Category Archives: Uncategorized
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.
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!)
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.
Aug 19, 2011 at South Point Casino
The joy of richly-experienced performers pervaded the cozy stage as the 14 international dancers revealed intimate memories of their dance careers.
Audition fears, inspiration sources, performance experiences, and personal reasons for dancing were questions asked and answered through dance and live recitation.
Among the standout acts were Don Bellamy’s recollection of dancing with Alvin Ailey and sacrificing electrical service for dance shoes; the full company demonstrating the humorous side to auditioning (featuring terrific breakdancing); Tony Coppola’s tap solo and percussion work; and the hip hop-styled “Money”, which elucidated the challenging costs of classes, shoes, rehearsal space, agents and costumes.
Top acts in the show were “Big Spender”, “I Wanna Be A Dancin’ Man” and “Love 2 Dance”.
“Big Spender”, danced and acted by statuesque former showgirls Liz Eliot Lieberman, Lynn Martin Fouce and Karlyn Zambrotta, incorporated Fosse-style choreography and clever banter based on their true life stories. It was the most delightful and enchanting act of the night.
“I Wanna Be A Dancin’ Man”, a group chair dance, was well-conceived, well-sung, tight and concise.
“Love 2 Dance” featured each dancer stating what he or she felt when dancing, and then soloing to his or her preferred rhythm, played live on drums by Coppola. An engaging chance to get to know the dancers, and the first indication of the wide variety of dance training among the cast.
The show’s strengths were the variety of musical and dance styles, the technique of the dancers, Coppola’s percussion playing and the live storytelling. The weaknesses of the show were the costumes, the length of numbers, the ‘Q&A’ structure – and the live storytelling.
Music styles ranging from hip hop to standards, and dance styles from ballet to hip hop, varied the visual and aural experience. The dancers’ technique shone for the most part (M&M aborted several lifts in the latter part of the show; fatigue could have been a factor). The personal stories were riveting, celebratory, tragic, inspiring and heartbreaking. The stuff of a great show.
Speaking or singing while dancing is extraordinarily difficult, and it was executed quite well. However, heavy breathing, an unavoidable result of dancing, was picked up by the mics, and was distinctly distracting. This may be something that their sound guy can smooth out.
Visually, the most disappointing aspect of the show was the lack of costume changes and color – dancers wore the same outfits for several numbers, and everything was black. Color livens a show. Melinda’s red dress in the finale was a relief, but it came too late.
Many of the numbers ran too long, and there were too many of them. The numbers and show would have more punch if shortened. Ruthless editing will achieve this.
M&M’s elder-characters were funny and would be an appropriate act in a variety show (assuming seniors aren’t offended by them). However, in the end, the elder-spoofing and Q&A structure were superfluous and jarring. Omitting them from this show, (yes, cutting all of it out) and letting each act flow seamlessly into the next would generate anticipation and mystery before each act. Each act would reveal an answer to an implied question – and that question might vary for each audience member, thereby having different meaning to each observer.
At the very least, M&M should cut the on-stage explanation of how they put the show together. If it has to be explained, then the show doesn’t stand on its own legs. This show can. An on-stage introduction is scaffolding — which should be removed once a structure is completed. Creator/director thought processes can be shared in director’s notes in the program.
This show has great ‘bones’, in the form of world-class performers with decades of experience. The Las Vegas community is fortunate to have creative, passionate performers who gather and craft original productions. “Love 2 Dance” is a nice concept and with further development will become a good show.
Audience: all ages
At the helm of the dance program at College of Southern Nevada (CSN) since 1995, Kelly Roth has introduced the community college crowd to New-York style performance, and welcomed new dancers of all backgrounds to his classes and performances. Here are excerpts of a conversation we had recently.
Andrea: What are the greatest changes you’ve seen or made happen since you took charge of the dance program at CSN [formerly Community College of Southern Nevada]?
Kelly Roth: Our enrollment in the program has gone from 125 students to 600. We’ve added an annual festival concert, “Dance in the Desert”. We’ve introduced more formal training classes in ballet and modern dance technique. The emphasis of the program has been changed to teaching dance as an art form, instead of as a form of exercise. When you study dance as an art form, there are a lot of ancillary subjects that contribute to your understanding of what art is. I feel that this results in a more well-rounded education for students, as it exposes them to a broader array of topics.
The dance program offerings have also been modified in the last 15 years to offer multiple levels of technique in ballet and modern, and we added a dance performance class which anyone could take, anyone who wanted to perform. We added Concert Dance Company, which people had to audition for, and that enabled us to have a consistent group of people to work with. Some of those people stayed in the company for 8 years. We’ve had a consistent core of male dancers in the Company for a long time, which makes us the envy of every small company in the valley.
