Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Viva, Las Vegas!

Shows, attractions and other 'stuff':

"O" I approached this with a sense of sticker shock ($150 a seat?!) and cynicism as I felt it was overhyped by anyone who has seen it. After experiencing "O" I would have paid up to $200 for a center section seat and I became my own personal pet peeve. I couldn't stop verbally gasping, 'oh'ing, 'ah'ing and 'oh my god'ing as each new visual appeared. It is the most amazing piece of stagecraft I have ever, or possibly will ever, witness. Truly an incredible experience! I was in section 104, Row D, Seat 21, which is too close and a bit too far to the side. I will go again and hopefully sit closer center and towards the rear of the 100's section or the front of the 200's section. The only criticism I could toss at this is that director Franco Dragone gets in the way with his clowns/dancers, who are distracting of the actual acrobatics happening above them. I don't know why he insists on that...

"The Bellagio Dancing Waters" I ran into these around 8 p.m. in the evening, when they are 'active' every 15 minutes. I spent nearly an hour there, standing in the middle of the sidewalk in awe! (Sorry, Sherri, but I must disagree with your assessment!) This football field long pool of fountains was incredibly choreographed to whatever the music was at the time. I saw "All That Jazz," some Trisha Yearwood song and Andrea Bocelli's big hit, which I can't remember the title to right now. The Bocelli was the most beautifully enacted piece of the three I saw. And the "All That Jazz" (from the movie) was sort of funny, as the fountains actually became the fringe of a dress at one point! I could have stood there for a long time, had my feet not been killing me.

"Avenue Q" Featuring John Tartaglia (Tony Nominee) and Rick Lyon from the original cast, I thought this was just delightful! There was no question in my mind why Tartaglia was nominated for a Tony for this. Even though he was a bit over-the-top during Rod's big coming-out scene, what he has to do technically, physically and vocally was truly intense! As was Brynn O'Malley as "Katie Monster/Lucy The Slut." In fact, I thought she is far superior vocally at least to that of Stephanie D'Abruzzo, who originated the role and is on the cast album. O'Malley has a fabulous vocal range! She used a fairly high and squeaky soprano for Katie Monster and a rich, deep alto for Lucy The Slut. The rest of the cast kept up with these two and special mention should go to Rita Dolphin, who is the 'silent partner' when an extra pair of hands are needed for the puppets, and plays one of the "Bad Idea Bears," who I loved! Technically, the backstage must resemble something out of "Noises Off!" The number of versions of each puppet started to remind me of all the plates of sardines in "Noises Off." I could picture each actor running backstage and trying to figure out which puppet he/she was to bring out next, not to mention the multiple story set that they had to climb around! The animated visuals were a surprise treat, too. The theater that Steve Wynn has built for the production doesn't have a bad seat in the house! I was in Orchestra, Row G, and the last seat against the wall, but had a completely unobstructed view of the production.

"The Wynn Gallery" Steve Wynn has a collection of 15 MASTERPIECES on display at the Wynn Gallery. It is a stunning little collection of Picasso, Monet, Mondrian, Rembrandt, Warhol and I don't remember the rest. But each one is something out of a text book! I actually walked out of there breathless! (Yes, Kirk and Gretchen, I viewed art that was breathtaking!) Unfortunately, there wasn't a catalog available to take home and remember what I saw. It was perhaps the best $6 I have ever spent!

"The Liberace Museum" Though it is in a strip mall, the treasures inside are truly outrageous! The docents were quite helpful and knowledgeable when it came to my questions about some of the costumes. They weigh up to 200 pounds. What appeared to be out of his personal collection of clothes was actually carefully planned and designed as part of a production, taking up to 18 months to create. The detail of embroidery and beading is outrageous. It is WAY out of the way, but worth the little trip.

"Brunch at the Wynn Buffet" This was a beautiful and tasty experience! I decided I needed to explore the Wynn on Sunday, as I was rushed on Saturday night before and after "Avenue Q." The Buffet at the Wynn is in a gorgeous setting, as is the entire hotel, actually. And the eggs benedict was perfect! This is my standard as to whether a 'steam table brunch' is good or not. And this was great! The pastry/desert section was overwhelming. I had this delicate little marshmallow cream custard thing that was just heavenly! I loved it! It is a bit pricey ($30) but worth it.

