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August 21, 2014

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OSHA investigating ‘Zarkana’ accident; Strip entertainers boost Las Vegas Academy; Lacey Schwimmer back onstage

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Tom Donoghue/DonoghuePhotography.com

An up-close look at Cirque du Soleil’s “Zarkana” in Aria on Friday, Nov. 9, 2012.

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Behind the scenes of Zarkana in November 2012.

At this writing, the Kats Report Bureau is the Krispy Kreme stand at Circus Circus. I say it is “the” Krispy Kreme stand at Circus Circus, as if it is the lone Krispy Kreme stand at the hotel, but I am not certain that is the case. There could be many Krispy Kreme stores at Circus Circus. There could be mountains of Krispy Kremes!

Whichever, this is the doughnut emporium next to Auntie Anne’s pretzel stand and Sports & More memorabilia shop and a kiosk filled with women’s handbags that seem first class, which makes sense because the business is called Purse Class. They seem to be having a sale over there for these bags, which can be used to carry leftover pizza, as the business abuts the hotel’s pizzeria, which is called Pizzeria.

I love this place.

Later it is a visit to the VIP party for Vince Neil’s unambiguously themed Tatuado, Eat, Drink, Party entertainment enclave. I’m not into the drinky-winky, but maybe I’ll stride out of here having been happily tatuado-ed.

Until then, let’s rake and roll:

• OSHA is embarking on another investigation into a Cirque du Soleil production, this after “Wheel of Death” artist Junior Delgado fell from the high-risk apparatus and was injured Friday night during a performance of “Zarkana” at Aria (in keeping with its own policy, the company will not release the performer’s name, but sources familiar with the show and incident and social-media accounts from that night specified Delgado as the cast member who was injured).

Cirque spokeswoman Renee-Claude Menard said Tuesday via email that the injured artist was expected to be released Tuesday; social-media conversation indicated that he underwent surgery on his leg overnight Friday.

Meantime, OSHA Public Information Officer Teri Williams confirmed Tuesday that the agency would be investigating that production and would issue any citations (if any are to be issued) against the employers — Cirque and/or Aria — within six months. Those were the same terms the agency applied to the investigation of the death of Sarah Guillot-Guyard in “Ka” at MGM Grand and released its findings about four months after that June 29 tragedy.

The “Wheel of Death,” which Menard definitively describes as a “high level” number, is to be shelved until the original artists can be returned to the stage. That might take months, given the degree of difficulty required to perform the act. As Menard said, “The artists who do it have been doing it for generations. It is not an act where we can replace the artist position.” In the interim, an aerial “straps” act fills out the show.

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Tommy Ward will now be opening for Frankie Moreno at the Stratosphere.

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Frankie Moreno joins Martin Kaye during the Million Dollar Quartet show at Harrah's Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013.

• In some circles, Anita Ward is known as Tommy’s mom. Tommy Ward is the young heartthrob — he is amassing groupies and everything — of the band Swayd, a collection of Las Vegas Academy kids who fire up the audience before Frankie Moreno’s show at the Stratosphere.

Anita Ward is indeed Tommy’s mom, but she also is the director of public relations for LVA. Ward spearheaded a refreshingly entertaining and financially successful fundraising gala, hosted by Moreno and titled “Experience the Arts,” last week at the Rio. Honored was behemoth concert promoter AEG Live, which made a “significant” contribution as an event sponsor.

The final take in this first-time event was an eye-popping $150,000, including the purchase for $50,000 of a Domingo Zapata painting of the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign that was, conservatively, worth at least three times that amount. Ward bid on the piece herself (many attendees actually thought she’d bought the piece herself) on behalf of a donor who chose to remain anonymous. Funds raised are to be used for the purchase of instruments, instructional and musical technology, a recording studio and a new sound system for the LVA Performing Arts Center.

Ward said the idea for the “Experience the Arts” gala was to load the event with entertainment, and that was achieved in a big way. Those who performed included Moreno and his band, Clint Holmes (another standing ovation for “Hallelujah”), Harrah’s comic Mac King, Kristen Hertzenberg (who soared with “Think of Me” from her days in “Phantom” at the Venetian), Quad afternoon headliner Jeff Civillico (who performed his comical get-tangled-with-two-volunteers unicycle bit) and Bob Torti of “Rock of Ages” at Palazzo.

As Ward noted, aside from the money raised, the real boon to the school was the relationships forged between the entertainers and the school. Torti has offered to teach master classes at LVA, Moreno is resuming the songwriting courses that led to him finding Ward and Swayd at the school, and Civillico (a dogged charity supporter) is assisting in an evening of comedy as another fundraiser for the school. David Perrico and Pop Evolution also have been partnering with the LVA and performed a show for more than 800 at the school’s auditorium in September.

