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VEGAS4VISITORS.COM WEEKLY COLUMN BY RICK GARMAN
April 18, 2016
The Countdown: Top 10 Vegas News Stories of the Week
10. Thrill Ride at Ellis Island
The Ellis Island Casino on Koval Road is mostly known for its cheap food, low-limit gambling, and karaoke but for the next month they are adding some excitement to the proceedings with a new thrill ride. The Slingshot sends adventurous riders over 250 feet in the air at 100 miles per hour in sort of a reverse bungee effect. Longtime Vegas visitors may remember the Skyscreamer ride at the old MGM Grand Adventures theme park - it's kind of like that. The ride will be running from April 20 through May 19 and tickets cost $31 per person or $57 for a couple. Get your tickets at Eventbrite.com.
9. Buffet at Wynn Las Vegas Pricing Changes
Everything changes, including the pricing at the Wynn Las Vegas Buffet. Effective immediately it'll run you $24.49 for breakfast, $26.99 for lunch, $35.49 for Saturday and Sunday Brunch (with booze an additional $19), $42.99 for dinner Sunday through Thursday and $49.99 for dinner on Friday and Saturday. Even with that it still cheaper than the Bacchanal at Caesars and, I would argue, a tiny bit better. Read more about the Buffet at Wynn Las Vegas.
8. Nacho Daddy Heading to The Strip
One of Vegas locals' favorite Mexican eateries is coming to The Strip. Nacho Daddy, which currently has locations in Downtown Vegas and Summerlin will be bringing its twisted takes on classic south of the border favorites to The Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood in August. The eatery is best known for its gourmet nachos, which include filet mignon, Thai chicken, spicy Buffalo chicken, shrimp, and other varieties and their fajitas, burritos, and signature sandwiches like the fajita cheesesteak. Read more about the Miracle Mile Shops.
7. Basketball Tricks at the T-Mobile Arena in Vegas
You have to watch this video with Harlem Globetrotter and Vegas native Scooter Christensen making some absolutely ridiculous shots from the T-Mobile Arena. The last shot, made from the top of the NYNY parking garage, was done on the first try! The Harlem Globetrotters will be at the arena, which just opened last week, on April 19.
6. Riviera Implosions Set for June and August
There are still no specific dates attached, but the shuttered Riviera will be imploded with in two phases with spectacle sized events in June and August. The plan, which had already been floated a few weeks ago, was approved last week by the board of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority who own the property. $42 million was set aside for the demolition plan which will see many of the low rise buildings torn down with wrecking balls and bulldozers over the next couple of months and then two high-rise hotel towers taken down in June and August. The LVCVA plans to make them visitor-worthy events so expect fireworks and other hoopla. Read more about the history of The Riviera.
5. Plaza Paying Winners' Taxes
Anyone who has been fortunate to win a slot machine jackpot of $1,200 or more in Vegas is aware of the fact that, in the long run, you don't actually get the entire bonanza since winnings above that benchmark are subject to federal taxes. So yes, if you win $1,200 you really are only winning about $900, which is better than winning nothing but certainly not as good as winning the full $1,200. The Plaza decided to rectify that unfair discrepancy, at least for one day. On tax deadline day, April 18, 2016, The Plaza paid out an additional 28% on taxable slot and table game winnings up to $20,000 in free casino play. Read more about The Plaza.
4. The Average Vegas Visitor
Are you average? The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority publishes an annual report on the people who come to Vegas each year and here's what they found. 73% used the Internet to book their trip, 84% had been to Vegas before, 57% got here by ground transportation (a car or a bus), they stayed about 4 days, and they spent about $102 per night on hotels, $292 on food and drink, $62 on shows, and $578 gambling.
3. Las Vegas Gets Its Own Beer
How many cities can say they have their own beer? Las Vegas can now that #WHHSH Beer was launched last weekend as part of the What Happens Here Stays Here advertising campaign. The beer is made by the local Tenaya Creek Brewery and is described as "easy drinking, pale ale with hints of citrus and pine creating a cool, clean finish." It will only be available at selected Las Vegas sponsored events like the Coachella music festival where it debuted over the weekend.
