As previously reported, this writer like a lot of Las Vegans couldn’t wait to attend the Gala Opening night of the newest revue to hit a Las Vegas stage— GEORGIA ON MY MIND: Celebrating the Music of Ray Charles. And, as expected, we (Cathy Bittinger and this writer) were not disappointed in the product. The show was welcomed by The Venetian Hotel Las Vegas with a star-studded event coinciding with the birthday of Ray Charles, on Tuesday, Sept. 23.
The groundbreaking new show features a host of esteemed stars including Emmy award-winner Clint Holmes, 10-time GRAMMY award-winning vocal group TAKE 6, six-time GRAMMY nominee and DownBeat artist of the year Nnenna Freelon, and Stella Gospel Award and GRAMMY award-winning saxophone star Kirk Whalum. The show also features the Las Vegas Mass Choir, under the direction of James R. Smith and Edie Aikels, and features the Las Vegas All-Star Big Band, conducted by pianist David Loeb.
The Las Vegas entertainment community came out this particular evening to see what Vegas was once really all about, and to welcome the show to The Venetian Theatre. Entertainers at the red carpet event included Patti Austin, Carrot Top, Human Nature, cast members of Rock of Ages, cast members of PANDA!, Melody Sweets (Absinthe), Ricardo Laguna, Bob Anderson (who had just signed a contract with the Venetian for his Sinatra presentation opening January 17, 2015)., Mac King, rock star artist Michael Godard, Travis Cloer (Jersey Boys), Murray SawChuck, Chris Phillips, Frankie Moreno, Mo5aic, Miss Asian Las Vegas Catherine Ho, Miss Chinese Las Vegas Elisa Chan, Merald “Bubba” Knight, Jr., Jason Baney (Naked Magicians), conductor to the stars Vince Falcone, and more.
The music is as expected, all Ray Charles. Clint Holmes, who has been appearing on stages around the world ever since he was a small boy, it appears to this writer, has finally found the magic ring that may take him to where he belongs—on the “Great White Way,” Broadway! He doesn’t miss a beat as he hosts the nearly 85 minute production, and who literally keeps the performance on track. Of course this is a show with little stage props (the props are the music of the man being honored), and just straight on song after song, like the great entertainers of the past used to do in Las Vegas, which earned Vegas the title, “Entertainment Capital of the World.” Such memorable hits like “I Will Always Love You,” “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’,” “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” “Let The Good Times Roll,” and “Rainy Night in Georgia,” are just a few of the songs performed by the team. Of course the long awaited title song came as expected, right where it belonged, along with perhaps his greatest contributions to the people of the nation he honored, the awe inspiring and beautiful, “America,” at the end with the audience standing and cheering. What a night!
As if this is not enough to bring out the crowds, then something is wrong in Vegas. It’s old school entertainment. No fancy bouncing around, swinging in the air, lip-syncing, fancy lighting or props. No, not this show! This show has one goal, and each entertainer on that stage knows exactly what that is—to sing their guts out and bring a smile to every person in the audience–and at the same time bring back to the stage of a Las Vegas showroom, a show about pure music by great presenters. That is something that has been to long lost in our village.
GEORGIA ON MY MIND: Celebrating the Music of Ray Charles is produced and directed by award-winning music producer Larry Rosen, and is part of his JAZZ ROOTS Concert Series., and entertainment executive/producer Peter Primont through GOMM Productions, LLC. Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased by calling The Venetian Box Office at 702-414-9000 or online at www.venetian.com. For more information, visit http://bit.ly/VenetianGOMM
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The New Tropicana should be filled with laughter beginning Monday, Sept. 29 through Sunday, when Wild Willy Parsons’ takes the stage at the Laugh Factory. Parson will be sharing the comedy clubs stage with Chris Newberg, and host Brett Riley. At first glance, Willy Parsons’ biker-clad girth could send society’s most decadent citizens scampering for their lives. But instead, The Emmy Winning comedian sends them home with a fresh and positive outlook, about their own misconceptions of the stereotypical biker.
