Category: The dance scene on Las Vegas Boulevard


Courtesy of CaesarsPalace.com

The rollicking, rambunctious show lives up to its spirited namesake: “Absinthe” is an intimate, Cirque-esque affair in a tent outside Caesars Palace that is likely to give pause to even the most seasoned spirit drinker. The production is equal parts lowbrow humor and high-flying acro, mixed well and poured over a sugar cube of incredible talent. The Gazillionaire and Penny Pibbets emcee the show and contribute a kick of bitterness with crass and spectacularly foul-mouthed dialogue that is unlike almost anything else in Las Vegas.

The beauty of “Absinthe” is that it isn’t just a show. Walking into the Spiegeltent is like being transported to a time when circuses weren’t polished, politically correct productions with sophisticated sensibilities. The inside of the smallish tent is just plastered with all manner of paraphernalia and packed with people. The stage itself is only 9 feet in diameter, which creates more of a side-show atmosphere than a million-dollar proscenium theater ever could.

And the performers themselves are dumbfounding. Four Russian guys throwing themselves and each other around? Check. A chick in roller skates spinning quite fast around a dude in roller skates spinning quite fast, perhaps by just an ankle or two hooked behind his neck? Check. An acrobat doing a headstand on top of a beer keg on top of a chair on top of a bar held by two guys on a tightrope? Check, check and check.

The Atlantis acrobatic group helps “Absinthe” stun audiences from the start.

A sultry Green Fairy makes an appearance, as does a spellbinding trapeze duo and a straps act that is truly amazing. The skill of the multifarious artists is continually juxtaposed by generous doses of raunchiness from Penny and the Gazillionaire, though, which keeps things from getting too familiar to Cirque du Soleil connoisseurs. By the time the first 15 minutes of the show have transpired, Gaz (as his friends call him) has picked on Republicans, Mexicans, Republicans, blacks, Republicans, women, Republicans, fanny packs, and Republicans. In a performing world that seems terrified of offending anyone at all, “Absinthe” is a refreshing (if shocking, at times) breath of air.

Like the heady green drink after which it is named, “Absinthe” might be hard to stomach at times, and it might leave you feeling a bit woozy after. If you’re looking for a different kind of show in this performance-saturated city of ours, though, it might be just what the doctor ordered.

Find more information about “Absinthe” and Spiegelworld here and here, respectively. The latter link also includes more about “Empire,” another Spiegelworld show debuting soon in New York. Paul Carr also saw and reviewed “Absinthe” for the Huffington Post, and his take is available here. And, finally, KNPR’s “State of Nevada” recently featured some of the big brains of Spiegelworld. Check out the story here for more about “Absinthe,” “Empire,” and what makes the (Spiegel)world go ’round.

“Absinthe” is performed at 8 p.m. in the Spiegeltent outside Caesars Palace Tuesday through Sunday, with multiple shows on some nights. Click here for more about tickets and showtimes.

The new, live version of the popular reality TV show “Dancing with the Stars” debuted at the Tropicana a few days ago. If you’re a fan of the show and attending a live taping of the original seems like a stretch, stop by the Tropicana any night but Tuesday for the next 12 weeks to catch the show. Click here for a video from News 13, and follow the link here to buy tickets.

The third annual, one-night-only 2012 “Broadway Bares” will be at the Chi Showroom at Planet Hollywood at 11:59 p.m. on April 15, headlining under the provocative “Barelesque” subtitle and featuring “Absinthe” hosts the Gazillionaire and Penny Pibbets. Josh Strickland, headliner in “Peepshow,” will also be giving a special performance.

The show has been a smashing success in recent years (click here and here for reviews of the 2010 and 2011 shows, respectively). Along with performances in New York, the “Broadway Bares” series has generated considerable cash for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, a nonprofit organization supporting those living with the disease.

The concept began many years ago at the hands of Jerry Mitchell in New York City: Broadway artists take their clothes off onstage, with the resulting tips being donated to charity. The simple formula has been a booming success in New York City, and the serial show added a Las Vegas location two years ago.