2. Caesars Palace Evacuated Over Suspicious Item
Thousands of people, including celebrities, were asked to leave the Colosseum at Caesars Palace last week when authorities found what was deemed a "suspicious item" in the theater. A screening of "Now You See Me 2" was being held as the closing event of CinemaCon movie festival and stars like actor Jesse Eisenberg and illusionist David Copperfield were in attendance. Witnesses say the evacuation was orderly and police cleared the scene about 90 minutes later saying the item in question was not a threat, but at that point it was too late to restart the movie. Read more about Caesars Palace.
1. Vegas4Visitors Weekly Column to End Next Week
It's hard to believe but I have been writing the Vegas4Visitors Weekly Column since August of 1999 - almost 17 years! Although it didn't quite live up to its "weekly" name, I did 40-50 of them each year and the edition you will read next week will be the 746th... and last. As many of you know, writing about Vegas has been a side career for me and the other stuff that I do is placing greater and greater demands on my time so something has to give. But just because I'm not doing the Weekly Column doesn't mean I'm done with Vegas. The Vegas4Visitors.com website will remain and I will continue to update it with reviews of hotels, shows, restaurants, and more. Plus I am going to keep everyone on the Vegas4Visitors.com Facebook group up to date with postings of news, updates, gossip, and reviews. I'll also be putting the Facebook feed front and center here on the Vegas4Visitors Weekly Column page so even if you aren't on Facebook you'll be able to follow along. Next week we'll reminisce about the last 17 years as we say goodbye to the Vegas4Visitors Weekly Column.TOP
Show Review: 53X
Adult shows in Vegas have a long, rich history going back to the 1950s when the first topless showgirls started strutting their feathered and sequined stuff across the Sin City stages. Over the years the relatively innocent and iconic showgirl of productions like Folies Bergere and Jubilee have given way to the more explicit pleasures of the flesh like Crazy Girls and Fantasy, with some equal opportunity bump and grind thrown in for the ladies with shows like Chippendales and Thunder From Down Under.
For the most part, these titillating (or tacky depending on your point of view) shows have remained segregated, with "breast shows" for the men and "chest shows" for the women. 53X, now playing at Paris Las Vegas, breaks down that gender barrier by mixing men and women in a series of sexy strip routines that takes Vegas voyeurism to a new level.
For the record, this is not the first time a show like this has been tried. Harrah's had a couple of productions that mixed men and women with Skintight and the country-themed Bareback about a decade or so ago. I liked both of those shows better than your all-women or all-men productions because it gave a chance for the dancers to be actually sexy as opposed to just being naked on stage.
53X finds that unique balance as well and throws in some unique curveballs just to keep you on your toes.
The production is an offshoot of Chippendales and features four men and four women as the core dancers plus a saucy French Maid character who cleans up after them (and of course eventually joins in the festivities). It's all overseen with great elan by drag queen Shangela, best known for her stints on "RuPaul's Drag Race," as the mistress of ceremonies. Her inclusion makes this a completely inclusive show - men, women, straight, gay - it doesn't matter here at 53X, there is going to be something here for you to be entertained by.
The bulk of the show is taken up by the dancers who are a talented crew and not just because of their hard bodies. The choreography isn't going to earn them a spot on "Dancing with the Stars" anytime soon but it's certainly more complex than the routines at other adult shows that mostly involve gyrating and twerking. Although there is gyrating and twerking here to be sure. The soundtrack is filled with sexy pop and rock hits that amplify the fantasy fulfillment themes of the various numbers which range from firemen to a day-glo aerobics class to a "50 Shades of Grey" homage.
It's worth noting that the nudity is mostly implied here. Certain body parts may only be covered by hands at certain points but they are covered up so while you'll get some bare butts, that's about it. If seeing more is important to you, go to a strip club.
And of course there's audience participation. If you have even the slightest streak of prude in you, don't get chosen to come up on stage.
