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October 19, 2017

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Cathy Rigby introduces ‘Panda!’ at Palazzo; Holly Madison remains tight-lipped about Strip show


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Opening night of “Panda!” on Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014, in Palazzo.

Opening Night of ‘Panda!’

Opening night of Launch slideshow »


Olympic gymnast Cathy Rigby was a surprise guest and hostess at the official U.S. premiere of the spectacular “Panda!” at Palazzo during the Saturday night celebrations.

There was a full turnout of celebrities along with the 2014 Miss Nevada USA and 2014 Miss Nevada Teen USA contestants led by 2013 Miss Nevada USA Chelsea Caswell and 2013 Miss Nevada Teen USA Amanda Jenkins.

A pre-show party was held at the nearby Atrium Waterfall at Palazzo, where I mingled with the cast of “Fantasy” at Luxor, Tropicana magician headliner Murray Sawchuck and his wife Chloe Crawford of “Fantasy,” zany Luxor headliner comic Carrot Top, Claire Sinclair of “Pin Up” at the Stratosphere, illusionist Marc Savard and the cast of “Rock of Ages” at the Venetian welcoming their new neighbors.

My preview of “Panda!” was posted last Tuesday ahead of its first performance on the Strip that evening.

Also there, platinum-blonde beauty Holly Madison with the team from Minus 5 Ice Lounge, all remaining silent about my published report that they are joining forces for her new burlesque cabaret show at Mandalay Bay. They wouldn’t even confirm that an official announcement is coming within six weeks and that construction of the former Forty Deuce nightclub will be underway soon for a spring opening.

“Panda!” is exactly as advertised. The visually stunning video effects are a dazzling explosion of vivid imagery in colors the likes of which we’ve never seen before on a Las Vegas stage — with many of the actors balanced carefully high up within them.

The skilled performers marvel with their mesmerizing acrobatics and, just like a Disney park, the costumed animal characters are adorable as pandas. There’s no need for spoken words once the narrator’s English-language, scene-setting introduction is completed.

You know this will be an all-family hit just from well-heeled first-nighters stealing the display baby toy pandas. I watched well-dressed moms and dads feverishly untying wire that held the tiny toy pandas to bamboo sticks that ringed the reception area and decorated the bars!

Add in the energy of kung-fu masters from Shaolin Temple and high-flying artists of China National Acrobatic Troupe, and you have a unique, Far Eastern musical theatrical spectacle.

Top it all off with dozens of panda-suited performers who race through the theater to interact with the audience, and you have a memorable night of unique entertainment.

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

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