"Penn and Teller" I decided that I needed to see Penn and Teller in Las Vegas. I was a bit disappointed that this was the same show that they toured through San Francisco a couple of years ago. There were no new bits or tricks. But they're still fun to watch. And I did get my program signed by both of them in the lobby after the show. I was able to comment to Teller, that I wished I brought my copy of the "The Fantasticks" with me and that he was the best thing about that movie. He laughed and was sort of surprised and remarked, "But I only had two bits in it." I also told Penn that I wish I had a poster of "The Aristocrats" with me and how much I loved that movie. He was genuinely grateful.

"The shopping malls" The Venetian was gorgeous! I loved wandering around there! AND I was able to actually BUY things! The 'bit' with the river and gondoliers was actually not as cheesy as I thought it might have been. When I go back to Vegas, i think I would like to stay there. On the other hand, The Forum at Caesar's Palace was a bit disappointing. Yes, there are the animatronic shows at both ends of the mall, but I just wasn't that overly impressed. Though I have to admit that watching fireballs emit at the "Atlantis" show was sort of interesting in that I wondered what would happen if the place actually caught on fire... The exit is a couple blocks away, it seemed. The stores are all terribly high end and overpriced. I had to do a self-intervention to keep from buying a $275 pair of shoes.

"The Star Trek Experience" Hmm. $40 for two simulation rides and a 'gallery' of props and costumes. I was deeply underwhelmed by this 'Experience.' Not only that, but it took much more time than I originally expected or intended and I had to rush to get dinner and make it to my evening of "Avenue Q" and "O".

In the midst of all the touristy stuff, I also got to do dinner with Tommy (San Jose Paul's brother) at the Mirage Buffet, which was quite good, actually and a nice time.

I also got to reconnect with Janie Lee (after SIX YEARS!) and spent most of the day on Thursday with her, which was great! (She looks great! Love the hair and even though she denies it, she looks in great shape!) She gave me a nice tour of the 'suburbs' of Las Vegas and I got to visit her home, too! She took me to a wonderful Tapas joint on the strip: Cafe Ba Ba Reeba, which was fabulous! They had these bacon wrapped figs that I could have eaten like candy! I hope to see her again, soon!

"Laying by the Pool at the Sahara" This became one of my favorite past times whenever I had 'dead time.'

"Massage at the Sahara" This was one of the best massages I have EVER had! She was great! It was about 90 minutes...

"Texas Hold'Em Poker" Yes, I lost $150 in over 2 hours, but had a fun time doing it! The cards were just against me. I was playing logically, folding on 6's and 3's only to see pairs of 6's and a 3 come up on the flop. I would play with Aces and Queens, only to lose to three 2's. So after an hour of that, I started holding everything and paying to see the flop, which is sort of playing out of desperation. When I bottomed out, with just $5 left, I tipped the dealer with that, which was received with a round of applause and a "that's a great way to go!" from the guys. I don't regret that $150 at all, as opposed to the $40 that "Star Trek" took from me!

The only other disappointments (other than the "Star Trek Experience") were with ALL THE WALKING, not returning with $20K and the general state of The Sahara Hotel. There is a nifty monorail system that runs on the 'backside' of The Strip and stops at a half dozen of the hotels. However, that means having to drag yourself through the maze of the entirety of the hotel/casino/shopping mall before reaching The Strip. And THEN you get to walk to where ever it is that is the destination and go through the maze of the hotel/casino/shopping mall before finding the restaurant or theater that you intended to go to! The walking was just killing me! I got blisters and would end my day with a hot soak in the tub before bed. (In fact, I fell asleep in the tub each time.) About the Sahara: it was only $300 for four nights and the buffet was 1/3 the price of what the 'hotel/resorts' were charging. However, you do get what you pay for. The weekend brunch was inedible (the eggs benedict was hard and chewy! yuck!), and the condition of the hallways were just filthy. The room itself was ok, though. The Sahara is located at the for north end of The Strip, which made getting in and out more of a chore. Since I got most of my 'touristy' stuff out of the way, I would not need 4 nights on my next visit and would choose to stay somewhere more centrally located and much more pleasant.

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