The one serious knock I'm going to give the show is the venue in which it is being staged. The Chateau nightclub at Paris Las Vegas has a strange, narrow, almost L-shaped configuration that's fine as a late night party spot but leaves one entire chunk of the audience sort of looking at the stage from the side and the rest crammed together on uncomfortable banquet chairs. There was also a noteworthy lack of wait staff on duty the night I visited and no order-yourself bar so patience is a virtue if you are thirty.
53X is a fun, sexy romp for everyone with good dose of naughty drag queen humor to keep things entertaining. We know what the past of adult entertainment in Vegas looked like. Could this be the future?
Show Review: Showstoppers
Every great Broadway show has at least one - that song that brings down the house; stops the show. But you can't have a show full of nothing but show stoppers, can you? Apparently Steve wynn thinks so, hence this production in the Encore Theater at Wynn/Encore.
Wynn has heavily involved in the development of the show, with the concept born at a birthday party for his wife where entertainers performed back to back Broadway hits. That idea was translated to the big stage with a big orchestra, an even bigger cast of singers and dancers, lavish sets, extravagant costumes, and enough vocal vibrato and broad smiles to power the lights every hotel up and down The Strip. It practically dares you not to tap your toes, hum (and or sing) along, and smile right along with them.
There is no storyline - this is not a jukebox musical like Rock of Ages or Mamma Mia! where existing songs are inserted into a plot with characters and dialouge. Instead you have a few lead singers who take on the bulk of the multi-character duty with the occasional introductions either live or via a "Voice of God" narration done by Steve wynn himself. Thankfully, these superflous talking bits have been greatly reduced since the show first opened.
There are some incredible songs here: "Razzle Dazzle" from Chicago; "Wilkommen" from Cabaret; "Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better" from Annie Get Your Gun; "Don't Rain on My Parade" from Funny Girl. Some are done as full-fledged production numbers with big sets and costumes such as "The Game" from Damn Yankees done with a locker room full of baseball players while others are done with just a singer or two, an orchestra, and a curtain. With performers as talented as these, it actually works both ways.
Other standuts include "Sit Down You're Rockin' The Boat" from Guys and Dolls done as a full on gospel church revival and "Big Spender" from Sweet Charity.
But all is not top hats and high kicks here. While all of the songs included are classics, to some degree or another, calling every single one of them "showstoppers" is a bit of hyperbole. "A Little Brains, a Little Talent" from Damn Yankees is a fun little ditty but a showstopper? Not really. Especially when you compare it to something as truly ovation worthy as "Cell Block Tango" from Chicago. Done with a simple jail set reminiscent of the movie version, the "He had it coming!" refrain echoes loudly with five talented women explaining their crimes in lurid, funny, and sexy detail. Of the twenty or so songs, I'd place about 75% of them in the "showstopper" category and the rest as merely good songs.
There's nothing wrong with a merely good song until you start thinking about all of the stuff that got left out because of its inclusion. Most of the music here is from the classic era of Broadway - roughly the 1940s through the mid 1970s - and all from American composers. Even if we agree to that relatively restricted canvas, where are "Tonight" from Westside Story and "Tomorrow" from Annie as examples. And that's before we even start to talk about the musical greatness achieved in the last 30 years or so - Rent, Spamalot, Wicked, Avenue Q, Hairspray just to name a few. If all of the songs in "Showstoppers" truly were showstoppers I'd feel less like things had been missed, but as it stands some of the numbers come across as filler in between the truly big numbers and the show as a whole feels a little "old" instead of the "timeless" it is going for.
The genius, however, of this particular production is that songs can be easily swapped out for different ones fairly easily so repeat viewings of the show are worthwhile.
Of course with a cast like this it would be hard to go wrong no matter what song was inserted. They are among the most talented singers, dancers, and musicians on any stage in Vegas these days and the sets, choreography, and costumes are all dripping with the money and attention that Mr. Wynn obviously wanted to throw at it.
Broadway hasn't always been successful on the Vegas Strip (RIP Avenue Q and Hairspray to name a couple) but with a show like Showstoppers you're guaranteed a hit.