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Viva Las Vegas

From Cher to Peepshow, Phantom, Jersey Boys, and LOVE, Las Vegas truly is a world of entertainment.

Kelly Monaco, Jerry Mitchell, and Mel B
(© Tom Donaghue)
Sin isn't just kept behind closed doors in Sin City, as any visitor to Las Vegas knows. But the desert town's temperature is about to get a whole lot hotter with the debut of Peepshow, which debuts at Planet Hollywood -- adding one more entertainment option to a town chock full of Broadway shows, top-name headliners, and a dazzling array of revues and variety shows.

The show is the brainchild of Broadway choreographer and director Jerry Mitchell, whose credits include Broadway's Legally Blonde, Hairspray, and La Cage Aux Folles and New York's now-notorious yearly strip show, Broadway Bares -- which he calls a "kissing cousin" of Peepshow. And while the show is headlined by former Spice Girl Mel B and General Hospital star Kelly Monaco (both of whom competed to great acclaim on ABC's Dancing with the Stars), the main attraction for many audience members will be the multitude of scantily-clad showgirls.

"It's sort of a modern-day burlesque in which Kelly's character falls asleep and ends up meeting all these fairy-tale characters who show her how to really have fun," says Mitchell. "I've been a big fan of the Vegas showgirl revue for many years, but I wanted to do something that shows off our current sense of sensuality and sexuality, and also to incorporate comedy, song, and dance -- not to mention a lot of incredible costumes."

Audiences seeking somewhat tamer fare while in town can opt for more "traditional" shows, including a 90-minute version of Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera (at the Venetian) and a full-length version of the Tony Award-winning Jersey Boys (at the Palazzo). The former is worth a visit just to see designer David Rockwell's specially-designed venue, an absolutely stunning recreation of the show's setting, the Paris Opera House, as well as to witness the truly special effects he has helped engineer to add to the show's feel as spectacle. Tony winner Anthony Crivello proves to be a supremely creepy Phantom and Kristi Holden serves up a truly winning combination of spunk and vulnerability as Christine, the young singer whom he fixates on. True, the shorter version makes some parts of the book a little hard to follow, but the running time nonetheless feels very right.

Meanwhile, Jersey Boys, which brilliantly tells the story of the rise to fame of singer Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons over the course of its two and half hours, remains an extraordinary evening of entertainment, thanks to the group's timeless hits like "Sherry," "Oh, What a Night," and "Rag Doll," as well as Rick Elice and Marshall Brickman's whip-smart book and Des McAnuff's seamless direction. The entire cast here is first-rate, with Rick Faugno simply dynamite as Valli, capturing the singer's unusual voice with ease, and Deven May, who earns both laughs and pathos as the troubled Tommy DeVito.

Other theatrical options include the Off-Broadway favorites Tony 'n' Tina's Wedding (also at Planet Hollywood) and Blue Man Group (at the Venetian), as well as the regional standard Shear Madness (at Town Square Las Vegas). Starting in May, visitors will be able to see a new sit-down version of Disney's The Lion King at Mandalay Bay, featuring a cast of Broadway favorites including Clifton Oliver, Kissy Simmons, Thom Sesma, and Alton Fitzgerald White.

For some visitors, the words "Las Vegas" are synonymous with the words "Cirque du Soleil." The Montreal-based entertainment giant first conquered this city in 1994 with Mystere (which is still going strong at Treasure Island) and now has six shows running, including the amazing underwater spectacle O (at the Bellagio), the dazzling Ka (at MGM Grand), and the for-adults-only Zumanity (at New York, New York). But if you're a fan of the franchise as well as a fan of the Fab Four, there's no question that you will simply love LOVE (at the Mirage), an absolutely joyous celebration of the music of the Beatles. The show, while still as full of acrobatic thrills as every Cirque production, emphasizes the group's timeless music -- which has been masterfully reengineered and is presented in a specially-built theater that includes 6,500 speakers (including three built into each and every seat). And the cast, which dances and clowns with abandon, simply dazzles with its energy.

Of course, one can't talk about visiting Vegas without mentioning its galaxy of rotating stars, which includes Barry Manilow (at the Hilton), Donny and Marie Osmond (at the Flamingo), Wayne Brady (at the Venetian), Rita Rudner (at Harrah's), Lance Burton (at the Monte Carlo), Danny Gans (at the Encore), Terry Fator (at the Mirage), Louie Anderson (at the Excalibur). But the hottest place in town is without question the Colisseum at Caesar's Palace, where Elton John, Bette Midler, and Cher currently take turns (in different months) wowing the crowds.

And let no one tell you that Cher doesn't know how to put on a show! During her 90-minute extravaganza, the one-named wonder sails through, via live performance and video montages, an amazing retrospective of her 40-plus year career. Musically, the concert takes on something of a greatest-hits format, with segments devoted to such beloved chart-toppers as "Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves," "Half Breed," "Walking in Memphis," "If I Could Turn Back Time," and "Believe," among others.

Naturally, though, the woman who is known worldwide for her unique fashion sense doesn't disappoint, changing with lighting-speed in and out of a dizzying series of body-baring Bob Mackie costumes -- practically one for every song -- that prove that one can still be in amazing shape after the age of 60. To call Cher an inspiration, in every sense of the word, is simply to be guilty of understatement.


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