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August 22, 2019

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Penn Jillette’s ‘Director’s Cut’ should carve cult following; Ron White hosts righteous hang

Penn Jillette


Penn Jillette plays the role of Herbert Blount in “Director’s Cut,” his new movie, which premiered Thursday, June 9, 2016, at Brenden Theaters at the Palms in Las Vegas.

Penn & Teller on Broadway

Penn Jillette, right, and Teller perform in Launch slideshow »

The Kats Report Bureau satellite unit hit a few particularly inspired performances over the last few days. The sites were favorite haunts Cabaret Jazz at the Smith Center, the Palms and Mirage.

Updates from those locales, and elsewhere, are to follow:

• Penn Jillette’s appearance at the Reason Rally last weekend didn’t go off without a hitch, or a Hitchens. An uncommonly long soundcheck on the Washington Mall kept Jillette in the grassy expanse for several hours. But reportedly, he did deliver a spot-on rendition of his ode to the late Christopher Hitchens, “No Martyrs, No Saints,” for 30,000 fans assembled to show the power of the “nonreligious” voting bloc.

On Thursday, Jillette’s film “Director’s Cut” celebrated its Las Vegas premiere at Brenden Theaters at the Palms. “Instant cult classic!” says the Johnny. Directed by Adam Rifkin, the film is actually a movie within a movie, with Jillette cast as Herbert Blount, a creepy filmmaker who is surreptitiously filming the making of a cliché-riddled cop film starring Harry Hamlin and Missi Pyle. Blount stalks Pyle through much of the film until (redacted for revealing crucial plot details).

The film features Teller in a wholly unnerving, and speaking, role as a suspected sniper and features one of the great lines ever in cinema, Jillette saying “God bless crowdfunding!” Something of an inside reference in a film loaded with such. Elsewhere, Jillette’s new book, “Presto,” an account of his weight loss (at 100 pounds and holding) is due for release in August. Before that, “Fool Us,” taped last month at the Rio, premieres July 11 on the CW.

What else? The Jillettes saw Bob Dylan and Mavis Staples perform Friday night at the Greek Theater at UC Berkeley. Otherwise, pretty quiet for this crew ...

• Ron White’s regular appearances in the standup series Aces of Comedy at the Mirage are worth checking out. That entire series is especially strong, with Jim Jefferies in town June 24-25, followed by Jay Leno on July 2, Kathy Griffin on July 8 and Wayne Brady on July 9. Bill Maher returns July 22.

White is a veteran of the Las Vegas stage, and his show is routinely loaded with great material. White is at once confident in his stage disposition yet self-deprecating in his appearance, saying he has gained some weight to keep women away so he can remain monogamous. “And it has worked like a charm!” After introducing his 81-year-old mother, Barbara, onstage, he told a story that evidently is absolutely true: Barbara once slipped an Ambien into a sandwich being eaten by White’s mother-in-law so she would stop talking.

The mother of White’s vocalist wife, Margo Rey, who happens to hail from Mexico, slept, snored and continued telling stories in Spanish as she slipped into dreamland. When she awoke, she continued to tell stories about the wild dreams she’d had in a slumber that lasted something like 12 hours, causing White to ask, “Mom? Can you make some more sandwiches?”

White and Rey fairly take over the scene at the hotel during his headlining appearance in Terry Fator Theater. Rey is an outstanding singer who performs a set at the new Parlour lounge after White’s show lets out. On Friday, she was backed, for the first time, by the Uli Geissendoerfer Trio, led by the outstanding musician and composers who teach jazz studies at UNLV. Around the room were White friends such as Carrot Top and his opening act, Geechy Guy, whose autobiography should be titled, “Killing It, 20 Minutes at a Time.”

The night ended with the crowd spilling into the casino, having been treated to shots of White’s Number Juan Tequila. It was not quite a conga line, but you know who was at the front? Barbara, who was still wide awake …

Golden Rainbow's 2013 'Ribbon of Life'

Golden Rainbow's 2013 Launch slideshow »

• There is still time to obtain tickets for Golden Rainbow’s Ribbon of Life production, the annual fundraiser benefiting the AIDS treatment and awareness organization. The show starts at 1 p.m. Sunday; tickets are $50, $75, $125 and $200 and available at

Those scheduled to take part include headliners Matt Goss, Murray Sawchuck and the gents from Human Nature. Also taking part are cast members from “Jersey Boys,” Human Nature, Jabbawockeez, “O,” “Mystere,” “Zumanity,” “Steve Wynn’s Showstoppers,” “Jubilee!” alums, “MJ One,” “Vegas! The Show,” Chippendales, “Le Reve — The Dream,” The Coppola Rhythm Ensemble, Coyote Ugly, Donny & Marie, “Frank Marino’s Divas Las Vegas,” “MJ Live,” “Pin Up,” “Spoofical the Musical,” “Zombie Burlesque,” “53X,” “Alice: A Steampunk Concert Fantasy,” “Baz: Star Crossed Love” and more.

