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August 1, 2014

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From dealers to chorus stars: MGM Resorts employees showcase stage talents

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Steve Marcus

MGM Resorts International employees perform during a dress rehearsal for Inspiring Our World show at the Mandalay Bay Events Center Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012.

From dealers to housekeepers, 70 MGM employees will take the stage at the Mandalay Bay Events Center this week to perform "Inspiring our World," an original stage production about identity put on for and by MGM employees.

The show is designed to teach the company's more than 50,000 employees the value of diversity in the workforce. The event, which runs nine times through Wednesday and is not open to the public, held competitive auditions to tap in-house talent to perform its choreographed hip-hop, jazz and blues numbers.

Meet three employees who are stepping out from behind their desks to showcase their star power:

    • Benjamin Stobber, center, an Aria concierge and other MGM Resorts International employees perform in during a dress rehearsal for Inspiring Our World show at the Mandalay Bay Events Center Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012.

      Benjamin Stobber, center, an Aria concierge and other MGM Resorts International employees perform in during a dress rehearsal for Inspiring Our World show at the Mandalay Bay Events Center Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012.

      Benjamin Stobber, concierge at Aria

      You might run into Benjamin Stobber, 30, at Aria’s concierge desk, where he could help you arrange lunch reservations or recommend a show to see that night. Or you might see him in a show that night, acting in the lead role in the zombie stage production “Evil Dead 4D” at Planet Hollywood’s Saxe Theater or in the new ’80s musical “Legwarmers,” also at the Saxe Theater.

      It’s not easy, but Stobber, an 11-year resident of Las Vegas, has come to accept that the crowded, day-to-night schedule comes with the territory of pursuing an entertainment career in Las Vegas.

      “My job at Aria has been the one main job I can make a living off of and have a house and take up permanent residence here in Vegas,” Stobber said, adding that juggling careers has made him all the more appreciative of MGM for giving him the opportunity to further showcase his talents through events like “Inspiring Our World.”

      “There are singers and actors and performers, union or professional, that they easily could’ve cast in this show, but they chose us,” Stobber said of his roles as an actor and in the choir in the MGM employee production.

      "I'm overwhelmed with joy that MGM doesn’t just see us as a number, that they see us as talented individuals whose aspirations and dreams aren’t necessarily rooted in the current role that we’re in,” he said.

    • Sherman James, a concierge at the Skylofts at MGM, performs during a dress rehearsal for MGMs Inspiring Our World show, an event featuring MGM employees, at the Mandalay Bay Events Center Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012.

      Sherman James, a concierge at the Skylofts at MGM, performs during a dress rehearsal for MGMs Inspiring Our World show, an event featuring MGM employees, at the Mandalay Bay Events Center Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012.

      Sherman James, concierge at MGM Grand Skylofts

      Like many of his peers, Sherman James is familiar with juggling a day job in the service industry while chasing his passion for performance by night. For the past 32 years, James, a concierge at MGM’s Skylofts, has honed his talent as a singer on numerous stages throughout Las Vegas, performing professionally and touring with groups including the Coasters, the Imperials and the Platters.

      “I think I was born to be on stage,” he said.

      In recent years, however, his job with MGM has taken center stage, though James still performs with his church choir and occasionally on cruise ships. The 64-year-old said he looks forward to going to work at 6 a.m. every day and has no plans to retire.

      For James, returning to the stage as a singer and dancer in the choir for “Inspire Our World” has been less about showcasing his talents in hopes of a new gig than about bringing those talents to his current one. Even after 13 years at Skylofts, James said, the program has allowed him to tap into the joy and confidence he feels onstage and bring it into his daily service with guests.

      "It's about stepping out of the box. It’s allowed me to connect with guests more, to laugh with them, joke with them,” he said. “It’s meant so much to me to see myself with a better attitude at work and show my personality a little more.”

      Though the production is closed to the public, James hopes the experience will give the more than 50,000 employees of MGM a more nuanced perspective on who they are as individuals.

      "This whole production has been about bringing out the inner self. I’ve seen some people try things they wouldn’t normally want to do, like dancing,” he said. “This is about, you can do anything you want to do, if you want to do it. But you have to step out [first].”

      James plans to keep stepping out once the production wraps. When asked whether the experience has inspired him to take the stage again beyond “Inspiring Our Worlds,” he flashed a wide, boyish grin. “Oh, definitely. Let’s just say I’ve been in discussion with some people...I don’t want to say much more than that, but definitely."

    • Michelle Rohl, right, a MGM employees services specialist, performs with Jenny Annon during a dress rehearsal for MGMs Inspiring Our World show, an event featuring MGM employees, at the Mandalay Bay Events Center Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012.

      Michelle Rohl, right, a MGM employees services specialist, performs with Jenny Annon during a dress rehearsal for MGMs Inspiring Our World show, an event featuring MGM employees, at the Mandalay Bay Events Center Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012.

      Michelle Rohl, employee service specialist at MGM corporate

      As an employee service specialist, Rohl spends her time planning and coordinating events and fundraisers for MGM’s more than 50,000 employees. This week, however, Rohl is partaking in one of those events as a solo singer and songwriter behind several of the numbers performed in “Inspiring Our World.”

      Having partially retired from the music business in 2005 to raise her daughter, Rohl, who fronted the local band Sailon in the ’80s, relishes the return to her rock n’ roll roots.

      “I was at a time in my life where I really thought [my music career] was over,” said Rohl, who was tapped by her colleagues to write songs in the early planning stages of the production. “So just to be able to get back into it at my company, at my regular job, to just do music, has been healing for me. And to step into my greatness and really own who I am as an artist is becoming a part of who I am at MGM. That’s the part that has been life-changing for me.”

      Seeing her work performed on stage at the Mandalay Bay Events Center has inspired Rohl to return to music and, she said, she now plans to regularly devote time to her longstanding passion — one that her colleagues at MGM are happy to encourage.

      "I kind of feel like I was at the right place at the right time, but I also feel like I was tapped on the shoulder, like, ‘Hey, you can do this. You need to be doing more songwriting,'" she said. “I feel like I’ve kind of come full circle. I was able to create a situation where I could be an artist, a singer and a songwriter and have a corporate job at MGM. I feel like it’s a big gift.”

    Follow Andrea Domanick on Twitter at @AndreaDomanick and fan her on Facebook at Facebook.com/AndreaDomanick.

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