Author Archives: Dance & Theater Writer
High energy suffused every character and moment during opening night of Broadway Bound’s “Into the Woods”. This company of teen actors continued its legacy of thespian quality far exceeding the apparent age and experience of each cast member, and delivered a polished product of near professional level.
The company’s performance obviously reflects the knowledgeable guidance of its adult production team: Michael Vojvodich (director), Alex Cheney (musical director), Ashley Oblad (choreographer). The quality of the vocalists surprised and delighted from the first moment and through the entire show. The singing and acting brought Sondheim’s music and Lapine’s book to vivid life, memorably impressing every audience member— exemplified by the youngsters gamboling around the courtyard in circles during intermission, gleefully singing “Into the woods! Into the woods!” A production that brings such immediate joy to even the youngest audience members is truly a gift to the community.
Production values rivaled anything seen in Las Vegas. Costumes were chosen and styled to perfection. Wigs were bold and symbolic; prosthetics were excellent. The sets were visually magnificent: the opening set was minimalistic, using a variety of textures to aptly indicate various locales; the main set featured a fantastic backdrop as well as lush, dark, yet luminous sets. The staging was effective and clear. Choreography fit the style, mood, and story line.
Individual performances were very enjoyable. Each character exuded such vivaciousness, focus, and commitment that it was easy to get swept away in the story and mood. The quiet moments were touching. Each actor was charming and engaging. Comedic timing was sharp and sophisticated, using silence and delays to great effect. Of special mention was the comedy of the angry, prodding witch, the princes, and the Narrator; and Cinderella’s vocals.
The overall sense of jubilance, fun, and snappy timing in this show will delight attendees of all ages and backgrounds.
Audience: all ages
The 17th Annual Dance in the Desert is a scrumptious buffet of elite dance companies showcasing classic modern and artistic dance. Multiple dance companies from around the region and country are gathering at Summerlin Library Performing Arts Center this weekend to share their repertoire with Las Vegas.
Opening night was a hearty offering of traditional modern dance mixed with contemporary and fusion styles. This is a classic dance festival, with the focus on choreography and the dancers—a clean, bare, set-less stage with intense lighting, minimal backdrops, and simply great dancing.
Fixed Perfection, Shadows was an iconic number. It began with a solo dancer, bound in a straight jacket, who repeated verbal phrases frequently heard in dance classes that urge dancers to kick higher, work harder, dance more perfectly. The soloist’s ramblings built into a frenzy, until she screamed “I have to be perfect! Somebody tell me I’m perfect!” Her monologue completely captured the repetition and torture and pressure that dancers endure for their art, and the implanted neuroticism that urges them on while sometimes becoming their undoing. Self-loathing perfectionism amidst all the created beauty. The cruel truth is—a dancer can never be perfect. Beauty, Insanity. Dance.
Wright Noise featured strong lines and formations, with an almost military feel in its attack and discipline. An EKG-style design, projected behind the dancers, imparted a pulse-like undercurrent to the number, mirroring the urgency of the movement.
Silent told a tragic story of a woman wrongfully imprisoned told through lyrical, heart-felt choreography,
Kelly Roth’s Sanitas was a brightly-lit narrative with clever partnering, live violinist and pianist, and a joyful feel.
Wind: 3 by 2 featured 3 duets with entrancing interaction and chemistry between the partners. This sweet, flowing number had intricate partnering that was mesmerizing.
The closing number, Def.i(d)ance was perfectly placed in the program. 7 dancers in plain black 2-piece outfits brought heavy-hitting rhythms and choreography to the stage. Both the movement and music had a tribal feel, with a hip hop edge and attack. Defiance was the defining emotion. This number was a feast for the senses and left the audience cheering. A perfect, strong, rollicking ending to the night.
With free admission and an intimate, comfortable venue, this dance festival is a hidden gem just waiting to be discovered by arts-lovers in Las Vegas. If you want a taste of New York-style modern dance, here it is. Las Vegas is very lucky to have Dance in the Desert.
