Las Vegas Sun
Monday, Jan. 5, 2015 | 4:12 a.m.
The Kats Report Bureau has kicked off the New Year with three consecutive major performances on the Strip. Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga appeared at the Chelsea in the Cosmopolitan, Jennifer Lopez put on a largely VIP invitation-only show at the Colosseum in Caesars Palace, and Justin Timberlake once more played MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Timberlake twice performed at MGM Grand on the latest Las Vegas stop for his “The 20/20 Experience Tour,” the final two shows of the tour. The performances were directed and recorded by Jonathan Demme, who won an Academy Award for “The Silence of the Lambs” and also directed “Philadelphia” and “Rachel’s Getting Married.”
Demme also was the director of one of the greatest concert films, The Talking Heads’ “Stop Making Sense.” These two “Experience” shows were captured for a concert film produced by Gary Goetzman (“Mamma Mia!,” “Stop Making Sense,” “25th Anniversary Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Concert”).
Thus, the result was a performance where you were very aware of production, loaded with big numbers that sometimes hit and sometimes did not. Overall, the show was often dimly lit, an odd result for video presentation, with Timberlake grooving in the dark. Maybe that was the intended effect, same as the heavy-duty bass in the sound mix.
Don’t misunderstand: I’m all about the bass, but my brain was thumping by the end of this show. Timberlake is without argument a talented and versatile performer. He played piano and guitar, kept in step with adventurous choreography and showed impressive vocal range. A native of Memphis, he does have some Elvis shimmy and broke out “Heartbreak Hotel” while performing a set on an elevated walkway that slid across the arena floor.
That was the show’s highlight, as J.T. showed he is a match for any artistic assignment. Next time just dial back the bass and let the light shine in.
More from the early ’15 scene in VegasVille:
• During an appearance on NBC’s “Today” on New Year’s Day, Marie Osmond told affable co-hosts Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford that she and brother Donny (preach it, Brother Donny!) will take on a world tour in 2015. The extension of Olivia Newton-John’s residency at the Donny & Marie Showroom in the Flamingo afforded D&M flexibility to move outside Las Vegas, and also outside the U.S. The acts are effectively splitting time in the room this year, with D&M ending 2014 by signing a one-year extension.
“We brought in my dear friend Olivia, and she came in and liked it, so she’s going to take half the time, and that will give us time to go on a big world tour,” Marie said on the broadcast. “We’re going to go to Australia, New Zealand, Bangkok, Singapore.”
Marie said she was surprised to know the act’s popularity in such places as Thailand and the Philippines. It’s helpful that their prime-time TV show was dubbed into 17 languages. Details are to be announced, but D&M are back onstage at Flamingo at 7:30 p.m. from Jan. 20-24 and 27-31 and Feb. 3-7, 10-14, 17-21 and Feb. 24-28.
• One of the city’s favorite singers is leaving one of the Strip’s highest-regarded productions. Felice Garcia has announced on her Facebook page that she is stepping down from her lead role as Dyanne in “Million Dollar Quartet” and is focusing on her solo recording career. Garcia recently signed with Pacific Records, an independent label and studio based in San Diego, and plans a full-length album this year.
A former singer in “Folies Bergere” at the Trop, among many Las Vegas productions, Garcia is a member of “MDQ’s” original Las Vegas cast and by the end of her run Jan. 30 will have performed more than 700 shows.
The role of Dyanne will be filled — to great effect — by Kristen Hertzenberg, who has remained in Las Vegas after her run as Christine in “Phantom — The Las Vegas Spectacular” closed at the Venetian. Hertzenberg’s first performance as the lead is Feb. 2.
• Though she has spent the past few months as one of the principal singers in “Jubilee,” Anne Martinez is still a sub in “Pin Up” at the Strat, spelling lead singer Lisa Marie Smith and that show’s other swing, Savannah Smith. A convergence of bad news hit “Pin Up” on New Year’s Day when both Smiths were out. Lisa Marie, who fought flu and vocal problems for much of December, could not make the stage for illness. Savannah Smith was already booked. So an emergency call was made to Martinez, who luckily was performing just a single 7 p.m. show at Bally’s.
Martinez performed in “Jubilee” and took off at around 8:30 p.m. She drove from Paradise to Sahara to Stratosphere valet, which was full for the busy New Year’s crowd. She self-parked, ran into the hotel and made it to the showroom by the 9:30 p.m. call for a 10:30 show. And if Martinez’s pet project, BBR, had a midnight show that night, Martinez would have made that, too.
