Las Vegas Sun

April 25, 2019

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John Katsilometes reminisces with Wayne Brady about MGM theme park

The MGM Grand Adventures Theme Park is long closed, but the attraction lives on in Elvis Jackson.

I mean, Wayne Brady.

Brady, who begins a limited engagement at the Venetian on Thursday, bills himself as one of the most versatile performers in show business who sings, dances, acts and performs improvisational comedy with equal aptitude. He picked up those skills more than a decade ago while plying his craft at the ill-fated MGM Grand theme park, performing in the daily "Grandmosphere" production and as part of a "Legends in Concert" lineup. It was in the latter show that, during a moment of inspired improvisation, Brady developed a black Elvis Presley character he called Elvis Jackson that became a crowd favorite.

Brady said he performed at Grand Adventures from 1993 to 1995. The park didn't perform nearly as well as he did. It closed in 2000 and today is the site of the Signature high-rise project.

"I remember my time there very distinctively. I had interviewed as a singer for 'Jubilee' and I was not their type ... Who knows what would have happened if I'd gotten that job," the 34-year-old Brady said Thursday during a phone conversation. "Then I went to the MGM Grand and auditioned and became part of the singers and dancers who performed throughout the park." By then Brady was a theme park veteran who had performed in the musical production "Beetlejuice" at Universal Studios in Florida and at Six Flags in St. Louis .

"I did everything. I was a swashbuckler in one part of the park, singing, 'Wherever we go, whatever we do, we're gonna go through it together!' " Brady said, laughing. "I was dressed as a painter, singing and dancing with Betty Boop. I sang 'Great Balls of Fire' in the '50s revue in 'Legends.' That whole experience shaped some of the stuff I would perform onstage. I became a jack-of-all-trades because of my years in the theme park."

Brady upgraded more than his stage capabilities. He arrived in Vegas with a beat-up old Toyota Corolla lacking air conditioning. "Working as a full-time entertainer, seven days a week, I was able to get the kind of car I needed in Las Vegas - a newer Toyota Corolla." With air conditioning.


An event to note in the Downtown Arts District: The art gallery Edward & Edward celebrates its grand opening from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Saturday. The space at 1039 S. Main St., Suite 150, is owned by Edward Van Der Veer and features the work of painter and wood sculptor Edward Sobanski, a remarkable story in that he is able to create fine art despite being part ly blind, with just enough sight to visualize the canvas. The gallery is also displaying the work of emerging artists Niki J. Jands and Carlos De Las Heras, and the photography of Raphael Espinoza Luera. If you visit, block off some time to talk with Van Der Veer, whose enthusiasm about his business is boundless ...

In advance of the "The Simpsons Movie," which opens nationwide on July 27, 7-Eleven is considering remodeling 11 stores across the country as Kwik-E-Marts, the convenience store owned by Apu in "The Simpsons" TV show. The company has not decided where it will open the refitted stores, but we ought to have one in Vegas, where we duplicate everything anyway ...

Scenes from Fremont Street: At the "Chippendales" photo kiosk on Wednesday night, two performers in stage attire had to bundle up in trench coats and duck under a heat lamp to ward of the chill ... A strange lineup of NFL memorabilia at the Las Vegas Club, which displays framed jerseys worn by Warren Moon, Thurman Thomas, Marcus Allen, Michael Irvin and J.J. Stokes. Who is the odd fit in that star-studded field? That'd be Stokes ...

Reader spots a plate on a dark gray Volkswagen (didn't catch the make), IMTWNB. The plate frame reads, "Identical Twin," so we're thinking this is Twin B.