Friday, December 4, 2009
I am crazy about specialty acts. You know, those uniquely talented performers often featured in large production shows? Some are classy, many are off-beat, but every successful specialty act is intertesting.
In pre-Cirque Las Vegas, uncommon specialty acts were commonplace. You see, for a huge show to be staged without long blackouts, 'front-of-the-curtain' entertainers are needed to allow the cast to change and the crew to reset. Jubillee at Bally's always had (and continues to have) great individual performers, including a variety of magicians, jugglers, comics, gauchos, and, for many years, a great crossbow act.
When we put together 'SPLASH' at the Riviera (an unauthorized adaption of the talented Peter Jackson's 'Playboy Fantasy'), three specialty acts allowed for the watery production to flow smoothy. The great stuntman SONNY TIPTON was a highdiving 'SPLASH' standout, as were the motorcycle stunt drivers now known as RIDERS OF THE THUNDERDOME.
One of the Aladdin's best shows ever was PETER & PATRICK JACKSON'S ABRACADABRA, a magic-filled extravaganza featuring a then-likeable KIRBY VAN BURCH, a great talking dog act, the always funny comic-actor FIELDING WEST and a sensational singer, TIM SEARCY. Little wonder my friend Patrick enjoys long lasting Las Vegas success; King Arthur's Tournament continues to shine at the Excaliber.
When the sexy revue CRAZY GIRLS first opened, MAX ALEXANDER was the funny-as-hell host, killing every single set, three -times-a-night.
I will never forget standing with FRANK SINATRA, watching him watch his longtime opening act TOM DREESEN from stage left. Sinatra would laugh- and I mean really laugh-at the wonderfully warm and always funny comic. One night, during a tour with the Buddy Rich Band, Mr. Sinatra told me how much he admired the hard-drumming drummer. "See? This is what comes from sticking with it," he said, pointing out from the wings during one of Buddy's well-earned standing ovations.
I've been thinking about specialty acts recently. I have had the good fortune to book some very talented people. ANDREI SOUMIATIN is by far the best specialty performer working in Branson Missouri, winning cheers and ovations for the clever solo juggling and beautiful adagio he performs with his wife. Classy and athletic, he's a real pro. Andrei's son Anthony is also a world-class performer. MIKE CHIRRICK comes from show business royalty and circus pageantry. Mike's mom and uncle were the best of the very best. Mike's juggling and balancing act wins ovations thanks to his prowess and verve; expert skills that seem second-nature actually come from years of practice.
I've booked my share of not-so-good acts, too, like the guy who ate lightbulbs. Seriously- that was his act: he ate glass. Some people liked his talent, but I still remember waking from a dream that used to slice into my sleep, positive my drool was blood. And I had a quick-change performer, a young lady who came on stage looking like a Michelin spokesman and by the end of her act had dwindled down to a size 3. Oh, I've booked my share of bad magicians along the way, too, but I'm proud that I've always tried to take the time to help them understand why they aren't nearly as good as they think they are, and then suggest, and encourage improvements.
Recently, I've found work for a few specialty acts in Downtown Las Vegas. I like to watch the audience while performers do their thing. I don't care how many stupid Cirque shows come to town- one thing will never change: audiences will always be in awe of peformers with real talent. Me too.
- ► 2010 (85)
- STARS ON THE LAS VEGAS STRIP
- FOR 2010, I WISH YOU BLISS
- GETTING BLOWN-OUT on Christmas Spirits: December 2...
- HANG A SHINING STAR
- HOLLYWOOD GOSSIP TO THE MAX
- MY STREET NAME
- STEVE WYNN IS A HELLUVA GUY
- Painted by FRANK SINATRA
- DEAR ABBY: Are You Dead?
- THIS MIGHT SOUND FUNNY...
- MY SPECIALTY
- TYPING, HYPING & SKYPING
- NICK THUNE on JAY LENO THIS WEEK!
- ▼ December (14)