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‘Opium’ boldly goes where no show has gone before

Updated September 24, 2021 - 10:26 pm

The Kats! Bureau at this writing is inside the Starbucks facing the Strip at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. As I was reminded by the non-showgirls sashaying past, this is a great place for people-watching.

We’re here to get a look at the “Opium” reopening and launch of Superfrico restaurant. These are both Spiegelworld projects. At the time of the COVID shutdown, the stage show was just reaching hyperspace in OPM 73. It’s comic voyage to Uranus, which remains the show’s favored planet, has resumed.

Superfrico is a pizza place, mainly, splashed with color and distinctive art to match the “Opium” vibe. That’s something that escaped Rose. Rabbit. Lie. the fine supper club that occupied that the same space in December 2013.

RRL was paired with “Vegas Nocturne,” a chic-yet-complicated concept that should have survived longer if the hotel were running a stream of molten gold. If only Spiegelworld’s “impressario” Ross Mollison had more time, the show might have turned a profit instead of closing after six months.

The restaurant did survive. Over the yeas, RRL presented terrific food and some dynamite entertainment, but struggled to make a dollar at its upstairs location. Breaking even was about as well as the restaurant performed, financially. And RRL, a finely appointed supper club was not an intelligent match for the raunchy interplanetary farce next door.

By October of 2020, Mollison’s team was well on its way to planning for what would be Superfrico.

For “Opium”-Superfrico to succeed, the pizza first must be great. Like, better even than Evel Pie (let’s fire up Fremont East!) Early reviews are positive. Also, the dining and entertainment facets need to work seamlessly. The Vegas Nocturne and RRL marriage faltered in large part because it was complicated to plan a night of dining around the show’s “cantos” it attempted to enforce on a crowd that had no idea what the term meant.

The Opium staff is delivering food during the show, too. So we’ll need to make sure the wait staff isn’t dropping off a boxed pizza during Captain Kunton’s “Sexy Diablo” act. There will be skeptics in this dual experience, those who think this is a heavy lift(off), in a hideaway venue at a time when most new restaurants fail.

But you need to toss the intangible topping onto this pie, which is Mollison himself. He pushes the boundaries of prudence like no other. If anyone can figure this out, it’s the pilot of OPM 73.

Composers to the rescue

Keith Thompson cried, twice, during the return of The Composers Showcase of Las Vegas on Wednesday.

And that was during soundcheck.

The mood was a mix of relief and buoyancy as TSC returned to the the newly renamed Myron’s at the Smith Center. Also new is the show’s start time, 7:30 p.m., but the level of talent remains extraordinary. The night was taken to the next level by composer-musician Richard Oberacker, the music director of “Ka” at MGM Grand who delivered “Bandstand,” co-written by Robert Taylor, to Broadway.

Oberacker currently has “”The Sandman, A Little Nightmare Musical,” running from Oct. 28-Nov. 28 at Majestic Reperatory Theatre in the Arts District. A version of that project premiered two years ago in Denmark (yes), but is ready for Troy Heard’s Majestic annex. “Majestic is so cool, and underground, and edgy, and dangerous. They said, ‘Would you consider having your show done environmentally in a small space that would make people feel like they were trapped in a haunted house?’ And I said, ‘(Expletive) yeah!’”

Wednesday, Oberacker stitched together two numbers from an

even newer project, his “Angel of Arkansas” musical. Premiered were “I Am Not One of Them” and “You Love You.”

The musical is inspired by the work of AIDS-crisis victim caregiver Ruth Coker Burks, who, as Oberacker said from the stage, “Found herself, completely by accident, becoming a one-woman hospice, political activist, pharmaceutical distributor, and undertaker to thousands of young and not-so-young men in the rural, conservative South.”

Clint Holmes, sang the opening number, and Tymara Walker, whom we met during “Elvis Presley’s Heartbreak Hotel the Concert,” was up for the challenge of book-ending the two-songmedley. Incredible. As with everything involving the Oberacker-Taylor pairing, watch for “Angel of Arkansas.”

Around that room

Rarely — no, never — have we namechecked every performer at TCS. But Wednesdays’ return was a civic benchmark. We’ll indulge:

Thompson and Holmes led off with the Thompson piece “Back From the Abyss.” The returning TSC performers: Chris Lash “Better Man,” Doug Elliott “Ordinary Day” (from “The Dreyfus Affair”) with Valerie Witherspoon, Ian Ward and the Originals “You and Me,” Justin Young “JY Funky,” Mark Wherry “Work Today” (the first time a composer has stripped to underwear), Tyler Williams “Lockdown Loco” (fabulous bass-loop composition), Mark Hartman “Hallelujah, Praise the Lord!”, Bucky Heard and Tim Lee “Pipe Dreams”with Travis Cloer and Michelle Johnson “I’m On My Way.”

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.