Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016 | 10:30 p.m.
John Katsilometes and Tricia McCrone talk to Mark Shunock, who is celebrating a full year of "Mondays after Dark" performances Monday night at the Joint in the Hard Rock Hotel.
The Kats Report Bureau at this writing is Masquerade Bar at the Rio. There was a time, what we call the Fine Days of Farrington, when there was a free show that spun high above this open tavern.
“Show in the Sky,” it was called, and I first observed this Brazilian-themed, ceiling-high parade in 1997 shortly after moving to Las Vegas.
For the Benefit of Mr. Kats, I thought. What a scene. Singers and musicians were carried around in showboats trimmed in neon while tourists were invited to join the music and shake their tambourines. Plastic necklaces were thrown to the onlookers below in the spirit of the real Carnival, and I seem to remember an animatronic peacock blossoming on the main stage. The $27 million spectacle closed March 30, 2013, a sad day for free entertainment everywhere.
Across the way, today, is the Rock of Ages Theater, where the musical of that name has just moved after a three-year run at the Venetian. One performer who will not rock in Rio for long is Mark Shunock, the magnanimous actor who portrays Lonny who has announced on his Facebook page that he is leaving the show when his contract ends in four weeks. The countdown is on for Shunock, the one-time Canadian League goalie from Sault Ste. Marie in northern Ontario. Shunock blew into Las Vegas with the “Rock of Ages” ensemble and quickly established the popular monthly charity show “Mondays Dark” at Vinyl in the Hard Rock Hotel.
The announcement by Shunock is not a total shocker to his castmates and many friends in Las Vegas, given his restless nature and expansive vision of what can be achieved in the city’s entertainment climate. We’ll be talking to the soon-to-be-former Lonny shortly — like, in a couple of hours.
Until then, we play out our own show in the sky.
• A show to have plugged into the antenna (and that might be a reference to one way that Cox Communications subscribers can access Super Bowl 50) is the Las Vegas Philharmonic-Pink Martini production Saturday night at the Smith Center. The Phil and its conductor, Donato Cabrera, are expanding the horizons to embrace this big band/mini-orchestra from Portland, Ore., that is a fusion of many music styles. Pink Martini boasts classical, Latin, pop and jazz influences under the direction of one-time, would-be politician Thomas Lauderdale.
A former aspirant of the mayoral office in Portland, I wonder if Lauderdale is anything like Kyle MacLachlan of “Portlandia,” and we’ll find out at Saturday’s sound check. The vocalist of Pink Martini is Storm Large, with whom I became acquainted during the Frank Sinatra tribute show at Carnegie Hall last April, when Frankie Moreno joined her Tony DeSare and Ryan Silverman with the New York Pops. Large wore her grandfather’s tuxedo that night for a moving take of “My Way.”
Large is originally a rocker, achieving national fame on CBS’ “Rock Star Supernova” in 2006. She’s crossed over ably and is a hit at Carnegie Hall, where she’s performed twice. This is her second appearance at the Smith Center, having appeared at Cabaret Jazz in 2014, and this mix of genres is worth a look-see.
• On the topic of cool stuff at Reynolds Hall …
Brody Dolyniuk left a sly comment on my column about Zowie Bowie’s Chris Phillips leaving Rocks Lounge at Red Rock and Club Madrid at Sunset Station. The founder of Yellow Brick Road and a solid draw across the valley for about 15 years wondered who would leave a steady gig to chase his dream elsewhere, tagging it with, “Oh. Wait …”
Dolyniuk made that very move in the summer of 2011, leaving Las Vegas for Southern California and linking with Windborne Music for a series of symphonic rock shows across the country. Instead of playing to 150 hard-rocking fans at Railhead at Boulder Station with YBR (and that was a real party), Dolyniuk sells out performing arts centers and amphitheaters all over the U.S. He’s back for his sixth appearance at the Smith Center on Friday with the “Symphonic Rock Show” featuring Pink Floyd, The Who, Queen and Led Zeppelin.
Dolyniuk is toeing a sellout at the 2,050-seat Reynolds Hall. He still manages YBR, the classic-rock band he founded in 1997 that still performs on Fremont Street on Thursdays, Club Madrid on Fridays and Texas Station on Saturdays.
But Brody had burned out on YBR by the time he uprooted from Las Vegas. He told me (as opposed to, say, telling my uncle), “After 14 years and a few thousand shows, I got to the point where I am looking at my calendar every day and it’s like, OK, gig tonight, interview tomorrow, phone calls all day long, emails all day long. I need to do a photo shoot with the band, I’ve gotta do new promotional art for the band, and it’s the band, the band. The band becomes 24/7.” Dolyniuk has recently recovered from back surgery to return to the stage, and his MD for Friday’s show is once again Lon Bronson.