We focus on the Alwin Nikolais/Murray Louis technique more than other Las Vegas dance programs do. It teaches elements of time, motion, shape, space, and dynamics – the degree of release of energy. Those are things you can apply to any form of dance because all forms of dance are composed of those elements. So that’s a unique emphasis that we have here [at CSN].
The “Dance in the Desert” (DitD) festival is unique to our academic program because UNLV doesn’t have a dance festival. At CSN, we can do large, expansive works, since we have fewer choreographers to accommodate on a single program, due to our smaller faculty. We could even do evening-length works, if we wanted to, or three different works with two intermissions. This would be more like the New York dance scene, instead of the 2-3 minute pieces that many other concerts are doing these days. Longer programs help students learn that dance is an art, like opera, and not just a passing image or short segment, like dance in videos and on competitive TV shows is, so often.
DitD is also unique to us in that it brings out-of-state companies here, which is great for the audience and for our CSN dancers, who can then see the trends that are out there and experience different choreographers.
A: Do you see growth or contraction in the recent Las Vegas performing arts scene?
KR: I don’t see growth. With the death of the Choreographer’s Showcase at Charleston Heights Arts Center, we lost a focal point, a good mix of genres, and the intermingling of professionals with college students. It went for 25 years, and then it ended. The management there said they were going to focus on single-company events, instead, but that never really happened, and now there’s no high-level dance performance there. And no real community-wide dance event for serious, original works at all in the city. At least, not one where college dancers and professionals from the Las Vegas Strip shows are on the same stage.
The Reed Whipple center used to host dance concerts, but not anymore.
The Smith Center is not going to have a small proscenium theater, either, that local companies could have used for performances. This is disappointing to small dance companies in town.
The other sign of decline is recent massive increases in the [Clark County] library theaters’ rental fees. When I first got to town, I was amazed that libraries had these great little theaters that were available to the public at very affordable prices for non-profits. It was really terrific. But now that they’ve hiked their fees considerably [due to the state’s and county’s economic woes] it leaves most independent small companies without a real theater to perform in. Companies like Las Vegas Contemporary Dance Theater, Las Vegas Ballet Company, and Marko Westwood have no place to go now.
The most affordable venue may be CSN’s Horn Theater. It’s a terrific space. It’s a 524-seat proscenium theater with full lighting and sound systems. It has kept its rates down and is available to the public. It may soon be hard to get a booking there, since the schedule is filling up.
A: What is the mission of the CSN dance program?
KR: The short version of the mission statement of the CSN dance program is that we see dance as one of the many art forms that humanizes our society and that plays a very strong role in education.
A: How has the state legislative session of 2011 affected CSN’s Dance program?
KR: Well, it’s hard to really understand what’s going on sometimes. The figures are constantly changing. So far, there’s a 2.5% cut in salaries, and there may be an additional 2.5% cut next year, which affects all faculty. The performance budget is always up in the air.
I’ve produced dance concerts in all kinds of economic circumstances. It’s been said that after a nuclear holocaust, the roaches and the dancers will be the only ones crawling out from under the rubble; that’s how tenacious dancers are when they want to perform. So, I’m used to doing what I can with what I have. The Fine Arts Department has been really generous with us so far, and that’s really helped us out. Friends of the Horn is a group that gives us a lot of support. DitD Festival sincerely appreciates the consistent support provided by the Nevada Arts Council, which has made an important difference throughout the years.
For some of our grants, we have to find matching funds, so private donors have been a saving grace for us. Sometimes this doesn’t come through, though, and we’ve had to cancel some guest artists due to budget shortfalls.
I stopped by the tech rehearsal for Ribbon of Life today, and had the chance to see the first half of the show. Looks like another terrific show with top-notch talent from around the city!
The show features comedy, dance, singing and personalities galore. Edie, the MC from Zumanity (and a past host of Broadway Bares), hosts the show, providing introductions and banter between acts. There will be a live band and original numbers from such shows as “Jubilee!”, “Fantasy” and “Peepshow”.
The opening dance number is a rousing rendition of “I Hope I Get It” from “A Chorus Line” featuring dozens of “Strip alumni” (dancers and singers who performed in big production shows on the Las Vegas Strip in the last 25 years).
Another number features certain alumni and future performers of all ages, a real tribute to show biz peeps and their families. Called “Heroes”, it creatively showcases alumni parents and their progeny as cartoon superheroes in a very fun way.
The “Fantasy” cast presents “Big Spender”; “The Lion King” cast brings to life “The Color Purple”; and the “Jubilee!” cast stages “Burlesque” the movie.
Be sure to attend the show on Sunday, June 26 at 1 p.m. at Paris Las Vegas (more info here.) It’s an amazing mix of styles, performances and talent, and it’s all for a really great cause.
