. Gootch's proud grandma is Dori (Bambi Jones) Kotzan. To say the family was ecstatic, would be putting it mildly! Mama Grace, who as Bambi Jr. was the subject of one of UNLV's most popular marketing tools for the Rebels basketball team, the 1990 "Final Four of BUST" poster (see accompanying photo), was jumping for joy so enthusiastically, she almost broke the heels on her stilettos! Young Montel's family reports that opponent, Las Vegan Weyrich, was a class act. Jason‘s fans, that included many of his former Chaparral High School classmates, filled up half of the South Point arena to cheer on their friend. As she was dying, Weyrich promised his late grandmother that he would continue to pursue his love of martial arts, and "get into the cage." For his fight against Williams, Jason wore a tag around his neck that read, LOVE, NANA, and contained some of his grandma's ashes. Members of both families hugged after the fight, and, Dori Kotzan says, "I chalk it up as one of my most beautiful life experiences. Life is good."

Shown in the accompanying photo by Ray Kasprowicz (from left to right): Coach Dennis Davis, Montel Williams II and coach Neil Melanson.

Montel Williams II with Coaches

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Double your pleasure. This weekend, you have two chances to see The Lon Bronson Band - tonight, Friday May 31st at 9 p.m. in the Railhead at Boulder Station on the Boulder Strip, and tomorrow, Saturday night, June 1st, at 9:30 in the Access Showroom at the Aliante Casino & Hotel in North Las Vegas. According to Mr. Bronson, "It's more fun when you do it twice."

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We spotted a couple of very Easy Riders on a Bunny Hill in the west part of Las Vegas last weekend. We weren't sure if they were auditioning for a cycle-sequel and, if so, which one was Peter Fonda, and which one was Dennis Hopper, but these two appeared to be lost. The "Bagels or Bust" sign on the back of their transportation prompted us to follow the gents, only to discover when they reached their destination, that the low riders were funnymen, Nelson Sardelli and Marty Allen, out for their regular Saturday brunch get-together. The photo of the twosome was taken by friend, Lou Toomin.

Nelson Sardelli & Marty Allen, Easy Riders

Lisa & Ron Smith

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We would like to tell you to buy your tickets to see Lisa and Ron Smith in Back to Broadway, but, we can't. In the first place, it's too late, as the revue started at 7 p.m. tonight (we only found out about it a couple of days ago), and, secondly, chances are the performance was sold out a few days ago. The set up to see shows taking place at Solera at Anthem (where Back to Broadway is taking place) and Sun City Summerlin's Starbright Theatre, require real dedication and lots of driving to get tickets ahead of time, if you don't live in the communities. The general public usually has to wait until almost show time to purchase tickets, and charging by credit card over the phone is an option usually not available. Look for Mr. and Mrs. Smith's Back to Broadway on a stage near you. Hopefully, we will be able to give you a more timely heads-up. Back to Broadway is a first-rate musical production featuring songs and stories from some of the most beloved Broadway musicals of all time, including The Music Man, 42nd Street, Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables, and introduce you to some of the most popular musicals of the last few years, such as Wicked, Smokey Joe's Café, Spamalot and Songs for a New World. The husband and wife team of Lisa and Ron do a great job of presenting the material in a professional and entertaining way. Sorry you missed Back to Broadway this time around, but keep your eyes and ears open, as Lisa and Ron have done this show before, and we are very sure, due to popular demand, they will do it again.

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Renee Hale & Doug Taylor

Renee Hale tells us that she is fortunate to have so much music in her life. During the next couple of weeks, she will be sharing the stage with some incredible musicians. This weekend will be her first at Piero's. Tonight, Friday, May 31st, and tomorrow, June 1st, from 7 to 10:30 p.m., Renee will be singing at Piero's, 355 Convention Center Drive, accompanied by Doug Taylor at the piano. The vocalist is very excited to be returning to the Red Rock's Lounge on Tuesday afternoon, June 4th, from 2 to 4, joined by her musical friends, Michael Tramontana, Jeff Davis and Dan Ellis. On two Wednesdays, June 12th and June 26th, from 6 to 9 p.m., Renee will be bringing her "pros only, open mic night‘ back to The Onyx inside Bogey's Bar & Grill, 7770 W. Ann Rd. Dan Ellis will be at the piano to accompany The Voices. Renee is so looking forward to having all her favorite songbirds and crooners sitting in at Onyx. The Onyx has put together a great wine list and small bite menu for "Happy Hour." Additionally, Ms. Hale will be performing at Sam's Town "Variety Toast of the Town" on Thursday afternoon, June 6th.