Audience: all ages
An outstanding, unforgettable, and thoroughly enjoyable showing of The Addams Family” exploded on the beautifully-appointed stage of the Summerlin Library & Performing Arts Center. Opening night of the Broadway Bound production burst out of the opening gate with hilarity, dazzling vocal talent, snappy dialogue, stunning sets, and costume perfection. One might never guess the tender age of the cast, based on their talent and remarkable performances. They truly lived up to the name of the company, exhibiting the skills and moxie that just might take them all the way to The Big Apple. (And if not, Las Vegas would be lucky to have them as part of our burgeoning theatre stable)
Many of the actors turned in striking performances. Gomez (Jackson Langford) was riveting in his accent, mannerisms, timing, and expression. His was a must-see performance, for any theatre-goer in the Valley. Morticia Addams (Suzanne Fife) exuded languid sultriness. Wednesday Addams (Rachel Martinez) deadpanned her crack-up lines with pure commitment. Uncle Fester (Andy Lawell) gamboled with the glee of the ghoulish uncle. Lurch (Alix Locke-Wells) delivered his guttural assertions with underplayed sublimity. Grandma Addams (Sierra Gregg) impressively adopted severely geriatric posture and diction.
Multiple group dance numbers featured swirling, effective formations and uncluttered choreography. The ensemble performed the diverse choreography confidently and cleanly. A tango number was sharp, stylish, and dramatic. Both in the scenes and dance numbers, there were many terrific photo moments that provoked an itch to pull out a camera and snap away. The book was delightful, brimming with gratifying character development, and breezily addressed perennial topics such as the meaning of life, love, and relationships.
The show was great fun, spooktacularly entertaining, and first-rate in production value.
Not. To. Be. Missed.
Audience: All ages.
Congratulations to Yoomi Lee of Las Vegas Ballet Company for being voted “Best Ballerina” of 2013 in Las Vegas by readers of Desert Companion Magazine!
Her elegance has graced the stages of Las Vegas for more than a dozen years, and brought the love of ballet to countless students at Kwak Ballet Academy. Having written about Lee and her husband in a previous blog, it is a pleasure to congratulate her on her well-deserved recognition by the community!
Now that Bally’s Jubilee! has been officially shuttered for the next month to update and change unspecified portions of the show, questions still abound about what prompted this decision of Caesars Entertainment to give up on the last gem of the golden age of Las Vegas showgirl production shows.
In a cynical sense, change in Las Vegas entertainment is always driven by one thing: money. Shows were originally mounted in casinos to attract, retain and reward gamblers. It’s only logical that if Caesars felt changes must be made to Jubilee! it was because the show was not generating enough money. Since the show was paid off decades ago, and the performers are paid the least of any performers on the Strip, the lack of profit must primarily be due to lack of ticket sales.
Jubilee! is as beautiful and gorgeous as at any time in its 33-year history; wardrobe legends Donna Shad London and Marius Ignadiou have done extraordinary work in preserving the condition of these decades-old costumes. The gorgeousness and retro-quality of the show would be any Las Vegas marketer’s dream because of its uniqueness, high production quality, and historical value. The show should be raking in the money.
So, if the show is aesthetically spectacular, with a world-class talented cast, and is the last jewel of an era that millions pine for, why is it not selling?
In marketing terms, it’s not selling because the target audience is not being reached or influenced. In public relations terms, it’s not selling because it hasn’t been branded effectively.
Looked at with a non-insider’s eye, marketing and PR efforts lack some important components:
- There are no social media channels for Jubilee!.
- There is no active official Facebook page for Jubilee! There is a Facebook page entitled “Jubilee! at Bally’s Las Vegas”, but it has no posts, and so appears unused. 9,448 people have visited the page (that’s 9,448 people out of 40 million Las Vegas visitors each year), but there is no indication how many likes it has. There is no impetus for anyone to “like” this page, as it appears inactive. So, there is no active Jubilee! page on Facebook for audience members to “like” or follow. Therefore, there are no daily posts showing up on followers’ Facebook pages to remind them of the gorgeous show, which is the whole idea of social media in marketing.
