Denise Truscello / WireImage / DeniseTruscello.net
Published Thursday, Aug. 20, 2015 | 5:31 p.m.
Updated Friday, Aug. 21, 2015 | 9:59 a.m.
On Wednesday night about 10:30, Olivia Newton-John made her way through a thicket of well wishers to Susan Anton, and both said, nearly in unison, “It’s great to see you.”
The scene was the latest Composers Showcase of Las Vegas at Cabaret Jazz in the Smith Center for the Performing Arts. Anton was in the room to sing an original composition — and they are all original compositions at the Showcase — written by Jeffrey Neiman.
Long a Las Vegas favorite, the 5-foot-11-inch Anton took the stage and looked down at a microphone set for someone 5-foot-2. She smiled and said, “I used to date someone this tall.”
Anton then sang, to beautiful effect, Neiman’s original, “How Long Is a Lifetime.”
ONJ, the acronym bestowed upon Newton-John for decades, was present to support her backing singer and duet partner Steve Real and his daughter, Lauren Chanel. A featured performer at Newton-John’s “Summer Nights” production at Flamingo Las Vegas and nervous as any proud parent, Real introduced Chanel, who sang one of his originals, “From Yesterday.”
It was another great night and late night for Composers Showcase, where appearing onstage were Clint Homes, Richard Oberacker (“Ka” and the musical “Ace,”); Jeff Leibow (NF Hope Foundation director and late of “Jersey Boys”); Martin Kaye (“Million Dollar Quartet”); Dennis Blair (“X Comedy” at Flamingo Las Vegas and George Carlin’s longtime opening act); Sami Saula (“Ka”) backed by body-percussion tandem Molodi; Chadwick Johnson (a frequenter of Italian American Club); and the wonderful guitarist-cellist Shana Tucker, who made the show despite being halted at the entrance because she couldn’t produce a ticket.
“That’s my name they are announcing!” Tucker pled before finally being allowed into the venue to join Holmes and close the show.
The power and vibe in the room showed once more that Composers Showcase has grown into a destination experience since its modest debut nine years ago at the restaurant Suede in the Double Down Saloon strip mall off Harmon and Paradise.
Suede closed a long time ago, and the other busiest venue for the Showcase, Liberace Museum, also is defunct. But the art, it survives, and even Smith Center President Myron Martin stayed up past his normal bedtime to watch the show and shoot photos.
Martin also sat and chatted with Jerry Lopez, making his first visit to Composers Showcase. That was something to see. More about that mini-summit is to follow …
• With yet no consequence, Martin and Lopez have long mulled a performance by Santa Fe & The Fat City Horns at Cabaret Jazz. That moment is moving closer to reality; all that seems to be needed is a reason for Santa Fe to make its long-anticipated debut in that room.
Holmes, Frankie Moreno, Lon Bronson’s All-Star Band and David Perrico are among the Las Vegas performers who have regularly headlined the room to great effect (Moreno’s Tuesday show, a tribute to film scores, was another terrific time). On Friday, Michael Shapiro’s Reckless in Vegas used Cab Jazz as a way to help establish its swinging/rocking production in town.
Deservedly considered one of the great bands in the West, Santa Fe is moving out of Lounge at the Palms to South Point Showroom on Sept. 7. The show is set for 10:30 p.m. and will be free of charge on opening night. After that, the show is a $5 cover; $10 for a drink and VIP seating.
This remains one of the best entertainment bargains ever in Las Vegas, trust me. Just ask members of Santana’s band, who always hit the show when Carlos is playing House of Blues — and one of those musicians is drummer Pepe Jimenez, who was sky-hooked from Santa Fe to join the Santana lineup two years ago.
Santa Fe dates to 1975 in Las Vegas and has performed at the Palms for the last seven years, with a break to headline at the old Folies Bergere room at Tropicana. Santa Fe is moving to a bigger room, where it should be presented as the hotel’s leading attraction.
Its debut at Smith Center could well run in concert with that move to a new hotel. Regardless, I’m feeling an appearance for Santa Fe at Cabaret Jazz (and not on a Monday night) by the end of the year.
• Stephen Sorrentino and the nonprofit agency the Animal Legal Defense Fund have asked for a meeting with the producers of Dirk Arthur’s new show at Westgate Las Vegas.
They aren’t going to get it.
A Las Vegas-based entertainer and producer, Sorrentino and the ALDF emailed a letter to Red Mercury Entertainment CEO Carlos Reynoso expressing concern over Arthur’s use of exotic animals in his stage show. Sorrentino has even offered to help Arthur produce a show absent the big cats he plans to employ in “Wild Magic,” which opens Monday night at Westgate’s International Theater.
But Reynoso tells me that there will be no such meeting. In a statement released this morning by Westgate, the resort operator says it has reviewed the history of U.S. Department of Agriculture inspections of Arthur’s production and “has determined that the Dirk Arthur show is in full compliance with all government regulations.”
Arthur was previously cited for infractions in December 2013 and again in February of the following year for violations related to the animals’ habitats and care. Arthur addressed those issues within a couple of days, as he previously noted, and has not been cited since, including during his run at Riviera from December through May.
Last November, a USDA representative said that Arthur’s exhibition of declawed cats in his show was not a violation, though the agency does agree with the medical opinion that such a procedure is unhealthy for the animal. And if Arthur does declaw and exhibit another cat, he would be in noncompliance according to UDSA regulations.
On that point, Westgate states that Arthur “has voluntarily agreed to the USDA’s suggestion that big cats not be declawed. While this is not a legal requirement, it is further evidence of Dirk Arthur’s commitment to provide a loving and caring environment for his big cats.”
• Millicent Rosen, daughter of Flamingo Las Vegas founder and reputed mob overlord Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, is in a promotional partnership with El Cortez at the hotel’s new restaurant, Siegel’s 1941. Some of the family’s memorabilia, photos and personal effects are on display at the restaurant as the hotel has leased those items for exhibition.
You might recall, or not, that Siegel also authorized the display of such memorabilia at the ill-fated Mob Experience at the Tropicana. So why isn’t the Siegel collection on exhibition at the Mob Museum in downtown Las Vegas?
Officials there wanted to buy those items, and the family prefers to lease and maintain ownership.
What else can we say … I am a fan of the hours at Siegel’s 1941, as it runs around the clock, and the $10.95 prime rib special is available “morning, noon and night.” What’s not to love?