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Poperazzi - George, Janien & Cody

And speaking of the Starbright Theatre, here's a reminder...
This Sunday, June 2nd at 3 p.m., the vocal group, Poperazzi, will be appearing at the Starbright in Sun City Summerlin. "Elegant," "Versatile," "Entertaining" and "Sexy," are just some of the words used to describe Poperazzi. Blurring the boundaries between classical and popular music, this dynamic vocal trio recently burst onto the Symphony Pops scene delighting thousands with their diverse vocal prowess and captivating stage presence. Tenors George DeMott and Cody Shawn Gay, and soprano Janien Valentine, make up Poperazzi. This explosive trio's original style is uplifting, and energetic, with performances that are not only relevant to today's Pop-Opera genre, but groundbreaking in its originality. These diverse entertainers have worked in some of the premier opera houses in North America and Europe, as well as being featured in some of the top shows on the Las Vegas Strip. From Opera to Rock, Pavarotti to Prima, and Sinatra to Jersey Boys, this explosive trio's original style is uplifting, and energetic with performances that are not only relevant to today's Pop-Opera genre but groundbreaking in its originality. Poperazzi's shows feature a captivating and varied span of musical styles celebrating the music of Italy and songs popularized by Italian Americans. The shows are delighting audiences with performances across the United States and Canada, including New Year's Eve with Atlanta Symphony as well as Houston, Edmonton, Jacksonville, Pasadena, Modesto, Detroit, Corpus Christi, and Naples (FL). Recently, they were featured on a PBS broadcast from Madison, Wisconsin. In addition to performing at sea on cruise lines, as well as corporate events internationally, Poperazzi enjoys headlining in casino showrooms in their home base of Las Vegas. Tickets for Poperazzi are available at the Starbright Theatre box office, at $18 for Sun City Summerlin residents, and $20 for non-residents. The theater is at 2215 Thomas Ryan Blvd. Call other box offices at (702) 240-1301 for Pinnacle, (702) 966-1410 for Mountain Shadows, and (702) 363-1341 for Desert Vista. Cash or check only please.

And another reminder, if you are in Manhattan...
Mark Nadler's well-reviewed I'm a Stranger Here Myself, has to close on June 9th, because another show is scheduled at The York, where Nadler's theater piece has been held over due to popular demand. If you want to see it, there are only a few more performances. If you are in the neighborhood, and haven't gotten your tickets -- WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?!!

The heart, soul and tears of the music that helped define Broadway in its golden age was inextricably linked to a magical - and sinister - several years in pre-WWII Berlin. It was a brief period when the creative strangers of the society - poets, playwrights, Jews, gays and artists of all sorts - were embraced and even exalted. And it's this smart, sexy, jazz-fueled, booze-soaked era that the astonishing, multi-award winning entertainer, Mark Nadler, brings to life in I'm a Stranger Here Myself - the deeply emotional undercurrents of a society about to break itself into a million pieces. It's an epic story, and at the same time a poignantly personal one, as directed by the gifted David Schweizer. The songs of Kurt Weill, Lotte Lenya, Freidrich Hollaender and Marlene Dietrich, among others, express the declarations of identity, the resistance in the face of terror, and the hopes for survival. One night with Nadler, and you'll never think of The Weimar Republic in the same way again...and stories from "the old country" will suddenly burst to life as the headiest, hippest, most sweltering time in recent history. The York Theatre Company, where musicals come to life, is located in the Theatre at Saint Peter's, 619 Lexington Ave. (enter on 54th Street). For reservations call (212) 935-5820. For more information, go to YORKTHEATRE.ORG.

