Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2006 | 7:11 a.m.
The National Finals Rodeo has a connection to "Phantom - The Las Vegas Spectacular."
The Phantom won't be in the rodeo, but Elena Batman - who has the role of Carlotta in the Venetian production - will.
Batman will sing the national anthem during the opening of today's competition.
Singing the anthem at rodeos is nothing new to the opera star, a native of Greeley, Colo.
"I sang it for the Greeley Stampede Rodeo," Batman said. "It was one of my first big jobs. I rode out on horseback into the arena and sang."
Batman grew up around horses. Her mother was raised on a cattle ranch, her father on a farm. She competed in equestrian events in the Midwest and in high school rodeos for a year.
Batman hasn't ridden since her daughter was born three years ago.
"I thought I would get back into it, but with the baby I have to put it on hold for a while," she said. "But I haven't given it up. I still have all the equipment."
Batman has been with various "Phantom" productions, off and on, for 16 years - Broadway, touring companies and now Las Vegas. She estimates she has been Carlotta for more than 2,000 performances.
She's delighted with the local production.
"Everyone seems pleased with it," she said. "It retains the integrity of the show, but there are some wonderful things they have added. Technology is the biggest change. In 18 years, from the time it opened in New York, technology has changed quite a bit."
Batman first played Carlotta on Broadway, full time, in 1993. Before that she was an understudy.
"I never get bored with it," she said. "It's a great character, and very demanding. She's just so much fun."
Vote early, vote often
Ten-year-old Henderson resident Ellie Smith made her singing debut on national television Monday on CBS' "The Early Show," performing Barbra Streisand's "Don't Rain on My Parade."
The performance was part of "Living Room LIVE!" a competition among young entertainers. Each Monday "The Early Show" - seen locally at 8 a.m. on KLAS Channel 8 - will air excerpts of three videos selected by producers.
Viewers vote online ( www.cbsnews.com/sections/earlyshow/main500202.shtml ) for the one they liked most - best, funniest, most outrageous. The winner advances in the weekly competition. The grand winner will be invited to the show in the coming weeks for a final performance.
Voting ends at noon today (and each Wednesday). The winner is announced during Thursday's show.
Competing against Ellie in the first week of the competition were Makaala Perry, 7, of Honolulu, who sang "Tomorrow," and the rock trio Stuck on Stupid from Scotia, N.Y.
Ellie, daughter of Rick and Geri Smith, is no novice to performing. She is a regular at UNLV football and basketball functions and has sung at games for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Arizona Diamondbacks and Sacramento Kings.
At age 8, Ellie appeared with Sally Struthers in the Nevada Performing Arts production of "Annie," and later starred as Annie in another local production.
Peach sings the blues
For a change of pace, getting away from the cowboy entertainment, you might like to check out the blues scene at the Sand Dollar, where Peach will be playing.
Peach was voted blues artist of the year by the Los Angeles Music Awards and the South Bay Music Awards for 2006 and has been nominated for the same title by All Access Magazine Music Awards.
Peach's band includes keyboardist Ken Stange (known for his work with the Dennis Quaid Band and Joe Cocker, among others); drummer Tom Walsh (Joe Cocker) and bassist Eric T. Ward (Marvin Gaye). Joining the band for both nights is saxophonist Jimmy Roberts (Rod Stewart).
Details: 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday ; Sand Dollar Lounge, 3355 Spring Mountain Road; call for ticket prices; 871-6651