If it seems a stacked deck, it is: 358 performers are taking part in the show. Call it an embarrassment of riches.

Frankie Moreno’s Opening Night

Opening night of Frankie Moreno’s “Under the Influence” on Wednesday, May 4, 2016, at Planet Hollywood. Launch slideshow »

Prince at Super Bowl 41: Media Day

Prince performs during the Super Bowl 41 Halftime Show media day. Super Bowl 41 between the Indianapolis Colts and Chicago Bears took place Sunday, Feb. 4, 2007, in Miami. The Colts won 29-17. Prince died Thursday, April 21, 2016, at his home near Minneapolis. Launch slideshow »

• Frankie Moreno’s “Under the Influence” at Planet Hollywood Showroom is going dark though the week of June 21. When it returns, it is to be on a two-shows-per-week schedule, performed Fridays and Saturdays. This is the most verifiable information I can impart about the future of the show at this moment. “Under the Influence” was dropped to two nights, Tuesdays and Fridays, two weeks ago. Moreno is taking a planned break through next week.

Meantime, Moreno’s live-concert special recorded in February 2014 at the Stratosphere airs on PBS at 8 p.m. The fundraiser for the public-television station also is an offer for meet-and-greet tickets to “Under the Influence” for those calling in.

• Sometimes the take-away from an event is not reflective of the whole experience. Can we agree on this? Such was the case when Jennifer Romas simply slayed the “Forever Purple” tribute to Prince on Tuesday night at Cabaret Jazz.

Romas performed her signature bathtub number from her topless production, “Sexxy,” at Westgate Las Vegas. Romas was characteristically explosive in a performance of “Darling Nikki,” with Tony Davich on vocals (and if ever a vocal performance went underappreciated, it was this one). One day she should team with David O’Mer of “Absinthe” for a “dueling tubs” number …

Anyway, there were concerns about this act going in: Romas’ performance in “Sexxy” is topless, which she addressed by wearing pasties at the Smith Center. But the combination of Romas’ splashing, thrashing choreography and the electricity onstage made for some anxious moments. It’s not a stretch to say that Smith Center President Myron Martin was livid when he watched the scene unfold and made his way to the stage after the number to help clean up (those in the room who have known Martin for years said they have never seen him so angry).

To be fair to everyone, it was clear that Romas performed the number she expected to perform. This was not a case of cutting loose with something unplanned; when she showed up to the venue with a bathtub, it was rightfully assumed the bathtub act was in the offing. Most of those seated in the venue anticipated that act in the middle of the show when they saw Romas listed among the performers. It’s just that the specific information about the bathtub act never reached Martin, who later said in a text, “It was a big, unanticipated mess.”

So don’t expect a return of this particular act to the Cabaret Jazz stage. But, wow, what a performance. Electrifying, even …

Now, in the interest of fleshing out this full show (as it were), jazz great Michelle Johnson performed something of a miracle to pull the event together just days after Prince’s death April 21. The night unfolded as nearly an unbroken jam of Prince’s greatest material as performed by Reggie Johnson of Boyz II Men on keys, music director Jeff Neiman on synthesizer, Walter Jones of The Stylistics and O’Jays on bass, John Wedemeyer of The Righteous Brothers and Clint Holmes’ band on guitar, Johnny Johnson of Boyz II Men on guitar, Earl Campbell of Sheena Easton’s band on drums, Darryl Borges of The Bee Gees Gold and Opportunity Village’s music program on percussion and a horn section of Nathan Tanouye, Jason Levi and Julian Tanaka.

The singers and performers were an all-star cast of the city’s top vocalists: Johnson, Tymara Walker, Naomi Mauro, Tyriq Johnson, Jon Celentano, Dani Corley, Stephanie Calvert, Skye Dee Miles, Lorena Peril, Rockie Brown, Frankie Scinta, Janien Valentine, Bruce Williamson, Patty Janura, Toscha Comeaux, Eric Sean, Jassen Allen, Chris Lash, Lannie Counts, Bucky Heard and — last but never least — Sonny Turner of The Platters.

What else … ah, Sean & John from “Absinthe,” tapping to great response.

A rip-roaring night, one in which we actually did have to towel off … but as they say, no harm, no foul, and pass the soap.

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