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VEGAS4VISITORS.COM WEEKLY COLUMN BY RICK GARMAN
July 8, 2013
Cirque du Soleil Performer Dies During Performance; Show Future in Doubt
A performer in the Cirque du Soleil production KÀ died during a performance of the show at MGM Grand last week, plunging from the top of the theater where she was suspended by safety rigging to a pit below the stage. It is the first time in Cirque du Soleil's nearly three decade history that a performer was killed during a performance.
The accident happened during the show's climactic battle scene when the stage, which operates on a gimbal, rises to a nearly vertical position above an open pit. Performers are hoisted to the top end of the stage to engage in a martial arts style fight that is the culmination of show's story line about warring tribes in ancient Asia.
31 year-old Sarah Guillot-Guyard played one of the soldiers in the battle. An investigation is still underway as to the exact cause of the accident but witnesses indicated that Guillot-Guyard either slipped from her safety harness or the line that suspended her malfunctioned in some way. Some reports indicate that the rigging was recently replaced and that some performers had raised safety concerns.
Although air bags are deployed during some scenes to catch performers as they fall as intended from the stage, the battle scene had no such precautions in place. Guillot-Guyard plunged more than 50 feet to the under stage area. Audience members reported that the show continued for a moment and then stopped and the sounds of screams and crying could be heard. An announcement came on a short time later telling the audience that the show was cancelled and full refunds would be available.
Guillot-Guyard was rushed to the hospital where she was declared dead. The mother of two small children was born in Paris and trained at the Annie Fratellini Arts & Circus Academy in France. She had been with the production of KÀ since it opened in 2006.
The show has been closed since the incident and there is no word on when it will reopen. When it does, it is likely that the final battle scene will be cut, perhaps permanently. What this means to the show beyond that is yet to be seen. There had been rumors that a revamp was already being considered to bolster ticket sales and the tragedy could provide the impetus to make changes to the long-running show.
A tribute site to Guillot-Guyard that is collecting donations to support her family is live at forsasoun.com.
Mt. Charleston Fire Threatening Homes, Recreation
A massive wildfire that has consumed more than 14,000 acres on Mount Charleston near Las Vegas appears to be moving toward Kyle Canyon, the most populated and popular area of the mountain where hundreds of homes, resorts, and recreation activities are located.
The blaze started late last week after a lightning strike ignited the tinder-dry brush. Although it has primarily burned in unpopulated areas, high temperatures and winds have created explosive growth that now threatens homes and businesses.
Access to the area has been shut down with evacuations in effect for residences and visitors. Mt. Charleston Resort has been closed with some guests unable to return to collect belongings from their room and while the Las Vegas Ski and Snowboard Resort is closed for the season already, parts of it are reportedly threatened.
Towers of smoke can be seen from all over Las Vegas and a thick pall of it has settled in over the valley creating potentially dangerous breathing conditions for those with respiratory problems.
The fire is approximately only 5% contained.
Frank Marino Gets Engaged On Stage
It couldn't have been done any other way. The man who has spent more time on the Las Vegas stages than any other lead performer got engaged on one of them last week when his partner of 20 years proposed in front of a cheering audience.
Female impersonator Marino has been a Vegas staple since he opened the drag queen spectacle An Evening at La Cage at the Riviera in 1985. After that show closed, Marino moved his act to The Imperial Palace (now The Quad) for his Divas Las Vegas show. He claims the title of the longest-running headliner on The Strip and I have a hard time thinking of anyone who has been at it for as long as he has.
Marino and his partner Alex Schechter met in 1993 and have been together ever since. Although gay marriage is not legal in Nevada, the recent Supreme Court rulings related to the issue give the couple hope that they will be able to seal the deal in their home state soon. They want to have their wedding in the new 11,000 square foot home they are building in Las Vegas, which is expected to be complete by late next year.
Here's a video of the proposal:
Vegas4Visitors Weekly Awards
The Air Conditioning Award of the Week goes to Las Vegas, which tied the all-time high temperature record last weekend by hitting 117 degrees. This is the third time that broiling temp has been reached, having hit the mark before in 1942 and in 2005.
