Las Vegas Sun

November 20, 2018

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In summoning a new star, did Fantasy cross Bridges?

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The 10th anniversary of Fantasy at the Luxor.

Producer Anita Mann always seems on an unending quest to achieve consistency in her adult production at Luxor, “Fantasy.”

This is true even as she has summoned the third star vocalist to appear in the show in less than a year.

But this is quite a vocalist.

Lorena Peril, long of Las Vegas stages and late of “Sin City Bad Girls” at the Las Vegas Hilton (the show closed this month), is joining “Fantasy” on Aug. 1 as the show’s primary singer, host and driving force. This is the role Stephanie Dianna Sanchez played for nine years until leaving the Atrium Showroom production in October. At that time, Angelica Bridges was hired to infuse some star power into the cast – Bridges of course is a former “Baywatch” cast member, Playboy model and lead singer for the pop act Strawberry Blonde.

The certainties: Peril, like Sanchez, is a dynamite singer and strong stage presence who has the type of lights-out voice that carry the show seven nights per week. She’s terrifically attractive, too, a necessity for any adult production. Bridges, whose voice is better suited for pop than the power required in the “Fantasy” show, has soldiered on admirably in a tough assignment – replacing the popular Sanchez has been a challenge from the start.

The uncertainties: What happens to Bridges?

In a move similar to how she offered Sanchez a scaled-back role when Bridges arrived, Mann has conferred with Bridges this week and offered her a role as “guest star,” in the show, performing select numbers a few nights a week while Peril assumes the permanent role as primary singer. It’s a more delicate dance than anything you’ll see onstage at Luxor, but what Mann seeks is to present both Bridges’ dazzling beauty and star power and Peril’s strong presence and vocals.

This relationship between Mann and Peril is nothing new. Mann has for years been a fan of Peril’s, and the moment Peril heard that “Sin City” was about to close – about two weeks ago – she called Mann. The “Fantasy” producer has long sought a means to bring Peril into the show, dating back five years at least. But there was no sensible role for Peril at that time, with Sanchez more than capably fronting the production.

The vocalist role in "Fantasy" is crucial to the entire production -- she sings several numbers, live, each night, and it irks Mann that a strong number like "Roxanne" has recently been "tracked" in the show. The role, too, is typically "covered," though Bridges did appear in video form (and even, very briefly, onstage) topless.

Bridges met with Mann on Wednesday night, after Mann flew to Las Vegas from Los Angeles to catch that evening’s performance. Bridges, who had already asked Mann about cutting her weekly schedule back to five days a week even before Peril became involved in the conversation, says she is still weighing her options and today is driving back to Los Angeles.

If Bridges does accept the new role, the show will further echo “Peepshow,” where the star, Holly Madison, is not required to carry the production scene-to-scene. Mann also compares the approach to how “Crazy Horse” at MGM Grand occasionally features such “guest stars” as Carmen Electra and Dita Von Teese. Meaning, the stars come and go, but the core performance doesn’t change.

And that’s what Mann, amid this flurry of changes, is trying to put onstage.

Shimmer’s future

As noted, “Sin City Bad Girls,” is no more at Shimmer Cabaret. “Voices,” starring Lani Misalucha, has also ceased production in the ornately designed Hilton lounge.

But the Shimmer, itself, has “never been more viable,” as Hilton exec (and recent back-surgery recovery patient) Rick White said this week. Plans are for Shimmer to be the venue for the “Menopause”-esque production “Nunsense” beginning in September.

Famous people who have appeared in this madcap musical, which this year celebrates its 25th anniversary as one of the more popular off-Broadway show in history, include Peggy Cass, Phyllis Diller, Georgia Engel, Phyllis Diller, Sally Struthers and Cindy Williams. Rue McClanahan starred in the TV adaptation of the show. There is no mistaking who the Hilton is trying to target – fans of “Menopause,” which did fine at the Shimmer before moving to the Luxor two years ago, where tonight it celebrates its 2,000th performance in Las Vegas.

Also, Trent Carlini is parlaying his successful Monday night Elvis tribute show at the Hilton Theater to a regular five-night-a-week schedule at the Shimmer beginning Aug. 4. It’s a fine comeback for Carlini, a casualty of Wyrick Theatre who has long been one of the best Elvis impressionists working anywhere (including, occasionally, Laughlin). Of course, Andrew "Dice" Clay remains a Shimmer stalwart. He's back Aug. 4-8.

The result of all these shifts, White says, is, “Shimmer is doing just fine.”

Olivia trumpets rainforest preservation

Olivia Newton-John and husband “Amazon” John Easterling are in town for Easterling’s annual “Amazon Summit,” an educational symposium centering on the preservation of the Amazon Rainforest and the health properties of the botanicals extracted exclusively from that region. Tonight at 6:30, the couple are hosting the free event, “The Amazon Showcase,” at Marcello Ballroom at the Venetian. The summit takes place through July 25, but this is the only open-to-the public event.

Newton-John is of course a star in the “Grease Sing-A-Long” update of the classic musical making its way round the country (wasn’t that film originally produced as a sing-along anyway?), and is also working on a new CD, titled, “Grace and Gratitude: Renewed,” which is due in September. Her next film is, “"Score: A Hockey Musical,” which is out in October. In spirit, the film reminds of “Zanadu,” on ice.

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at twitter.com/JohnnyKats.

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