Tag Archive: jelani remy


Las Vegas is a city of recreations, shamelessly mixing icons from other places into a veritable soup of sensationalism that has a flavor all its own. The things that are unique to the city tend to be unflattering, adorning the streets in the form of yard-long drinks or sun-scorched tourists with fanny-packs.

One Vegas import is keeping it real, though. Disney’s “The Lion King,” directed by Julie Taymor and onstage at Mandalay Bay until December of this year, is one of those blessed hybrids gracing our sun-stricken valley. Even a drag queen in zebra-striped tights would have a difficult time keeping up with life-size puppets, arresting dancing (with choreography by Garth Fagan) and vocals that are positively captivating. These histrionic elements, coupled with the familiarity of the storyline and the toe-tapping songs themselves (courtesy of Elton John and Time Rice), make for a show that will be sorely missed in seven months’ time.

The plot follows the lion Simba from cub-hood to king-hood, accompanied by the bird Zazu (Patrick Kerr) and future queen Nala (Nia Ashleigh and Lauryn Hardy). The performance from nose to tail runs more than two hours long, with an intermission midway through and only a few omissions from the original. Although this doesn’t follow the Vegas-show template, the loftier ticket price and established reputation make this decision a shrewd one.

The first act sees a devious uncle Scar (Thom Sesma) orchestrating the death of King Mufasa (Derrick Williams), falsely implicating young Simba (Tim Johnson Jr. and Zaire Adams) and tricking him into exile. In the second act, Nala (Kissy Simmons), a regal adult by this point, hunts down Simba (Jelani Remy) in an effort to save the Pride Lands that are being destroyed under Scar’s rule.

Supporting characters, including Scar’s pantheon of mangy hyenas and Simba’s hilarious, “no worries” sidekicks Timon (Aaron De Jesus) and Pumba (Adam Kozlowski), are as engaging as the main cast. The stage, a masterpiece in itself, also adds to the ambience by seamlessly transitioning from a breezy grassland to an elephant graveyard to a canyon rife with stampeding wildebeests. Two percussionists situated in the house are the cherries on top and the effect is absolutely engrossing.

The running time might be daunting for munchkins, but the theatrical quality of “The Lion King” at Mandalay Bay is top-notch. For more information about the show, follow the link here. Tickets are available here — get them before they migrate back to the Savannah.

Dancers line the stage for the "tip parade" at the end of the show. Tips are donated to BC/EFA.

Entertainers from up and down the Strip performed in the Las Vegas sequel of the hit benefit concert “Broadway Bares” on April 24 at Planet Hollywood and shed their clothes for the cause. The show generated more than $20,000 and every dime went to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, an organization that supports those living with the virus.

The show was also a smokin’ testament to the depth of talent that lies in this city. The Vegas version of the New York concept was a strong contribution to the “Broadway Bares” original and proved that the arts scene here is nothing to sneeze at. Jerry Mitchell, creator of both “Broadway Bares” and “Peepshow,” took the stage at the end of the show and heartily agreed, conveying his excitement about the growth the show has seen since its humble beginnings.

Slick, sexy vocals and understated confidence provided an auspicious start for “2 Hot” with a number of the same name featuring artists from “Peepshow,” “Jersey Boys” and others. The tension was palpable and made for an exciting beginning to a highly dynamic show.

The diversity was also impressive. There was an excellent female cover of “Sex on Fire” by Kings of Leon with strong lyrical choreography to match. There was a guy in a banana suit (word up to 1230 Clownshow and their usual eyebrow-raising circumstances for that one). There was a classic number by Nicholas Foote to “Too Darn Hot” that had a sassy, finely honed Broadway edge to it. “Simply Barerisistible,” by Sheila Joy Burford, had girls bent, curled and spinning on barstools with commendable ease.

Edie of "Zumanity" makes her entrance in style and emceed the show alongside "Peepshow"'s Holly Madison and Josh Strickland.

And there was a drag queen descending from the sky to the Miss America theme song. Edie, a “Zumanity” performer who was the emcee for the evening, was a perfect palate-cleanser for the smattering of genres that made an appearance. Co-hosts Holly Madison and Josh Strickland of “Peepshow” made appearances as well and the three were as enjoyable as the acts they introduced.

Novelty was in no short supply; “Le Jazz Hot,” with choreography by Rommel Pacson, was headlined by a glammed-up Christopher Peterson of “Eyecons” and guys from “Naked Boys Singing” at the Onyx Theatre. It’s hard to go wrong with a New-Orleans-jazz vibe and bare-chested men in suspenders.

“13 Going on 30″ was a tongue-in-cheek parody of something akin to “Annie” and presented a cringe-worthy contrast of little-girl choreography (by Lena Groux and Jamee Hossack) and unarguably adult subject matter. “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” from Dustree Productions featured a full-size bed with suggestive scenarios and spicy partnering to match.

The Viper Vixens demonstrate their power in "Looks that Kill."

Weapons made a couple of debuts as well (and I commend both choreographers for not choosing Rihanna’s “S&M” track–too easy.) The Viper Vixens performed “Looks that Kill,” with choreography by Ottavio Gesmundo, holding objects that looked ominously like ice picks. The forthright sexuality in the number would have been dangerous enough: the Vixens weren’t playin’, and they made that clear.

J.J. Villar’s “Weird Science” was, well, weird, but intriguingly so. The bizarre situations, involving the likes of bodies outlined in neon lights, duct-taped girls a la Lady Gaga and buckets and water guns created a raucous, jarring, postmodern experience. And the water guns were pretty cool.

Straight-up sexiness was well represented. “Where Have All the Nice Men Gone,” by Jonnis, erred in a captivatingly contemporary direction and the edgy “Nice N’ Slow” by Saleemah Knight featured stellar vocals by “Lion King”‘s Jelani Remy. “Hit Me with a Hot Note” by Tara Palsha and Ryan Kelsey and featuring performers from “Vegas! The Show,” was at once charming and sensual with corsets thrown in for fun.

“Bringing the Heat” shook up the Disney image and showcased the fiery choreography of Erin Barnett. The introduction of the number, performed by the cast of “Lion King Las Vegas,” brought an anticipatory roar from the audience. The sinewy movement was executed impeccably and the brevity of the number left the audience yearning for more.

This could be said for the show itself. As Edie put it, “I hate that I have to wait 364 days to be here, but I’m here!” “Broadway Bares” is rapidly becoming a Vegas tradition, and fortunately so: There are few shows that would fit in with Strip life as well as this one.

Jerry Mitchell congratulates the cast after speaking of the unassuming beginnings of "Broadway Bares."

“Broadway Bares” began in New York in 1992 and has raised $75 million since then. BC/EFA has raised $195 million to provide services for those living with HIV/AIDS.

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