The Life's a Drag Award of the Week goes to Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, the musical about drag queens crossing Australian outback playing what is going to be an even more limited run than originally expected at The Venetian. The touring company was originally supposed be here for 11 weeks but will now move on after five due to sluggish ticket sales. The last show will be July 21st.
The Meatball Award of the Week goes to chef Steve Martorano, who will be opening a second Vegas outlet of his popular Italian restaurant at Paris Las Vegas in early 2014. Martorano, best known for his brash, heavily tattooed persona and his meatballs (which Gourmet Magazine called the best in the world), will keep his restaurant at The Rio when the new one opens in the space now occupied by La Provencal.
The Boooo Award of the Week goes to the new Silver Sevens Casino, formerly Terrible's, which has added a $3 per night resort fee. It covers local calls from the room, the airport shuttle, and Wi-Fi in one of the hotel bars.
The Bright, Bright Sunshiny Day Award of the Week goes to Mandalay Bay, which will be installing 20,000 solar panels on the roof of its convention center. The project will provide most of the power to the convention area and about 20% of the resort's overall electricity needs.
The I Love Being Right Award of the Week goes to the X-Train, a Los Angeles to Las Vegas passenger train service proposal that has been floating around for years and which I have put squarely in the "I"ll Believe It When I See It" category. An article last week by Tim O'Reilly of the Las Vegas Review Journal exposes big questions about the legitimacy of the project from money issues to the rights to use the tracks and beyond. The company is still standing by its intention to run the service but says it will be 2014 at the earliest before it happens.
Future Downtown Vegas Development
About six months ago I ran a series of articles about Downtown Las Vegas including a look at future development for the booming area. Several new projects have been announced recently so I thought it was time for an update.
If you look at the list of proposed and in-the-works projects in Downtown it looks like the resurgence of the area is not going to stop anytime soon.
The biggest project underway is the revamp of the hotel formerly known as the Lady Luck. The Downtown Grand, as it will be called, is going to have 650 new rooms done in a sleek and modern style; a big casino with all of the latest games; more than a dozen restaurants, the most interesting of which will be an indoor/outdoor mix and match food court allowing you to pick and choose from the various outlets and a DJ at night; and a rooftop pool with its own restaurant, a movie screen, gaming tables, grassy areas, and more. Originally scheduled for a mid-2014 debut, construction is ahead of schedule and the property could be open before the end of this year.
The other two hotel projects are still in the rumor phase. The Las Vegas Club, a rundown property at the head of Fremont Street which closed its hotel rooms earlier this year, is reportedly going to get a makeover of its casino, possibly by Vegas showman The Amazing Johnathan. What that will be like is anyone's guess but it will be interesting.
There's also a rumor that Binion's is going to be completely remodeled as well. The hotel portion shut down a couple of years ago and any plan to redo it would bring that back online.
For entertainment, there are several new attractions and in the works. The coolest, funniest, and wackiest of them is SlotZilla, a zip line attraction that will launch people out of a 120-foot tall slot machine replica down Fremont Street in both traditional seated and "Superman" style flying positions. It is under construction now and should be open by this fall.
Another iconic bit of Vegas history will be making a comeback when the Liberace Experience opens at Neonopolis in 2014. It will be an interactive museum showcasing the legendary entertainer's life and will mark the return after the 2010 closure of the Liberace Museum, which had been in business for more than 30 years.
Inspire Theater where the 7-11 used to be on the corner of Fremont and Las Vegas Boulevard. It will feature a theater used primarily for lecture series and small concerts, a coffee house, a newsstand, and more.
The Nevada Shakespeare Company will be launching a new theater just north of Fremont Street in 2014. The complex will also host a new version of Rosemary's, the beloved local restaurant that closed its west-side location a couple of years ago.
Speaking of food, two noteworthy new restaurants are coming this fall. Banger Brewing is a new brew pub scheduled to open at Neonopolis and Nacho Daddy, a Mexican restaurant and bar with a location in nearby Henderson will be opening on 4th Street across from Neonopolis.