And this note-capper: Dolyniuk conceived and fronted one of the greatest shows ever in Las Vegas never to find a home, the “Brody’s World” rock-and-roll impression production. It played a couple of showcases at Ovation at Green Valley Ranch (closed for the bingo mania that gripped Las Vegas in 2012) but never could lure a consistent backer. A show peppered with inspired tributes to David Lee Roth, Ozzy Osbourne, Steven Tyler and Stevie Nicks (oh yes) lives on only in Las Vegas lore.
• I mentioned Bronson already, right? Right. The Lon Bronson Band is back at Club Madrid on Thursday with his second David Bowie tribute since Bowie’s death last month. The cover is zip-nada, as always, and the show runs from 10 p.m.-midnight. I’ll note that it is not a 100-percent Bowie tribute, but there will be ample Bowie and some intense Tony Davich, Eric Sean, Lannie Counts and Lisa Mayer vocal action. Never not great is the Lon.
• Additional pluggage at the Smith Center for Clint Holmes and Domenick Allen. Severe talent onstage for the shows at Cab Jazz on Thursday at 7 p.m. and Friday and Saturday nights at 8:30. The Thursday show is an adjustment for Sunday’s Big Game (catch that on ESPN Deportes, Cox cable subscribers), which has led Holmes to move the matinee show to Thursday night. We’ll see how that plays; the Sunday afternoon crowd is usually the crew who does not prefer a later start. All I can say is: This is a later start. Get there.
Holmes was missed greatly last Tuesday, working on his CD (more on that later) when Frankie Moreno hosted a loosely assembled blues jam in his regular “Under the Influence” series at Cab Jazz. Brother, that was a hang. Jerry Lopez and Jamie Hosmer of Santa Fe & The Fat City Horns; Holmes’ guitarist John Wedemeyer and another guitar great, Jake Langley; and keyboard icon Ronnie Foster all joined what was nearly an unbroken jam. It was a lot like Stifler, but in a ticketed-show format, and the place was ablaze with sound. One of the best shows ever in that room, no question.
The response was so strong that Moreno and the other musicians — especially Wedemeyer — talked of making these types of blues show a recurring happening at Cab Jazz. Smith Center Myron Martin might be up for such; apparently this guy plays a pretty credible Hammond B3.
• Foster, not-so-incidentally, is out of Human Nature, a casualty of the act’s move from a Motown format to its “Jukebox” show opening March 29. No official reason has yet been imparted, but it is a fact that Foster has worked with some serious talent over his career — George Benson and Stevie Wonder, for starters. But it also is fact that no act or band lives eternally, and I expect everyone will survive this split. Foster’s trio is headlining Cabaret Jazz (a venue I can’t seem to escape) at 2 p.m. March 6. Hit the Smith Center website for tickets, and for a nice photo of Ronnie …
• Ever have one of those moments where you wonder, “How did I get to this particular point in life?” Happened again Thursday night about 12:30 a.m. when I was watching a bunch of friends bowl as the movie “Grease 2” played out on big screens over the lanes. Meantime, a guy wearing a red T-Birds letter jacket walked up and pointed a microphone in my face.
“Why, it’s Adrian Zmed!” I called out, not knowing what else to say because this was really Adrian Zmed. He played Johnny Nogarelli in the sequel to “Grease” and hosted a viewing party and night of bowling at Brooklyn Bowl, fittingly enough. As previously noted, Zmed played the role of Danny Zuco more times onstage than any other actor. Someone referred to Zmed as RoboZuco, which fits as well as that vintage letter jacket (never used in the film as that scene was cut).
Among those on hand were Paul Shortino, who famously portrayed muted rock star Duke Fame in “This Is Spinal Tap.” Zmed is hoping to host regular bowling-film events at Brooklyn Bowl, and Shortino is among those he’d like to bring to the party.
Carnival lasts all year at the Rio. With a float occasionally passing overhead and dropping beads while feathered dancers fire up the gamblers below, the Rio tries to keep its 120,000-square foot casino jumping with excitement. Special Brazilian mixed-drinks are also served throughout the casino. The hotel suites tend to be larger than similar priced rooms on the Strip and many offer excellent views with floor to ceiling windows.
The Rio offers some quality shows like "Penn & Teller" and "Chippendales." Many come to the Rio for the nightlife at the VooDoo Lounge, located on the 51st floor, or McFadden's Irish Pub on the casino level.
Others come for a bit relaxation at the Rio Spa or pool area and still others come to shop at the hotel's 60,000 square feet of shops. In each of these endeavors, the Rio attempts to make the experience a bit more fun and spontaneous.
The Rio also offers guests a variety of dining choices from all-American food at the All-American Bar & Grille to Gaylord India Restaurant for something a little spicier and even Carnival World Buffet for the indecisive.