Thursday, Jan. 29, 1998 | 11:31 a.m.
A little bit of deepest, darkest Africa is creeping into Henderson as actors vie for a chance to be half of the Reserve hotel-casino's new jungle couple, "Congo Jack" and "Monsoon Mary."
The Reserve, a new 224-room hotel-casino set to open early next month, is looking for the perfect man and woman to play the couple and greet visitors.
An open casting call was held this week at Farrington Productions, which is handling the project. The call brought out about two dozen aspiring actors.
Heather Burdette was among the hopefuls to take part in the audition.
Burdette, who turns 27 this week, already has experience entertaining in casinos. She plays a "Destiny Guide" at the Magical Empire at Caesar's Palace.
It will be a tough choice if she gets yet another coveted role in a casino production, she said.
"The people at Landmark Productions (at Caesar's) have been really good to me," Burdette said. "But if the money's higher (at The Reserve), I'll take it, because the rent comes first."
Burdette added the she would love to work with the animals involved in the production.
One person who knows all about working with animals is Tony Halstead, who arrived in town just four days ago.
Halstead spent seven years at Sea World in Texas training and performing with sea lions, seals and even killer whales.
"That's when I really got into this (acting)," he explained. "I was making a million and a half people a year smile."
"Just being able to make people smile is a great, great gift."
Since pursuing a career in acting, Halstead has added Foster's and Bud Lite beer commercials to his credits, along with a small role in the upcoming movie the "Newton Boys."
Blair Farrington, president of Farrington Productions, said he is still accepting resumes and will have about five of the finalists back possibly next week for a second audition.
"We will do some more readings and character interpretations. We are also looking for the right chemistry between the actors," he added.
The characters of "Congo Jack," a daredevil pilot, and "Monsoon Mary," a lost girl raised raised by a nomadic tribe, who fall in love, were created by designer Henry Conversano, according to Pat Merl, Farrington's vice president of operations.
"He created the characters, but it is our job to bring them to life."
The Reserve plans to base the hotel-casino's "Congo Jack Cafe" and the "Monsoon Mary Lounge" on the characters, as well as have a line of merchandise and an outreach program based on the duo.