- “The Pulse of Las Vegas”, Caesars’ Facebook page, occasionally posts about Jubilee! special appearances, but does not promote the show or describe it.
- There are no Jubilee! Instagram or Twitter accounts — no other social media that is easily found by Internet surfers. There are no links on the Bally’s website entertainment page to any social media.
Dear Caesar’s PR/marketing team,
Facebook and social media are free advertising.
Everyone on planet Earth.
- There are no Jubilee! souvenirs or t-shirts on sale. From a marketing view, souvenirs and t-shirts are one of the most popular items for tourists, and one of the most effective ways to spread the word about the show in distant parts of the country and world. A show-goer has no memento of the Jubilee! experience, and therefore, it fades in his memory as soon as another experience creates a more immediate memory. If a show-goer had a t-shirt or desk souvenir that could be worn or displayed in the weeks after the show, the memory of the show would be rekindled, the show-goer would likely tell others about it, and maybe make plans to return again. Word-of-mouth would be created, and the show-goer’s friends might put Jubilee! on their lists of things to do in Las Vegas. Nothing (i.e. no souvenirs) leads to nothing, unfortunately.
- There are no programs. This abolishes any chance of audience members bonding with the cast and show, as programs give information, stories, and up-close images that people relate to and remember. Another lost marketing opportunity.
- There are no billboards of Jubilee! around town, only two on Bally’s own marquee, and even that is reduced from the previous three. If you are driving eastbound on Flamingo, you see no advertisement for Jubilee! on the Bally’s marquee. There were many years when Jubilee! did not even do taxi cab banners.
- There are no local TV commercials for the show that this writer has seen, as a member of a moderate TV-watching public.
- Jubilee! is listed at the bottom of the entertainment show page on Bally’s website, below every other entertainment offering at Bally’s. It is listed AFTER “Tony & Tina’s Wedding”, (which isn’t even running); below once-a-week shows “Dancing Just Like the Stars” and “Rocky Horror Picture Show”; and below a singer who imitates other singers and doesn’t even have a national name in the US. Any PR or marketing person knows that website viewers tend not to scroll to the bottom of pages. So by pushing Jubilee! to the bottom of the page, they are burying it beneath imitators, not-open shows, and once-a-week, low-production knockoffs. This is not the way to promote a multimillion-dollar, world-class show.
- Jubilee! has made some recent guest appearances on TV talk shows, which is great PR placement. Guess how most of us found out they had happened? Social media postings by the cast.
This lack of, refusal to implement, or ignorance of modern and effective promotional techniques leaves people who care about Jubilee! feeling one thing: that Jubilee! has been abandoned by Caesars.
Caesars has the amazing opportunity — nay, the responsibility — to keep Las Vegas showgirls alive in the mind and awareness of the public, if they want it to sell tickets. Caesars has a virtual lock on the Las Vegas showgirl – they basically own the brand, as no other show has classic Vegas showgirls wearing $3,000 Bob Mackie costumes. How they have not seen this as an opportunity to take over the image and make it work for them is beyond the comprehension of outside PR professionals. It’s a tragically lost opportunity, in marketing, sales, and to lovers of classic Las Vegas entertainment.
Dear Caesars Marketing/PR Team,
Many people love to see gorgeous, gifted, topless dancers draped in glittering rhinestones tell a story through dance. So, please let us know that you still have them on stage.
Everyone in the world
By bringing in the choreographer of a current hip hop/pop celebrity to revamp the show, it seems apparent that Caesars is targeting the Millennial generation as preferred audience members. Which is fine – although it ignores the fact that many Millennials have never learned to appreciate full-length live theatre or elegant performances; they only know Youtube videos and Pussycat Dolls (although Dancing With the Stars is helping with that, somewhat).
Hiring this new choreographer has garnered some news coverage for the show, but mainly within Las Vegas and regional print newspapers and online news.
The best way to find and communicate with Millennials is through social media. That’s where they live. So, even if Caesars is willing to pay for new choreography and music, their target audience won’t know about it, or learn why they should care, unless Caesars goes to where they hang out. Not print newspapers, not TV news. Online — in social media.