“Broadway Bares” has generated more than $75 million since its inception in 1992. Although the Las Vegas addition is fairly new, Vegas audiences have welcomed performers from the Strip as warmly as Broadway-goers did in New York. Last year’s Vegas event, “Broadway Bares: Too Darn Hot,” doubled the revenue from the show at Planet Hollywood the year before.

Think we can do it again? You’ll have to hit up Planet Hollywood on the 15 to find out. Tickets are $20, and $50 VIP tickets include a $20 tax deduction. Stop by the Chi Showroom box office at Planet Hollywood or visit TicketMaster.com to order them in advance.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal sent a dynamic duo of a reporter and photographer to cover the latest audition for Don Arden’s “Jubilee!” at Bally’s. For anyone that wants to see the experience from somewhere other than the stage, check out the photo gallery here and another one here.

And the audition was Fluffless: it turns out the Vegas entertainment legend was laid up with bronchitis. Find out more here. Any photos or comments from the audition? Feel free to share below!

Two and a half years after “Disney’s The Lion King” roared into Las Vegas in March 2009, the herd at Pride Rock is dispersing to other grasslands. The Las Vegas run of Broadway’s sweetheart showcased dancers and vocalists with talent and ferocity, but a smooth criminal named Michael Jackson is slated to reside at Mandalay Bay, the former pride lands.

Lion Kingers have been doing more than their eight-show schedule at Mandalay, though. In the years they’ve been in Vegas, cast members have organized and participated in benefits, concerts and showcases. This community focus means that they will be missed in more places than just a resort on the Strip.

John Przybys wrote about the show closing in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Check out the story here.

I wrote about “Lion King” showcases on several occasions. Click on the links below to read more.

Check out my original review of “The Lion King.” Cast members performed “The Moment” at E Strings bar on Dec. 6 of 2010. “Vegas Vaudeville”  and “Live. Love. Dance!” hit the stage at the Horn Theatre on Sept. 16 and April 22, respectively. On Sept. 11, some “Lion King” performers contributed to  “God Lives in Glass” at the Judy Bayley Theatre.

“Lion King,” in all its theatric splendor, is a production that will be sorely missed, even in an entertainment-saturated market. Whether Pride Rock residents are staying in the city or moving elsewhere, I wish them all the best. Hakuna matata!

Nevada Ballet Theatre crowned its year of milestones on Dec. 17-24 with a version of the “Nutcracker” that was a sweet sip of tradition and contemporary creativity. This year, the company turned 40, the “Nutcracker” tradition turned 30 and this year marked NBT’s third year performing at Paris Las Vegas. Don’t let the long history fool you, though. Artistic director James Canfield’s partnerships with choreographers like Ballet Idaho’s Peter Anastos contributes to the progressive feel of classic works like “The Nutcracker.”

Anastos was the choreographic brain behind this year’s production and his whimsical movement, while not vintage “Nutcracker,” somehow suited the Las Vegas aura. Holly Madison of “Peepshow” at Planet Hollywood also had a brief cameo in a matinee performance. Balletomanes might be cringing, but it’s hard to argue with something that makes a classical ballet more approachable to a wide audience.

As a whole, the ballet fit the bill as a sugary-sweet holiday confection. Warm pantomime set the scene in the first act, with children carrying garlands and gifts madly dashing around decked-out adults. An air of geniality mantled the party scene and the exuberant academy students lent a rosy glow.

Marcus Bugler as Herr Drosselmeyer was wisely cast; his effervescent animation of the magician was infectious as he ushered the children and the plot along. Josue Calderon and Betsy Lucas as Fritz and Clara, respectively, embodied bubbly excitement admirably. The brief pas de deux between Clara and Preston Swovelin’s Nutcracker Doll in the first act was delightfully sweet and sincere.

