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Sahara gets Reckless with theater residency

Updated July 6, 2022 - 11:22 pm

Artistic and architectural visions are taking hold at Sahara Las Vegas. The retro-rock outfit Reckless in Vegas has rolled into Sahara Theater for a six-month engagement.

Then the theater is due for a major renovation next year. It’s convenient that the new headlining act produces an old-Vegas sound with a contemporary spin.

Vegas native Michael Shapiro’s throwback stage show premieres Thursday night and runs 8:30 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays into November. Reckless debuted eight years ago at the Mob Bar at Downtown Grand. If ever a three-piece band was too big for its surroundings, it was on that night. But it was an effective introduction. Since, RiV has played such busy venues as Myron’s at the Smith Center, Italian American Social Club, Marilyn’s at Eastside Cannery, The Space, and now-closed venues The Lounge at the Palms and Cleopatra’s Barge at Caesars Palace.

The powerhouse trio features founder Shapiro out front, preening, singing and playing a wicked guitar. Chris Nichols is is under the fedora while manning the bass. Jack E. Roth drives the band from the drum set.

Showgirls JoLae Brand-Shapiro, Brittany Sourlis, Sarah LeClear-Domingo dazzle in beaded costumes and red-feathered headdresses, a hinting to the days of “Jubilee” and “Folies Bergere.” Backing singers Paige Strafella and Roni Meron boost the vocals. Guest stars jumping in include popular Vegas performers Elyzabeth Diaga of “Queens of Rock” (who performed in June), Kelly Clinton-Holmes through July, Anne Martinez in August, Niki Scalera in September and Kelly Vohnn in October. Backing singers Paige Strafella and Roni Meron further boost the vocal volume.

Vintage black-and-white footage of such Las Vegas-tinged superstars as Elvis, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. and, Sonny and Cher and Tony Bennett play in the background. Reckless plays a nearly unbroken string of rocked-up Vegas standards. “Luck Be a Lady/Mr. Bojangles,” “Suspicious Minds,” “Just a Gigolo/”Fever,” “These Boots are Made for Walkin’” and “Danke Schoen” are given a once over.

The show hits its mark in delivering a unique flavor of Vegas music history. The challenge is filling 300 seats twice a week. But Reckless has the advantage of being presented by the hotel over it six-month run, alternating dates with headlining comic Eddie Griffin, who performs 8 p.m. Mondays through Wednesdays.

Sahara Theater will be locked for renovation next year, date to be determined, says Sahara President Paul Hobson. The theater has already undergone a series of makeovers. The room was Life nightclub and then the Foundry in the SLS days. It was redesigned for “Blanc de Blanc” in 2017.

The design is cool, chic and comfortable, with plenty of booths, high-tops and cocktail tables and unobstructed sight lines. But Sahara Theater is not big enough to compete with headliners along the Strip.

“In talking about the cost of acts coming through Vegas, I think to really be able to capitalize on that idea we would need more seats,” Hobson said. “In its current format, even if we set it up to to its maximum, we’re capped at somewhere around five or 600. I think we would need something like 1,200 in the same footprint, and we would need that to put us in another category.”

Adam Lambert, the Cult, Hellyeah and even Jon Lovitz and Dana Carvey headlined the old Foundry room. The Sahara Theater’s, similar to Reckless in Vegas, is on a limited engagement. The room’s name will be switched out, too.

“It will change eventually, when we get the chance to remodel the whole, the whole venue,” Hobson said. “We want to redo it, and make it over the way we would like.”

Keyed up

“Thunder From Down Under” and the show’s producer, Adam Steck of SPI Entertainment, received the vaunted Key to the Las Vegas Strip on Tuesday morning. Clark County Commissioner Michael Naft, who is not a cast member, presented the award at the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign. The event was held 21 years to the day that “Thunder” opened at New Frontier. The show moved to Excalibur, its current home, a year later. First at Merlin’s Theater, and currently at Steck’s Thunderland Showroom.

Just after the ceremony Steck said the show is planning its second residency. And not in Vegas.

“We’re looking at Nashville as our next possible hub,” said Steck, who visited the so-called “Nash Vegas” last month to scout venues. “There are a lot of bachelorettes in Nashville, and we’re thinking of testing the waters there for our next permanent show.” The “Thunder” production also has two touring shows, one currently and another online in 2023.

What Works in Vegas

“Soul of Motown” at Westgate Cabaret. The production just added Wednesday nights, beginning this week. The show runs 5:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Gotta get there — and that goes for yours truly. I’ve seen “Soul” groove it up at events outside the venue, but not a whole show at the Cabaret. Now we have Wednesdays. No excuses.

Who Was Where

Terry Fator was Michael Grimm’s unbilled guest at the Stirling Club on Saturday night, for Grimm and Bill Zappia’s “Bigin’ It To ‘Em” monthly residency. The two swapped lines on “God Bless The USA” and”America the Beautiful.” The two former “America’s Got Talent” champs had never performed together before, but Zappia has performed extensively with both. He headed up Fator’s band at the Mirage for about a decade.

Fator now wants Grimm to jump into his Thursday night singing showcase at Bar at Times Square at New York-New York. This is the start of a pretty cool partnership.

Cool Hang Alert

Clinton-Holmes is the new entertainment director at Stirling Club, while also headlining the spiffy venue at 7 p.m. Friday (doors at 6 p.m.). Lily Arce, Noybel Gorgoy, Bobby Brooks Wilson and Elisa Fiorillo guest star. Cost is $25 for members, $35 for non-members, go to thestirlingclub.com for info.

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.