Since 2010, notably, the fastest growing demographic of Facebook users is senior citizens — people aged 50 and older. This older generation, known as the “Baby Boomers”, appreciates and seeks out classy theatrical productions, and would highly value information about shows like Jubilee!
If social media and innovative branding had been used expediently, years ago, to promote the show, would the image and popularity of showgirls have been resurrected and ticket sales enhanced, without even needing to bring in such drastic changes and cost to the show? Has corporate resistance to new media, and lack of creative thinking, lost Caesars millions of dollars in ticket sales, and squandered the potential title of “home of the real showgirl”?
From a marketing and PR standpoint, here are some suggestions for promoting Jubilee!:
- Team Jubilee! up with “Dancing With The Stars”. It would be great PR for Jubilee! and for DWTS. Bring in guest celebrity/pro duos from DWTS to do Pink & Purple Ballroom, Top Hat, or any act, on a monthly basis, and then actually promote them on your new…
- …Social media channels. You should be using all of them. Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and more. Need some help? Ask any 14-year old.
- Hotel outdoor wrap advertisement with Jubilee!’s name on it. Full coverage of the entire Strip-facing side of the hotel. Using Jubilee! showgirls in the current restaurant wrap is nice, but it looks incidental and does not actually promote the show directly.
- Bring in internationally-known guest artists, who use retro style in their performances, for guest spots. Justin Timberlake, Neil Patrick Harris, Hugh Jackman, Michael Buble, Michael Feinstein, Tommy Tune, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Renee Zellweiger, Richard Gere, Jason Alexander could all be candidates. Brand Jubilee! as THE place for classy, musically-trained pop and movie stars to show their singing and dancing skills. And then, you could mention it on…that’s right! You guessed it correctly…your new social media channels.
- Hand out free Jubilee! postcards to every audience member as they leave. People love free things. They can take photos of it and post it on their Facebook pages. Then their friends will see what show they went to. It’s a handy way to control the online image of show. This is called what, Caesars? Right again! “free advertising”. Did you also know your PR department can track social media mentions, so you can actually measure how your free advertising is working? Cool, huh.
Jubilee! is a timeless icon of lush beauty and elegance that speaks across time and cultures. It is an important cultural institution. Caesars shouldn’t abandon it without updating — updating the marketing and PR efforts. It CAN reach a new audience without changing the essence of the show. Brand it right, promote it smartly, and Caesars will have an irreplaceable money-maker on its hands for a very, very long time.
Disclosure: This writer was a performer in Jubilee!. This writer is near completion of a Masters degree in Media & Communications Psychology from Touro University Worldwide. This writer receives no remuneration for posts to this website.
June 12, 2013
Spring Mountain Ranch
Super Summer Theatre’s “The Music Man” premiered with visual and musical glory that rivaled the golden sunset itself.
The timeless and well-known story was brought to life by Huntsman Entertainment’s high production values and astounding investment in the visual elements, which framed and matched the musical talent endemic in the cast.
The costumes were beautiful in design, construction, and materials. Constant costumes changes gave a fresh and eye-inspiring feel to every scene. The opening black-and-white palette gave way to an explosion of color half-way through the show. The costumes were intricately designed, down to bloomers under the skirts.
The detailed sets were a feast of turn-of-the-century colors, shades, and architectural detailing. The huge backdrop channeled antique parchment, while the bridge’s sculptured-stone façade was perfectly convincing, as were the portals’ faux-brick treatment.
The choreography was lively and well-rehearsed. Parts closely resembled the movie choreography, and all were nicely staged and exciting to watch.
There were many charming moments in the show that make it very memorable (they won’t be revealed here).
This was a classic presentation of a timeless, family-friendly musical, with production values far beyond what one would dream of in a community production; that is the magic that so many wonderful theatrical groups bring to Las Vegas, now including Huntsman Entertainment. This show splendidly brought the joy of musical theater to the Super Summer Theatre audience.