Performed on March 26, 2011
UNLV’s Artemus W. Ham Hall
The Las Vegas Philharmonic‘s “An Evening with Rodgers and Hammerstein” was a rousing, touching and aurally-inspiring event, full of quality musicianship, talented singing and ideal performances.
The program featured diverse selections from Carousel, The King and I, and The Sound of Music, including instrumentals such as the “The Carousel Waltz” and vocalist solos and duets ranging from love songs to uptempo numbers.
Each guest singer sang with conviction, passion and gorgeous tones. Their voices caressed the lyrics, and transported the audience to the romance and unique storylines of the classic musicals. Each singer’s voice soared beautifully above, around and through the music.
In the duets, the voices and music intertwined and blossomed into glorious gardens of harmony.
The Las Vegas Master Singers was a beautifully blended chorus, singing precisely yet with greatly developed feeling.
Music Director and Conductor David Itkin explained the significance of the work of Rodgers and Hammerstein within the context of American musical theater and American culture, which gave deeper appreciation for each piece and its performance and created a personal connection with the audience.
Derrick Davis (baritone), a singer from the cast of Disney’s The Lion King at Mandalay Bay, performed the first solo, backed by the Las Vegas Master Singers. His deep, resonating vocal quality conveyed both warmth and excitement.
Davis, who recently guested for 3 months as the lead character Mufasa in The Lion King’s national touring show, was overjoyed to perform with the LV Philharmonic. “Performing with the Las Vegas Philharmonic was literally a dream come true,” says Davis. “Ever since my childhood trips to Carnegie Hall, I’ve wanted to perform musical theater with a philharmonic symphony. I could never share that dream with anyone because it was considered “corny” in my childhood neighborhood to like musicals, and also the chance for a person of color having the opportunity to professionally perform concerts seemed very small to me, because there were so few role models for me. Performing with the Philharmonic has made me realize, for the first time in my professional career, that I can do anything that I set my mind to. It has created a huge motivation in me to keep growing, to keep trying new things, to keep evolving as an artist.”
When asked his opinion of the cultural scene in Las Vegas, Davis exclaimed “There’s a huge cultural scene in Las Vegas! UNLV presents an amazing amount of talent. There are museums and other forms of traditional culture, and the Smith Center will surely open many doors for the cultural arts here. Cirque [du Soleil] and the shows on the Strip provide a different kind of culture that’s not found in other places, but it’s still culture. It’s culturally-specific to Vegas.”
The other featured vocalists included Joan Sobel (soprano) and Larry Wayne Morbitt (tenor) from The Phantom of the Opera (Las Vegas) and Lynette Chambers (mezzo alto), a professor of voice from Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas. All graced the event with superb vocal tones and emotion.
The prodigious talent on display in this performance is very heartening to any follower of culture in Las Vegas. The Philharmonic orchestra was as refined and powerful as the Boston Pops — perfection in concert.
Las Vegans, you’ve got all the culture you could ask for right here in Sin City, starting with our own Philharmonic.
Entering the Absinthe world from the casino at Caesar’s Palace, one is transported to a 19th century carnival/tavern type atmosphere. Antique artifacts from the late 1800’s decorate the walls, the color palette is natural woods and rusting metals, and the lighting is low. The liquid inspiration of the show’s title is offered immediately to all show-goers, giving the first indication that this is not a typical circus performance.
The second indication occurs when upon entry to the tent, rather meaty characters are seen sitting in trapezes eight feet overhead. They neither swing nor do acrobatics; rather, they just decorate the equipment with their bohemian presence.
The third, and definitive, sign that this is not going to resemble the circus mega-productions that Las Vegas has become accustomed to, is the greeting from the MC of the show, “If you aren’t comfortable with [certain four-letter expletives], you’re at the wrong [expletive] show!” Indeed, it was a honest warning of the bawdy raunchiness of the show to come.
Individual acts in the show include burlesque, hand balancing, banquine (team aerial acrobats), trick roller skating, trapeze, high wire, silks with chains, and spoofs of other circus’ exotic aerialists. The guest performers were highly skilled and did incredible feats on such a small stage. The audience bravely remained seated despite the risky acrobatic acts happening almost in their laps. The acrobats perform at a world-class level, clearly on-par with those at the bigger permanent circus show down the street. This is the most up-close circus experience one may ever have, and it is truly breathtaking!
Adult-themed banter and messages permeated the show, which were hilarious to some and shocking to others. Race, sexual orientation, politics and a certain-other-circus-company were all fair game for the hosts’ caustic and outrageous humor. Not a show to ignore the dramatic potential of acting out porn with puppets, Absinthe hosts dove in with gusto.
Absinthe is a ‘circus of the grotesque’; a rough-edged, potty-mouthed, intimate version of the circus mega-spectaculars that have taken over Las Vegas. It reveals to us the gritty, bizarre, acrobatic performance art that exists in the dark corners of society’s underbelly. And it’s not to be missed.