Wednesday, July 18, 2018 | 2 a.m.
It’s been four years since timeshare industry magnate David Siegel purchased the hotel and casino formerly and most prominently known as the Las Vegas Hilton, a familiar destination with a long legacy of big Vegas entertainment. He stamped his company’s name on it and promised massive improvements and renovations. New restaurants arrived and hotel rooms were upgraded and converted to timeshare units.
Most recently, Westgate Las Vegas has rolled out an ambitious entertainment roster, anchored by the return of Barry Manilow to the International Theater — he performed there from 2005 to 2010 — and supported by three other new shows arriving since February. It’s almost too much to keep up with, which is why I decided to check out three of the Westgate’s offerings in one weeknight extravaganza.
The evening began with the family-friendly appeal of “The Magic of Jen Kramer,” which opened at the Westgate Cabaret in May. Kramer is an energetic Yale graduate who’s been playing small Vegas venues, tours and cruise ships for a few years and has also appeared on TV’s “Penn & Teller: Fool Us” and “Masters of Illusion.” She engaged the audience with ease, lined up a shuffled Rubik’s Cube behind her back with one hand, impressed with some sleek sleight-of-hand card tricks and made a vanished hundred dollar bill appear in a tube of lipstick.
Some Vegas magic heavyweights were in the audience, including the great Mac King from Harrah’s and David Copperfield producers Chris Kenner and Homer Liwag, and they seemed highly entertained by Kramer’s act. There are similar threads between Kramer’s and Copperfield’s shows; there are differences in the scope of illusion and production but both focus on connecting on a human, emotional level and inspiring nostalgic wonder. Kramer pulled it off by adding pieces to a puzzle without increasing its size. She definitely loves her job and her new Westgate gig, presented at 6 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.
Catching the last trick caused me to miss the opening number of “Soundtrack” at the International Theater, a magnetic musical production combining longtime Las Vegas favorites Clint Holmes and Earl Turner. Along with their versatile, impeccable eight-piece band under the direction of Christian Tamburr along with sensational singer Serena Henry, the guys ramble and roll through hits from everybody’s famous artists and share their own musical backstories, never slowing down or missing a beat. Holmes shines when bouncing off the band in a performance of a track off his Grammy-nominated album “Rendezvous” while Turner gets super smooth during acoustic covers of The Beatles’ “Yesterday” and Prince’s “Purple Rain.” Both entertainers can do it all and have been doing it all for decades, making “Soundtrack” a must-see. We’re more than halfway through 2018 and I don’t see anything coming along that can challenge this treasure for the title of Best New Show this year. It plays at 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday when Manilow’s not in town.
I closed my night back at the Cabaret with Jennifer Romas’ “Sexxy,” the topless revue that’s been running here since Romas, a dancer and choreographer with plenty of Vegas experience, developed and launched the show for the Westgate in early 2015. It’s been doing so well that the casino just signed “Sexxy” for four more years and it’s easy to see why: the energy level is off the charts, the performers are alluring and animated, there’s comedy and strong singing from Gabriella Versace and even a daring aerial act. “Sexxy” wastes no time distinguishing itself from similar Vegas shows and is clearly a great complement to the Westgate’s entertainment landscape. This place has it all.
Explore all Westgate shows at westgateresorts.com.