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Local playwright Ernie Curcio is premiering two new works - Mountain Mama Thespians will present Moil Beside the Rock, and Cockroach Theatre will present his new musical, Sudoku, at the Las Vegas Fringe Festival! Moil Beside the Rock is directed by Maggie Winn-Jones, and stars Taylor Hanes and Curcio. It is 1861 on a farm in San Francisco. The gold rush has subsided, the Civil War is nascent. Pete, a hog farmer, tends to his Cholera stricken wife while cooking lard to sell to the lighthouse on Alcatraz Island. His long time friend, the light keeper, arrives with a design that will alter both men's lives forever, and possibly the world. Moil Beside the Rock performance dates are tomorrow, Saturday, June 1st at 5:45 p.m.; Sunday, June 2nd at 2 p.m.; Thursday, June 6th at 9:15 p.m.; Saturday, June 8th at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, June 9th at 8 p.m. The book of Sudoku [The Musical] is written by Ernie Curcio, with Lyrics by Jolana Adamson, and Music by Jolana Adamson and Angela Chan. Sudoku is Directed by Will Adamson. A man and wife struggle to solve the puzzle that keeps them locked inside. Working together, they search for answers and discover their love that fills in the blanks. Sudoku [The Musical] performance dates are Saturday, June 1st at 7:15 p.m.; Sunday, June 2nd at 4 p.m.; Friday, June 7th at 7:15 p.m.; Saturday, June 8th at 9 p.m., and Sunday, June 9th at noon. All performances will be held at Las Vegas Little Theatre, located at 3920 Schiff Drive. Tickets for all shows can be purchased at, or by calling (702) 362-7996.

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A memorial service will be held for Anthony Del Valle at the above mentioned Las Vegas Little Theatre on Saturday, June 15th at 3 p.m. Del Valle, theater critic for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, died on May 21st at the age of 60. The Las Vegas Little Theatre is located at 3920 Schiff Drive, near Spring Mountain and Valley View.

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The Las Vegas Men's Chorus announces its spring concert, The Las Vegas Men's Chorus, under the direction of Bruce Ewing of The Phat Pack, will present its free spring concert, All I Really Need to Know I Learned from Broadway, Sunday, June 9th, at 2 p.m., at the Community Lutheran Church, located at 3720 E. Tropicana Ave. Ewing says this performance "will appeal to Broadway experts and novices alike. If you enjoy listening to entertaining singing, you will love this concert." Chorus members and guest soloist, Casey Lee Moore, will sing solo and group selections from Broadway hits, including West Side Story, The Book of Mormon, Will Rogers Follies and Guys and Dolls. Chorus President, Aaron Schave, said this concert is unique because most of the songs presented are originally for mixed voices. "This is one of the few times all these songs have been arranged for only male singers. It's going to be very exciting to hear these popular songs sung by an all-male chorus." The Las Vegas Men's Chorus presents two concerts each year - one in the spring and another during the holiday season. "You don't have to be a musical theater junkie to appreciate this show. The songs are relatable and easy to listen to. I hope people will enjoy hearing it as much as we enjoy singing it," said Dominic Gaon, a chorus veteran who sings bass. Everyone is invited to the free performance suitable for all ages. Donations will be accepted, with the funds collected going to prepare for the next concert. For additional information, call (702) 260-8868.

All I Really Need to Know I Learned from Broadway is a perfect lead in to Broadway's Tony Awards, airing that night (Sunday, June 9th) on CBS! Don't expect us to answer the phone during that special!