Rating: A- (=go see it!)
June 8, 2013 at Las Vegas Little Theatre
New works by Las Vegas playwrights? Right here at Cockroach Theatre’s new program, “The Residents.” Currently housed at Las Vegas Little Theatre during the Vegas Fringe Festival, and soon to be based in Art Square Theatre, this group of thesbians, playwrights and visionaries are doing something very rare; cultivating local playwright talent.
“Sudoku”, a full musical in under an hour, featured original script and score. The micro-theatre space of LVLT’s Black Box and minimalist sets left the storytelling to the script and actors. Playwright Ernie Curcio offered a book of angst, neurosis, and devastation, which was brought to life by actor Glenn Heath in agitated, suffering desperation. Jacquelyn Holland-Wright completed the cast in her absorbing portrayal of Heath’s desire and torment.
Composers Angela Chan and Jolana Adamson created a pleasing contemporary-style score and lyrics that were vocally caressed by Heath and Holland-Wright.
“Sudoku” uses numbers and puzzles as a metaphor for life’s challenges and how people choose to deal with them. The script is symbolically and cleverly written, and makes a fine addition to contemporary theater.
The performance was an emotional touchstone for the audience: many were weeping as they rose from their seats at the end.
Don’t miss the intimacy and talent of local, new theatrical works: check out Vegas Fringe Festival, Las Vegas Little Theatre, Art Square Theatre and Cockroach Theatre.
Rating: A- (=go see it!)
Audience: Ages 10+
A crowd awash in gowns, victory rolls, sequins, feathers, rhinestones, glittery neckties and tuxedos swept into the Orleans Hotel for the annual Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekender. Audience members and performers from around the globe gathered to celebrate glamour, beauty, and the art of the tease. This annual Las Vegas event hosts some of the most creative, artistic, and original performing seen at any time of the year in Las Vegas. Burlesque is alive and well, and this weekend shares its seductive, naughty, and comedic best with the world.
The third night’s “Tournament of Tease” featured current acts vying for best in their category, as well as the contest for the new Miss Exotic World. Various acts highlighted classic stripteases, innovative ideas, and special skills such as acrobatics, fans, reverse-strips, and butterfly skirts.
In the “Best Debut” category, Elektra Cute wowed the audience with her Art Deco-era style and mystery. The drama in her expression was riveting, and her costume pieces were elegant, flapper-inspired works of art.
Eliza Delite brought her creative Pope-inspired act, starting in Victorian-era robes and crown, then disrobing into a beautiful gold cape which she manipulated in beautiful butterfly-movement using embedded sticks. She evoked the image of one of the first motion-picture-captured dancers in silent films, who turned in a circle as she fluttered beautiful fabric wings. Ms. Delite was regal and old-Hollywood retro.
Lady Borgia started with nice fan work that ended too soon, but transitioned to very nice dancing using her flowing dress teasingly.
Laurie Hagen presented a reverse strip that also attempted to give the feeling of movement done in reverse. Her jerky movements were foreign to this art’s normally beautiful and graceful style, but was an interesting variation.
In the “Best Group” category, Swing Time presented a comedic take on a threesome with great boylesque and nice group sculptures. They won their category.
Burlesque artist Lou Lou D’Vil won the crown of Miss Exotic World, Queen of Burlesque with her classic, elegant striptease and ermine-dripping costume.
While the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekender is not for all ages, it presents an expressive art form that is enjoying a well-deserved revival. Especially in a city of raunchy strip clubs and nightclubs, it is a welcome breath of beauty, camaraderie, and glamour.
Plaza Hotel, January 1, 2013
Phat Pack infused a classic entertainment genre with modern, theatrical sensibility. Four experienced performers offered classic crooning of popular musical theatre fare.
The small theatre allowed the audience to experience these legendary singers (and musician) in an intimate setting. The
performance by each cast member was focused, genuine and lighthearted, and built friendly rapport with the audience. Impeccable group harmonies, varied vocal dynamics, resonant vocal tones, comedic playfulness and personal stories made the show exhilarating and compelling.