Meantime, Swayd is recording its first CD, with Moreno and with plans to work with studio wizard Pat Thrall. Tommy Ward, who in 2012 was a finalist in the Michael Feinstein Great American Songbook High School Vocal Competition, is appearing at Birdland Jazz Club in New York on Dec. 1. This is a result of Jim Caruso’s Cast Party at the Smith Center, oddly enough, in which Tommy appeared a couple of weeks ago. Caruso, who stages the Cast Party regularly at Birdland, turned around and invited the young singer to appear in Manhattan.

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Stratosphere headliner Frankie Moreno performs accompanied by special guest Lacey Schwimmer on ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" on Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2012.

• On the topic of events at least tangentially related to Moreno’s headlining gig at the Stratosphere, Lacey Schwimmer has returned to live performance in Las Vegas during his performances. Wearing a flowing white gown and spinning to great effect, she took the stage, unannounced, on Oct. 25 to dance during Moreno’s terrific ballad “Some Kind of Love” and has been in the show since. These appearances happen occasionally, “here and there,” as Moreno says, but it was a pretty wonderful presentation. Schwimmer had most recently appeared onstage in Las Vegas in the summer of 2012 at the Tropicana in “Dancing With the Stars: Live in Las Vegas!” She continues to choreograph for the “DWTS” ABC show and (lest we forget) was an original choreographer for the early version of “Pin Up” at the Stratosphere.

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Taylor Hicks and "Jubilee!" showgirls arrive at the "Veronic Voices" premiere at Bally's on Friday, June 28, 2013.

• Paris Las Vegas Napoleon’s headliner Taylor Hicks’ appearance in tonight’s episode of “Law & Order: SVU” is a component in his master plan to grow as an actor. For about a year, Hicks has been taking acting classes from Carl Ford, son of Susan Batson, who runs the highly regarded Black Nexxus acting studio in L.A. In the NBC crime drama, Hicks portrays a judge on an “American Idol”-style contest show. The Season 5 “Idol” champ is joined on the judging panel of “American Diva” by Season 2 runner-up Clay Aiken and R&B star Ashanti. Hicks says he has been auditioning for network TV series over the past year or so (he’s not saying which) and enjoys the auditioning process, which he aced during his triumphant run on “Idol.”

“As much as I am a musician and live entertainer, I was born on television,” he said during a phone interview Tuesday. “My big break was basically through a visual medium, and I think it’s wise to revisit that.”

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Mark Shunock sings during a performance of the Broadway-based open mic and variety show Cast Party on Wednesday, June 19, 2013, at Cabaret Jazz in Smith Center.

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Vince Neil’s Tatuado, Eat, Drink, Party at Circus Circus.

• “Rock of Ages” star Mark Shunock has found a new home for the first “Mondays Dark” charity show, a benefit for Opportunity Village of Las Vegas. He’s landed at Body English in the Hard Rock Hotel, and the show is set for 9 p.m. Nov. 18. Shunock was forced to relocate the show from the Act at Palazzo after that club closed Oct. 12. Almost immediately upon the Act’s final party, Shunock began contacting venue operators in town to find a suitable room to stage these shows, which he plans to host the third Monday of each month.

The Nov. 18 lineup features Dot-Marie Jones from “Glee”; Travis Cloer of “Jersey Boys” at Paris Las Vegas; members of the cast of “Rock of Ages”; Anne Martinez of “Dancing Queen” at Planet Hollywood and the vocal act BBR; and Opportunity Village’s Elvis impersonators, The O.V. Elvi. Tickets are $20-$50 (click the ‘Mondays Dark’ website for info, and also to see what Shunock looks like without the mustache he grew to portray Lonny in “Rock of Ages”). A live auction is tied into the event, and the goal is to raise $10,000 during each of these shows over 12 months, with a different charity targeted each time.

• Circling back, the transformation of Neil’s Tatuado, Eat, Drink, Party happened remarkably fast. It took about five days, total, to renovate that space from a Mexican-themed eatery to Neil’s rock-and-roll haunt. The fiery Vegas rock band Sin City Sinners played Tuesday night’s opening VIP party, and joining Neil in the room to trumpet the premiere were Luxor headliner comedian Carrot Top, artist Michael Godard, the Excalibur lounge band Dollface, members of “Fantasy” at Luxor, Guns N’ Roses guitarist D.J. Ashba and a host of scenesters.

And that bookends this column, somehow fittingly compiled before and after a trip through Circus Circus.

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at Twitter.com/JohnnyKats. Also, follow “Kats With the Dish” at Twitter.com/KatsWiththeDish.

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