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November 25, 2017

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Hidden treasure Composers Showcase Las Vegas ends its brief intermission

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Heperi Mita / Las Vegas Sun

Keith Thompson, center, musical director of Jersey Boys, sings a self-composed country tune during a Composers Showcase at Liberace Museum. He is joined by Phantom — Las Vegas Spectacular dancers Jessica Walker and Luke Lazzaro, who entertained the audience with a country and western dance number.

The Liberace Museum might be sitting silent, but the Composers Showcase that graced the museum’s cabaret refuses to be muffled.

Latent since its final show in October, just a week before the museum closed, Composers Showcase of Las Vegas is being resurrected Feb. 24 at Creative Studios at 6415 S. Tenaya Way, Suite 140, long a home for inventive theatrical showcases (Cockroach Theatre among the companies to take the space). Creative Studios is located in a new commercial development called Loft Works, which is a little difficult to spot but worth the effort.

Liberace Museum Showcase

“Mamma Mia!” actress Vicki Van Tassel sings a Keith Thompson composed “tabloid” tune about a love affair with Bigfoot titled “Bigfoot Left a Footprint on my Heart.” Launch slideshow »

Showcase co-founder Keith Thompson, who also is music director of “Jersey Boys” at the Palazzo, says the first showcase is being treated as a one-off performance to see how the revamped space will work for the Showcase’s cabaret-style staging. The Showcases have always been a monthly affair. What is new is the donation cost of $10, double what it was at The Liberace Museum. The operation is more expensive than it was at the old Liberace cabaret (largely because it is a new venue with fresh expenses), and those putting on the show might be seeking sponsorship for the series.

Several venues were explored in the search for a new home for the series, including 5th Street School, Copa at Bootlegger Bistro, Hard Rock Cafe on the Strip and Stirling Club. None have been ruled out as a possible future venue for at least occasional Showcases, but for now, Creative Studios is being called upon to help restore the series' artistic momentum.

"We don't know if this venue will be a perfect fit for us, but we have agreed to let them host us for this month and see how it goes," Thompson says. "It's a black box-type experimental theater/loft-type space that is being converted into a cabaret space just for us."

Blue Line Studios is donating materials to build sets for the Composers Showcase of Las Vegas (which, the acutely observant will note, is a new title). Ticket revenues will go to Creative Studios, which is a nonprofit theater company.

Composers Showcase has for years been one of the true hidden treasures in Las Vegas entertainment, to the point where I’ve been reluctant to write about performances for fear of it outgrowing its charm. The first Showcases were held in 2006 at the since-closed Suede restaurant, just a few doors down from Double Down Saloon on Paradise Road. It then moved to The Liberace Museum, where it thrived until the museum itself went dark.

The format is simple and, frequently, joyous: Las Vegas composers, songwriters and performers unveil original songs, usually with only a piano accompaniment, to a friendly but discriminating audience made up mostly of their entertainment peers.

For the revival show, Thompson and his co-founder, Michael Brennan (the conductor of “Le Reve” at Wynn Las Vegas) will be joined by “Phantom- Las Vegas Spectacular” associate conductor Wayne Green, “Ka” conductor Richard Oberacker, and an entity known as The Apple Sisters, featuring Sarah Lowe as Seedy Apple, Katie Gatewood as Cora Apple and Rebekka Johnson as Candy Apple.

The Apple Sisters are said to be at once “comic” and “messy.” Given the fruitful history of the Composers Showcase, they’ll be a perfect fit.

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at twitter.com/JohnnyKats.

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