Audience reaction was positive; people clapped along to the upbeat songs, laughed and applauded generously, and fell into quiet awe during dramatic solos.
Gershwin, Sondheim, Cole Porter and other illustrious composers were on the rich Broadway-based bill.
The projected slides were used effectively for the most part, as adjuncts in story-telling or to display background patterns that supported the particular mood of a song. During the autobiographical segments, there were, at times, too many family-moment slides. Paring down the number of slides would help tighten up these scenes and reduce the distraction of so many slide changes.
The stage set-up was basic: black backdrop curtain, piano, stand-up bass and a few microphone stands. Props, choreography and staging were cute and cleverly used. The show would benefit from more visual changes, such as shirt or jacket changes (to ones with color) or progressing from tied to untied bowties. Backdrop changes would be very fitting.
“Phat Pack” has all the musicianship, content and talent one could wish for. Its irrepressible fun is bursting with personality and charm. A classic crooner format sweetened with musical theatre showstoppers and up-close contact with world-class talent makes this show one to share with family, friends and out-of-town visitors.
Audience: All Ages.
Dec 8, 2012 at Judy Bayley Theatre, UNLV Performing Arts Center
Here are the great things about Nevada Conservatory Theatre and UNLV Performing Arts Center productions:
- They are presented on-campus at UNLV. Great location, great parking, great university-ambience, great box office, great prices.
- Medium-sized house (Judy Bayley Theatre) feels like a metropolitan theatre yet still intimate; not a bad seat anywhere.
- Renderings by the wardrobe, set design and lighting design teams are on display in the atrium for the audience to explore. Colorful drawings, fabric samples, and scale models of the stage and sets show how these show elements were conceived and built. It’s like a backstage tour! And you can touch them!
- Variety. Straight plays to musicals, they have it all.
- Casts feature a mix of theatre majors, community members and theatre professionals.
All that’s missing is…well, nothing.
True, they don’t have motorized moving stage parts or computerized hi-tech set antics, but that, thankfully, allows the focus to stay on the human element — the talent. The actors and the storyline, not technology, are the entertainment here.
All of these elements were in evidence in the production of “Arcadia”, a play by Tom Stoppard.
The script was an intellectual exploration of physics and philosophy, both challenging and rewarding to follow. While dense with academic and theoretical concepts, it offered equal parts humor and word play. The audience laughed from the first two minutes of dialogue and continued the positive reaction throughout the show.
The sets and costumes were feasts for the eyes. The set was an open, airy minimalistic design evocative of the period. The costumes were detailed and period-appropriate, right down to the shoes. The clothing was constructed in vibrant colors to support each actor’s character. Props were thoughtfully created, including the large book that was central to the storyline.
The actors breezily conversed in natural-sounding British accents; diction and projection were excellent to a person. The actors made extensive dialogue interesting to the ear by varying pitch, volume and speed appropriately. John Maltese’s vocal expression made even his long passages of technical information easier to grasp and digest.
Body language furthered the character development. Of note, Joshua Nadler’s stiff, affected, uppity movement style visually corroborated his character’s verbal insecure uptightness. Jordan Fenn’s wide-eyed fear clearly expressed his character, without needing words.
Some of the longer dialogue scenes, in which the actors stayed in one position, sitting in chairs around the table, seemed a little static. Perhaps some movement might give those long minutes of discussion a bit more life.
The only moment when the audience grumbled was when a real cigarette was lit and smoked on stage. Apparently this was bothersome to some of the patrons.
Despite these tiny drawbacks, the acting was excellent, onstage interaction was smooth and entertainingly-presented, production value was high, and the script itself was educational. Certainly a top-notch theatrical production, and a very enjoyable experience. “Arcadia” was another feather in the NCT/UNLV PAC hat.
So, is the big, new, marble performing arts center down the road too expensive, seats too far from the stage, too many balconies, lacking intimacy, not offering all plays you want nor featuring the local talent you want to support? Head to UNLV for everything you’re looking for.
Audience: all ages