Bars have driven much of the growth of Downtown as a destination and there are even more on the way. The former Ferguson Motel at 1028 Fremont Street will be converted into no fewer than three separate bars with a coffee shop and more than two dozen retail outlets. It should be open by mid-2014.
Central Container Park will be a nearly block long retail and entertainment complex at the corner of Fremont and 7th St. made almost entirely out of shipping container-style building blocks. It will feature shops, restaurants, a theater, and a fire-breathing praying mantis art installation. It will be open this fall.
Show Review: Clint Holmes
The show that Clint Holmes put on at Harrah's was a crowd-pleasing throwback full of Vegas showmanship that had its roots with The Rat Pack. It was a great deal of fun with Holmes' skills as a singer and a raconteur on full display. Little did I know that what he used to do as a Strip headliner showcased only a fraction of his ability.
Holmes has taken up residency in the Jazz Cabaret theater at The Smith Center for the Performing Arts, performing on the first weekend of every month. The show is different every month so the specifics included in this review won't apply when you see it, but the generalities should hold true. Those are that Holmes is an incredible vocalist with a natural gift for performing, a good-natured and genial stage presence, and a sense of musicianship that is rare on just about any stage, much less one in Las Vegas.
For the unfamiliar, Holmes is probably most often associated with his one big hit in the US, "Playground in my Mind." That's the song that starts "My name is Mikey, I've got a nickel, I've got a nickel shiny and new." But even if you are familiar with that novelty hit or even with his run on Vegas stages since the 1970s, this new series at The Smith Center may take you by surprise.
The evening I visited the theme was Bacharach, The Beatles, and Beyond, with Holmes doing some really stunning jazz-oriented interpretations of music from Burt Bacharach, Hal David, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, and others. He found a way to loosely link them all together with some brief discussions of musical theory, but really I think it was just an excuse to do songs he liked by people he liked. Which is totally fine as far as I'm concerned. If it is always this good he can sing any darned thing he wants.
The arrangements done by Holmes and his musical director Jeffrey Neiman are nothing short of revelatory. The idea of a jazz-influenced arrangement of a Beatles song may make your head hurt at first but stop and think about the melody of something like "Eleanor Rigby." The looping note progression has flavors of jazz in it and once Holmes and Neiman got their hands on it they made it stand out. Their rendition of that song - sometimes rushing forward, sometimes laying back, always haunting in its intricacy - was one of many show-stopping moments in the 90 minute set.
It is almost a cliché to talk about a singer's voice as his or her "instrument," but here it is completely applicable. Holmes uses his in precision ways that go from big and brassy to intimate and back again in a heartbeat, filling in the jazz ensemble pieces beyond his keyboard, guitar, bass, and drum backup.
To be sure, this is not toe-tapping, audience-participation style stuff of his former Vegas headlining show. Although not pure jazz, it certainly had the influences of the genre and that makes the music sometimes challenging, but if you're game to go along with where Holmes is heading you'll be rewarded.
He has been in the business long enough that he has amassed a number of friends so you might get a special guest star. On the night I visited it was Kristen Hertzenberg, who played the lead in the Vegas production of Phantom of the Opera. She joined Clint for a duet on a Bacharach song and later belted out a bring-down-the-house version of "Moving the Line" from the Broadway themed series "Smash."
As mentioned above, each show is different. Past shows have included the music of Cole Porter and Paul Simon; a Desert Island show where he sang songs that he would want with him if stranded on one; and an evening with Denise Williams.
The Cabaret Jazz theater is gorgeous; all art deco flourishes and a nice balcony overlooking the main floor. My only complaint is that the seating - hard back and seat dining style chairs at high and low-top tables - is not exactly the most comfortable in the world.
Holmes is a master. I was going to write more... make that last sentence longer, but I think that says it all.
The Smith Center for the Performing Arts
361 Symphony Park Ave.
Las Vegas, NV 89106
First Weekend of Every Month
Vegas4Visitors Rating: A