Published Monday, Feb. 16, 2015 | 2:02 p.m.
Updated Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2015 | 6:02 p.m.
The Kats Report Bureau at this writing is Fortuna — A Coffee & Wine Experience at Westgate Las Vegas. I am enjoying a large cup of “experience” with a little sugar and a lotta love.
As I look across the floor toward what used to be Quarks, I see a painting of Elvis priced at $1,800. Around the bend are some Elvis artifacts — an Indian-style jumpsuit, a squash-blossom necklace from his arrival in Hawaii for his “Elvis: Aloha From Hawaii” special and a 1977 Lincoln Continental that was his last vehicular purchase. The famous Elvis statue looms just over my shoulder, too.
But you know what is absent from the property in which the real Elvis performed 837 sold-out shows? An Elvis show. Elvis tribute artist Trent Carlini, a Las Vegas mainstay for a couple of decades, has departed Shimmer Cabaret. This happened around Super Bowl Sunday but was not related to the game, as far as I know.
This is not the first time Carlini, who has performed all over VegasVille and headlined in Laughlin, has departed Shimmer. He was a headliner there about 15 years ago, which as I recall was an energetic but musically canned performance.
Carlini also spent a brief stint in 2009 at Steve Wyrick Theater in Miracle Mile Shops of Planet Hollywood shortly before Wyrick left the city and David Saxe took over the venue. One of my memorable nights in town began with that Carlini show, an evening when I wound up with DJ AM at the Palms.
The timing of Carlini’s departure, occurring just five weeks or so after Neil Diamond tribute act Rob Garrett left the Shimmer, means that there is no Elvis act at Westgate as the big announcement of a Graceland outpost is to take place at the hotel on Feb. 26.
Westgate is relying heavily on the Elvis brand to draw business (hence all the memorabilia exhibited in the hotel), and Carlini was initially a favorite of Westgate President David Siegel. Better find a new Elvis, I guess. In Las Vegas, that shouldn’t be too terribly difficult.
• As I filed out of Windows Showroom at Bally’s last Wednesday night at the opening of “50 Shades! The Parody,” I ran into the great singer Bruce Ewing. A longtime cast member of “Forever Plaid,” Ewing is part of the comedy vocal group The Phat Pack, a full-throated crew of ex-“Phantom” cast members also featuring Randal Keith (now with “Steve Wynn’s Showstoppers”) and Ted Keegan (who played Anthony in the Broadway revival of “Sweeney Todd”). The Phat Pack have been a wonderfully conceived and executed act that has not found a suitable venue on or off the Strip, including the Plaza Showroom and, most recently, Windows at Bally’s.
When I saw Ewing, I remembered the attempts in Windows that have not worked out. Zowie Bowie’s throwback Vegas show didn’t take. A recent musical based on the board game and feature film “Clue” just pulled out. A midnight adaptation of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and the L.A. Comedy Club came and went.
At the moment, the production “Paranormal,” starring mentalist Frederic Da Silva; the long-running interactive dinner theater show “Tony N’ Tina’s Wedding”; the tribute production “Country Superstars”; and “Shades!” play in rotation at Windows.
It’s easy to see why there is so much interest in Windows. The room is beautiful and distinctively designed, and when there is no construction work being carried out behind the main stage (as is now the case), audience members enjoy a wondrous view of the Strip. But the showroom is not easy to find (over there and up those escalators), and even longtime entertainers — including those who are trying to fine a venue the size of Windows in which to perform — have no idea the showroom even exists.
This is where “Shades!” will be challenged, although it faces other issues if Wednesday’s careening premiere is an indication. As is the case for many productions in Windows, and in many small venues across Las Vegas, the show’s talent is topnotch. One song, delivered by lead actor Greg Kata (portraying central character Christian Grey), in which the actor points out various members of the audience and promises future fornication, is genuinely hysterical. It’s “Avenue Q”-quality satire.
But crucial to satire is the audience’s familiarity with the subject being satirized. Chevy Chase’s depiction of a stumbling Gerald Ford worked because Ford’s clumsiness was universally familiar. Otherwise, he’s just a guy stumbling over a podium for no evident reason. So, despite claims from the show’s creative team that it is not necessary to read the “Fifty Shades” series or even see the movie to fully appreciate the musical, that is not the case.
I haven’t read any of the “Fifty Shades” books, so a lot of the material fell outside my frame of reference. Despite all the effort that went into building the script and music, if you’ve not been exposed to the story of Mr. Grey and his nubile love interest, Anastasia Steele (played expertly by Tatiana Mac), you’re left wondering what all the fuss is about.
But overriding all of these issues in the opening-night show were some inexcusable problems with the show’s sound system (especially considering the show is a Base Entertainment production, the same company behind “Jersey Boys” at Paris Las Vegas and “Rock of Ages” at the Venetian).
Sound cues were sometimes several seconds off, or never arrived, or dropped in completely at random. Actors were forced to ad-lib through the confusion (“Wow, I must have had too much to drink!), and the show halted completely for several minutes as the issues were remedied. That threw off one of “Shade’s” signature jokes, that the run time is (haha!) 69 minutes. But there is no double-entendre to be made about 78 minutes.
The show was simply rolled out for a ticketed audience before it was properly dialed in. So we’ll be back, again, to Windows, a room where there is very little room for error.
• Franky Perez spent the night of Valentine’s Day in a love fest at Lounge at the Palms filling a room he referred to as “family” with his final Las Vegas performance before taking off to record and tour with the cello/metal band Apocalyptica. Perez’s first stop is Soundwave Festival in Australia at the end of this month. He’ll be back with a performance at the Joint in the Hard Rock Hotel on April 10. But the weekly shows Perez had performed at Rocks Lounge in Red Rock Resort and T Spot Lounge in Tuscany Suites have been tabled.
As Perez said in a column I wrote last week in Las Vegas Weekly, he is often the guy who gets in his own way. He said it again onstage Saturday. But when Perez, a homegrown Las Vegas artist, is lined up properly, he’s a real rock star and one of the best rock singers anywhere.
Today, Perez is out of his own way, and we’ll track this Apocalyptica tour with great interest.