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Sarah "Sparkly Devil" Klein

The Burlesque Hall of Fame's 56th annual all-star Burlesque Showcase & Weekender Event takes place at The Orleans Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, through Sunday, June 2nd.
The Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend and annual Titans of Tease is the world's largest, longest-running and most prestigious burlesque event. With four days and nights of live entertainment, vendors, classes and activities, it's a sexy, fun and exciting fundraiser for the Burlesque Hall of Fame, the only museum of its kind to feature the history and artists of the distinctly modern art form of burlesque. Once again, they will feature the best in burlesque with events throughout the full four days! World-class performances, premier vendors, panel discussions with legends and today's stars, instruction and classes, pool-side fashion shows, Barecats Bowling, poker, and parties! And NEW this year—a shuttle between The Orleans and the Burlesque Hall of Fame to make it easy to visit and see exactly what your history is all about! And, of course, there's a little thing we call the 23rd Annual Tournament of the Tease, where the world's top burlesque entertainers compete for best debut, duo, and group, for the coveted title, "Queen of Burlesque"! Sadly, Sarah Klein, the modern burlesque performer known around the world as Sparkly Devil, was killed Sunday and 10 other people were injured, when the car she was riding in was involved in an accident with a party bus south of San Francisco. Klein, 36, of San Mateo wasn't wearing a seat belt when the car, which was being driven by her husband, apparently slammed into a center divider and flew out of control into oncoming traffic. Klein's husband, Raul Padilla, 43, who was wearing a set belt, was in critical condition. Nine people on the bus, which was carrying 18 passengers, were treated for minor to moderate injuries after the accident, which occurred about 2 a.m. (5 a.m. ET) Sunday on U.S. Highway 101 in Burlingame. Although she was only 36, Klein was already a member of the Burlesque Hall of Fame, where she had been preparing for an appearance later this week in Las Vegas. Klein, originally a journalist with The Metro Times of Detroit, was considered one of the leading figures of the modern burlesque revival, which features elaborate stage shows incorporating extreme body art, slapstick comedy and horror-movie elements. She was described by Bust magazine as "Daffy Duck meets Sally Rand - a classic, riotous concoction of vintage burlesque, vaudeville slapstick (and) feminist humor," and she was featured on two episodes of the TV show "LA Ink." A tribute to Sparkly Devil was planned at the annual Las Vegas convention, and friends plan a larger memorial in the coming weeks.
She also was to be recognized during an "In memoriam" presentation at Friday night's show, to pay homage to people in the burlesque community who have passed away during the previous 12 months.

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Las Vegas Media Group representative, Lisa Gioia-Acres, gives us a recap on the recent monthly meeting. About 60 members attended the lunch/tour at the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health. Sixty members is a record-breaking number of participants for any LVMG gathering! Unfortunately, Lisa was not one of the 60 present. She tells us that

Cynthia Cicero kindly stepped in and helped out Don and Gretchen Payne at the door, and assisted Rich Friedland as needed while he made announcements. Cynthia reports that those who toured the Ruvo Center were treated to a world class research and treatment center for Alzheimer's, Huntington's, Parkinson's disease and multiple sclerosis. "And I do mean world class," says Cynthia, "since there are Ruvo Centers in Florida and Abudabi with more planned throughout the world." Every aspect of the clinic was designed to treat clients with the utmost care and dignity. The story of how the Ruvo Center came into being is just as amazing as the center itself. From a dinner that Larry Ruvo held with close friends and family to honor the memory of his father, and donations to Alzheimer's research, Larry Ruvo's journey brought him to the construction of this wonderful facility. No better way to honor his father's life. Thanks goes to Laura Fritz and Elaine Villanueva Taylor for this wonderful tour and lunch and to Lisa for organizing the event. Belated May birthday greetings to LVMG members, Bo Boivert, Mark Massagli, Phil Jensen, Joyce Marshall Moore, Betty Bunch, and Don Payne, who celebrated the big 8-0! The June Meeting is all about Member Highlights. Bring in your memorabilia, photographs, hobby stuff. That's right! Anything you'd like to share with us. Tables will be set up to share with the group things you've collected over the years. This is an organization about Las Vegas history and you are the history-keepers. We all can't wait to see what you have to share. In July, thanks to member Carl Harley, our next speaker is Nevada Magazine publisher, Janet Geary. Janet is coming all the way from Carson City to share her Nevada life and career story with us. We will have more details on both events in a week or so.

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