Parsons, born Sept. 18, 1959 in San Diego, Calif., attended Mar Vista high school in Imperial Beach, Calif., with actor Matthew Modine, and Ozzy/Badlands ex-guitarist, Jake E. Lee. Willy lives in North Hollywood, Calif., and is best friends with his lifelong idol, Mahogany Rush guitarist, Frank Marino.
Parsons has made numerous TV appearances including “Last Comic Standing,” “Last Call with Carson Daly,” “The Dennis Miller Show,” Showtime, MTV, “The Tracey Ullman Show,” “Evening at the Improv,” Caroline’s Comedy Hour, and “Comics Only,” to name a few. He has opened for such acts as Sam Kinison, Andrew Dice Clay, Richard Jeni, Pauly Shore, Steppenwolf, The Charlie Daniels Band, and Buddy Miles. A stand-up comedian and an actor, Willie has been in several movies including “The Guardian,” directed by William Friedkin, and “Nothing to Lose,” directed by Steve Oedekerk. Willy’s Emmy Award came in 1985, for his writing on “Technical Difficulties.” Wild Willy released his live CD, “American Made,” recorded at The Comedy Store, in 2001.
Chris Newberg’s refreshingly smart and edgy humor, delivered with a streetwise sense of philosophic cool, has propelled the guitarist/songwriter-turned-comedian to the forefront of the national comedy scene. Newberg’s standup cleverly combines his hilarious and off-beat observations on life with original acoustic guitar songs and infectious melodies. He has been seen on “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” “Last Comic Standing” and Comedy Central.
Brett Riley is one of the most original fresh faces coming to light in the comedy world. With the swagger of a rock front man and the likability of a college drinking buddy, this walking “series of unfortunate events,” takes the audience on a personal tour of the Riley view. He covers everything from pop culture to relationships, family, advice on how to mess with people, and the ability to sing well enough, to make your mom forget the other stuff that comes out of his mouth.
The Laugh Factory has two shows every evening at 8:30 and 10:30 p.m. Tickets are priced at $34.95 and $44.95, and may be purchased by calling 702-739-2411, or 1-800-829-9034.
Comedian, actor and blues musician Jim Belushi, along with blues band The Sacred Hearts, will bring laughs and soulful hits to the Orleans Showroom, Saturday and Sunday, October 4-5. Belushi is known worldwide for making people laugh as a regular on “Saturday Night Live,” his long-running comedy series “According to Jim” and his many film appearances. In addition to his film and TV career, Belushi’s music career blossomed in 1995, when he joined forces with House of Blues regulars, The Sacred Hearts. Soon after, friend asked Belushi to join him as part of the Blues Brothers. To get ready to play with the Blues Brothers, Belushi would crash rehearsals for The Sacred Hearts. He had so much fun performing with them; they eventually merged professionally and have been performing as Jim Belushi and The Sacred Hearts.
Belushi and The Sacred Hearts have played for many notable figures including Al Gore, former President Bill Clinton, and former Governor of California, Gray Davis. The band frequently headlines shows at the House of Blues venues, benefits and hundreds of corporate events. The band’s first CD, “36 x 22 x 36,” was released in 1998, and delivers a Memphis rhythm & blues sound seasoned with a lot of soul. Additionally, the “According to Jim Soundtrack” was released in 2005, containing the music by Jim Belushi & The Sacred Hearts featured, in fan favorite series episodes. Much of the show’s music was written and recorded by Belushi and bandmates, Johnny Rubano and Tony Braunagel, who also made regular guest appearances on “According to Jim.” Band members include guitarist J.J. Holiday, vocalist/trumpet player Johnny Rubano, bassist Larry Lee Lerma, composer and saxophonist Joe Sublett, vocalist Julie Delgado, drummer Tony Braunagel, and trumpet player Darrell Leonard.
Showtime for both evenings are 8:00 p.m. Tickets are available starting from $39.95 plus tax and fees, and may be purchased at any Boyd Gaming Box Office, by calling 702.636.7075, or www.orleanscasino.com.
Well, gang, that’s about it this week.
I’m outa here!