• On the topic of great doubleheaders, singer Amanda Avila (who hit MGM Grand Garden Arena and Excalibur Lounge in the same night) is performing Saturdays through the end of January at the Piazza in Tuscany Suites. A finalist in the 2005 Season 4 of “American Idol,” the year Carrie Underwood won the competition, Avila’s shows are 9:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. “Rocks Pop With Soul” is the format and title, and it’s all free.
• Whitney Cummings opened the 2015 season of the Lipshtick comedy series Friday and Saturday nights at the Venetian. Her opener: “I dressed up for you, Las Vegas. I wore my lesbian blazer.” As expected, she spent a good measure of time hammering away at guys. “Remember when we heard that men like strong women? No, they don’t. I’ve seen porn. Men like Asian schoolgirls with duct tape over their mouths. … I never get anywhere with, ‘Would you like to see my resume?’ I wind up telling guys, ‘I might not be 25, but I have a pool. I can pay your bills. I can get you out of debt. This all looks a lot better now, doesn’t it?’ ” It was pretty funny, in an uncomfortable sort of way …
• The anticipated cast changes in “Zumanity” were announced Saturday night at the show’s theater in New York-New York. By the end of the night, 15 cast members had been released from the show. A Cirque official said those who were dismissed were not laid off. Their contracts ended. That’s the official explanation, as those people are no longer employed in the show. As planned, “Zumanity” is dark through Jan. 20, as the show is being upgraded.
• With Franky Perez & The Dirty vacating Rocks Lounge after Saturday’s show so Perez can tour with the cello band Apocalyptica, David Perrico is moving a new strings-back act into that room next Saturday night (no cover, doors at 10 p.m., show at 11). This lineup is dubbed The David Perrico Pop Strings Orchestra, a 15-piece big band/mini-orchestra that will play contemporary favorites refashioned by Perrico. Timberlake, Bruno Mars, Fergie and Daft Punk will be mixed in Perrico’s creative Cuisinart.
Nearly eight years old, Rocks Lounge remains one of the best intermediate-size venues in town. Station Casinos Entertainment Director Judy Alberti is expanding on the proven success of Zowie Bowie’s raging dance show in that room and adding a heavy dose of inventive instrumentation. The Dirty features a three-piece horn section; Perrico is the first act in a Rocks Lounge residency to employ a string section. The hope here is that the groovers who usually inhabit the dance floor and bar can warm up to violins because that’s what moves the meter at Rocks Lounge.
• While awaiting word on the future of his musical “Bandstand,” “Ka” music director Richard Oberacker informs that another of his shows is set for a tour of Europe. This is “The Sandman: A Little Nightmare Musical,” also a project of Oberacker and his writing partner, Robert Taylor. The show is in rehearsals now and set for a Feb. 22 premiere at Frederica Theater in Denmark.
As for “Bandstand,” the musical that last September played to great response in a showcase in New York, keep checking back. It could be a big deal.
MGM Grand, a AAA Four Diamond resort, offers 5,044 rooms and suites.
MGM Grand features KÀ by Cirque du Soleil; Brad Garrett’s Comedy Club; and world-class entertainment at the Grand Garden Arena and Hollywood Theatre.
The resort offers signature restaurants by celebrity chefs including Tom Colicchio’s Craftsteak, Emeril Lagasse’s New Orleans Fish House, Wolfgang Puck’s Bar & Grill and Michelin three star and Forbes Five Star restaurant, Joël Robuchon.
As part of its ongoing “Grand Renovation,” MGM Grand has remodeled all rooms and suites in its main tower and is adding several new experiences to its lineup including Hakkasan Las Vegas Restaurant and Nightclub, a new upscale dining/nightlife concept (coming in April 2013).
MGM Grand also features a state-of-the-art, non-smoking conference center, the Grand Spa, Cristophe Salon, "CSI: The Experience" and an inviting pool complex featuring the tantalizing daylife of Wet Republic.
Upscale accommodations include The Mansion, an exclusive hotel within the hotel; the luxurious two-story SKYLOFTS at MGM Grand; and The Signature at MGM Grand, a luxury all-suite, non-gaming hotel located adjacent to the main resort.