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August 25, 2019

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James Canfield ‘Drossed’ up for ‘Nutcracker’; Toy time at Orleans; David Saxe still hits the notes

NBT Presents ‘The Nutcracker’

Tom Donoghue /

Rehearsal for Nevada Ballet Theatre’s “The Nutcracker” on Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015, at the Smith Center. Steven Goforth, as Drosselmeyer, is at center.

NBT Presents ‘The Nutcracker’

Rehearsal for Nevada Ballet Theatre's Launch slideshow »

The Kats Report Bureau at this writing is Starbucks at the Forum Food Court at the Palace of Caesars, where a heavy complement of families have turned out to enjoy some late-night, pre-holiday noshes. We have here an uncommonly high volume of strollers, most of them inhabited, comingling with buffeted visitors dressed in Santa hats.

Later, we will rejoice in the holiday spectacle of Melody Sweets’ release party for her saucy, satirical single, “Santa, Maybe …,” which is currently lighting up HiFi sets all across VegasVille. If Wolfman Jack were still alive, he would be howling about this one.

More from the DJ booth:

• Dang if Drosselmeyer didn’t look familiar in “The Nutcracker” on Friday and Saturday nights.

He was. Assuming that role for a second consecutive year at the Smith Center was Nevada Ballet Theatre Artistic Director James Canfield. He stepped in unexpectedly, at least to ticket-holders, for NBT artist Steven Goforth. Goforth, one of my co-stars (heh) in “Slaughter on Tenth Avenue” in November, had portrayed the pivotal character in the first several productions.

Then Canfield thought, “Maybe Steven should play another character?”

So Canfield moved in to Drosselmeyer’s cloaked costume, allowing Goforth to play the Snow Prince in the final performances (the show closes today at 5:30 p.m.).

“I had not planned on playing Drosselmeyer this year because I wanted to be the eyes up front, and I wanted to perfect the show for another year,” Canfield said during a phone chat Thursday. “I also saw that Steven was doing nothing but Drosselmeyer, so this has given him a chance to do more and give us a chance to mix more couples onstage.”

Canfield trained at Washington School of Ballet and performed with Joffrey Ballet early in his dance career. He’s typically behind-the-scenes until taking the stage to address the audience and deliver flowers post-show. But when he’s dressed as Drosselmeyer, look out.

• Friday’s Seventh Annual Toys for Tots was about as much fun as a trip to FAO Schwartz, at least during the period of time when FAO Schwartz was open. Orleans Showroom was nearly full, the entertainment was lively, and the Marine Corps Reservists turned up en masse. By en masse, I refer to the phalanx of 20 bikes that rumbled into Orleans valet before the show. The show was backed by Cadillac exec and sometime rock drummer L.J. Harness, co-producer Craig Raymaley and David Perrico and his Pop Strings ensemble.

Appearing were a host of entertainers familiar around town: Gordie Brown of Golden Nugget; Chris Phillips of Zowie Bowie; Murray Sawchuck with Doug “Lefty” Leferovich and new stage assistant April Leopardi; Neil Diamond tribute artist Rob Garrett; Pop Strings vocalists Eric Sean and Naomi Mauro; Elvis tribute artist Justin Shandor; Chadwick Johnson (Italian American Club and Cabaret Jazz among his haunts); “Alice” founder and swing in “Fantasy,” “Zombie Burlesque” and “Steve Wynn’s Showstoppers” Anne Martinez; Las Vegas dancer Lora Kelsey (as a stilted Santa); Tuscany Piazza Lounge headliner Laura Shaffer with longtime Las Vegas lounge maven Art Vargas; celebrity spokesman and actor Robert Nash; vocal group These Guys; and Gene “Poo Poo Man” Anderson from Parliament/Funkadelic.

The latter was easily the best-dressed performer of the night, kind of looking like a cross between Prince and … well, Drosselmeyer. He’s also a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, along with the rest of the members of Parliament/Funkadelic. Perrico has now performed in Las Vegas with two members of the Rock Hall — Danny Seraphine of Chicago joined Pop Evolution in October 2014 at Cabaret Jazz.

One great moment from backstage was Brown and Nash performing a “Chris Walken-off.” Also, an animated conversation between Garrett and Shandor, both of whom are huge Elvis fans (Garrett saw The King perform live 21 times, including 18 at the Las Vegas Hilton).

More only-in-Vegas action awaited at the post-show party at Brenden’s Irish Pub. There, Michael Grimm and his three-piece band happened to be performing. There was a lot of talent, not to mention love, in that room.

Recycled Percussion Opening Night at The Quad

Mo5aic attends Recycled Percussion's opening night at The Quad in Las Vegas on Thursday, March 14, 2013. Launch slideshow »

‘Zombie Burlesque’

“Zombie Burlesque” at V Theater in Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood. Launch slideshow »

• Some recent haps at Saxe Theater and V Theater at Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood, most notably the long-awaited return of Recycled Percussion to the stage after a yearlong hiatus so that producer David Saxe and creator Justin Spencer could overhaul the show. They have done that, writing and rewriting several versions of the production, which is now jammed with new props (including a segment of “literal lyrics,” in which the guys act out song titles while wearing such costumes as a shake, rattle and roll).

They continue to deliver baked cookies mid-show for no apparent reason. They still insist on playing the “Red vs. Blue” audience-participation game, which is particularly fun if you are younger than 15. But the show is far advanced from its days at Studio 54 at MGM Grand five years ago; the opening segment features the guys arriving upside down on a track high above the stage, something Spencer wrote into the show just before its media/ticket broker/concierge night Tuesday.

The show’s strength remains the inventive percussion on old implements — recycled, if you will — but there is less of that quality and a lot more other stuff. It’s how a show evolves. The ones that survive — and R.P. has been around for 20 years, five in Las Vegas, and 5,000 performances — is doing that now.

Meantime, at Saxe Central …

“Zombie Burlesque” has quietly celebrated its second anniversary at V Theater. This is likely the show that gets the most out of its resources and environment. Which is to say, it’s a damn fine production given the venue restrictions (where you can hear the music from other shows bleed through the walls) and what has to be a comparatively limited budget. But the shtick, especially from the beguiling host Enoch Augustus Scott, is consistently funny.

I lose it when Scott dips into his stand-up bit: “Lemme tell ya about Zombie women! Zombie women be shoppin’!” The band burns (live music is worth one star, off the top, in any show), and the dancers are wildly effective. The takeoff of “The Dating Game” is especially inspired. Gotta see this show. Everyone I’ve taken says it far exceeds their expectations, and I even caught an official of a rival production company in the audience Thursday night.

Lastly, Saxe is rehearsing a new Las Vegas spoof show. No title just yet, but the idea is to satirize Las Vegas and pop culture. It’s not a return to “Forbidden Vegas” years ago at the old Westin Casuarina, which was really funny but only to those who understood all of the inside references. This new show is to open in January.

• What sets VegasVille apart? Just a few minutes ago, Carrot Top walked past my buddy Jerry Jones (Avejazzer on social media) and me. I shouted “Scott!,” causing him to turn as his girlfriend, the great caterer Amanda Hogan, and he moved through the casino crowd. Scott is Carrot Top’s given first name, you see …

Then, just moments later, I turned around to see Danielle Lewis, daughter of Jerry, awaiting a friend to escort to Sweets Fest ’15. The action happens here, folks. Don’t forget it.

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