Las Vegas Sun

April 26, 2019

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Golden Rainbow’s annual Ribbon of Life show goes on at SLS

Rehersal: Golden Rainbow's Ribbon of Life

Christopher DeVargas

Dancers rehearse for Golden Rainbow’s upcoming annual Ribbon of Life benefit show, taking place on June 24 at the Foundry at SLS Las Vegas.

When the folks at Golden Rainbow, the grass-roots nonprofit organization that provides housing, financial assistance and other support to Southern Nevadans living with HIV and AIDS, got together to plan this year’s Ribbon of Life fundraising production, the focus was on a Broadway show. After all, last year’s event was a Vegas all-star version of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Jesus Christ Superstar.”

But the many different local performers who line up to volunteer their time and participate in Ribbon of Life — combined with this year’s venue, the modern showroom and concert hall the Foundry at SLS — dictated that the production should get back to its variety show-style traditions.

“Doing a Broadway show was met with great anticipation and excitement, but all the magicians, jugglers and comedians were wondering, where do we fit in?” says Gary Costa, Golden Rainbow’s executive director. “So we said let’s go back to the variety show format and really highlight the talent and amazing variety of performers who put in their time year after year.”

The result is called “The Show Must Go On,” an original show with all live music (and a British Invasion theme) set for Sunday afternoon at SLS. Performers from “Baz” at Palazzo, Human Nature at Venetian, “Zombie Burlesque” at Planet Hollywood, Spiegelworld’s shows “Opium” and “Absinthe,” Cirque du Soleil’s “Zumanity, “Mystere” and “The Beatles LOVE,” “Tenors of Rock,” Frank Marino’s Divas Las Vegas, “Fantasy” at Luxor, burlesque shows “X Country” and “X Rocks” and many more will participate in the show, featuring music by George Michael, the Beatles, David Bowie, Elton John and Queen.

The cast of 150 includes entertainers from approximately 30 different shows. Las Vegas entertainers from on and off the Strip love to participate in the annual fundraising production because it provides the opportunity to step out of the box, to do something different from their daily onstage grind.

“It’s also great to watch how they combine and join a cast with their friends,” says Ribbon of Life producer Pietra Sardelli. “Without exception the performers have always been so thankful to us for putting on the show and allowing them to perform, and it’s interesting because we can’t do this show without [them] and here they are thanking us.”

Ribbon of Life is also a great way to build awareness for Golden Rainbow’s mission, which continues to evolve. Costa says the organization was founded as a way to provide financial support for those who had fallen on hard times due to coping with HIV and AIDS, and as medication and treatment plans have improved and kept patients alive longer, the need for other services has grown.

“We are seeing an increase in the number of people who want to re-enter society. Their bodies have bounced back after they may have been on disability for a number of years and many need to go back to work,” he says. “So Golden Rainbow has expanded our mission to only provide housing and financial assistance but programs designed to help people engage in healthier practices and maintain their health and augment their medications, as well as meditation and yoga and classes like that, and programs that provide opportunities to go back to work. There are job training programs that can help pay for additional schooling or certain types of training.”

The 32nd annual Ribbon of Life “The Show Must Go On” production will be performed at 1 p.m. June 24 (the red carpet reception and silent auction starts at 11 a.m.) at the Foundry at SLS Las Vegas (2535 Las Vegas Blvd., 702-761-7000). Tickets start at $45 with proceeds going to Golden Rainbow and more information can be found at