Leigh Hartley’s Ballerina Doll would have been the perfect object of a young girl’s affection, blowing kisses and tottering about. The Mouse Doll, danced by Ariel Triunfo, was spunky and precise, eliciting laughs from the audience in short order. The battle scene, populated as it was by munchkins in mice costumes, continued the adorable ambience.

The Snow King and Queen, danced by Grigori Arakelyan and Leigh Hartley, amplified the dreamlike nature of Anastos’ choreography. Hartley’s airy suspension suited the role, although the multitude of partnered penches left the audience with an inkling that Hartley could do more — with one of her exemplary side extensions, perhaps. Nonetheless, the delicately falling snow was another Las Vegas Easter egg and the frosty royalty, accompanied by flurries of Snowflakes, concluded the first act well.

The Kingdom of Sweets, enchanting as it is, was further exemplified by Anastos’ playful choreography. Sarah Fuhrman’s pert Sugarplum and Amy Von Handorf’s Arabian variation stood out as especially fresh, and Jeremy Bannon-Neches as a grandiose Cavalier was a strong complement. While purists might dispute the contemporary riffs, the modifications were refreshing for a ballet with such tenure. Zachary Hartley was outstanding in an unorthodox, one-man Russian variation, wowing the audience with robust displays of double fans, coffee grinders and high-flying leaps.

Alissa Dale’s Dewdrop Fairy flounced delicately with a company of flowers in the iconic waltz, the length of which was offset by the activity that remained at a nice simmer. The Spanish chocolate was full of spice and sass and the reed flutes number was a gilded and candy-sweet affair. The bright and chipper Chinese tea number and NBT’s signature saltwater taffy sailors rounded out the act in fanciful style.

Overall, NBT and Peter Anastos seem to be a good match. Perhaps the biggest tragedy in the show was the lack of live music, especially in a city that is full of more-than qualified musicians.

Beyond the holidays, though, Canfield’s willingness to experiment bodes well for a company that will soon have large slippers to fill. In May, the company will be stepping into a theater at the Smith Center that will seat more than 2,000 people, which is a daunting prospect for any regional company. However, NBT seems well positioned to make this transition, and being backed by the Las Vegas Philharmonic (also at the Smith Center) likely won’t hurt either.

Nutcrackers are creaking to life all over the city, trailed by sugarplum fairies and tragicomedy clowns alike. Nevada Ballet Theatre’s classic production is holding down the fort for the ballet purists while Insurgo Theater continues its tradition of a postmodern stage show at the Plaza.

NBT’s expansive, pointe shoe-clad cast will be debuting at Paris Las Vegas on Dec. 17 for an extended 10-show run. This year’s production is choreographed by Ballet Idaho’s artistic director Peter Anastos, hailed for his light-hearted choreography and whimsy. The show features more than 100 roles for children and the full pantheon of Nutcracker royalty from the sugar-coated Land of Sweets. (For a review of last year’s “Nutcracker,” follow the link here.)

Update, Dec. 20: Click here to read Julia Osborne’s review of NBT’s “Nutcracker” on the Las Vegas Review-Journal website.

Ticket prices range from around $38 to about $131 and matinee and evening performances are available. For more information and to reserve tickets, click here or call 702-946-4567.

Insurgo is turning tradition on its head in typical indie-theater style. “The Insurgo Nutcracker,” now in its third year, will run from Dec. 19 through Jan. 7 on the third floor of the Plaza Hotel and Casino downtown. This year’s iteration will incorporate new characters with a cast of the tried and true. The performance will feature dancer and actor Michelle Meyer and actress and vocalist Melanie Ash, with actor Brandon Oliver Jones as the titular Nutcracker.

Running time for the Insurgo show is about 40 minutes and it’s suitable for adults and offspring alike. Tickets are $15 plus taxes and fees and sponsored tickets for families in need are available. For more details about tickets and venue, visit the show’s event page here. (A review of last year’s show is available here.)

Happy holidays from the Las Vegas Dance Insider! May your heads be filled with visions of sugarplums, or dumpster-diving Samuel Beckett-style traicomedy clowns, or whatever. Cheers!

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