Broadway To Vegas


Copyright: October 26, 1998
By: Laura Deni


Sandy Gallin
Sandy Gallin taking over as entertainment guru for Steve Wynn's Mirage properties may be the road paved in gold for New York cabaret acts.

The shrewd businessman, who isn't afraid to take a chance, has indicated he intends to put out a welcome mat for cabaret acts, which have traditionally been limited to the New York cabaret scene.

It's not an open door for just any wanna be. Gallin, who has been involved in talent managing and producing for 35 years, is wooing cabaret artists who have established themselves at the highest levels - artists who have defined the lounge and nightclub scene in New York and elsewhere.

Las Vegas has had entertainment policies that ignored performers whose names weren't instantly indentifiable via hit TV series or top of the chart records.

The days of Las Vegas having top lounges ended when corporations started buying up Las Vegas - circa l970s.

Michael Feinstein
With the opening of the new Bellagio Hotel, Gallin has indicated he is seeking and signing cabaret acts - then put pen to contract with Michael Feinstein, John Pizzarelli and Lorston Harris.

Jazz pianist Harris will anchor the Bellagio's Allegro Bar.

In addition to the Allegro Bar the Bellagio has the glorious 250 seat Fontana Lounge and the Baccarat Bar.

Gallin has not disclosed the lounge entertainment budget.

On Gallin's list of things to do are long term theatrical productions, the type of original theatre that could originate in Las Vegas and eventually translate to the Broadway stage.


Elton John is so taken with the southern hospitality of Georgia that he convinced his song-writing partner, Tim Rice, and Disney chieftain Michael Eisner, to select the Alliance Theater in Atlanta for the premiere of Disney's first original for-the-stage musical.

Elaborate Lives: The Legend of Aida, which is playing in Atlanta through November 8.

John and Rice composed the music for the production, much of which was written in Georgia.

John who has homes in Atlanta, England and France, says the people in Georgia are just peachy.


The Civil War a new musical with music by Frank Wildhorn, who also co-wrote the book with Gregory Boyd, and lyrics by Jack Murphy, fired its first volley and hit its mark.

The Alley Theatre in Houston was chosen as the location for the Broadway bound musical's world premiere.

Wildhorn's theatrical concert depicting the "emotional landscape" of the Civil War was so well received the show was extended.

The musical finally marching out of Houston yesterday, October 25.


Nevada is all a twitter because legends Lauren Bacall and Kirk Douglas have signed to co-star in Miramax's Sundowning, which begins shooting November 2 in Reno, Nevada.

Also in the starring line-up is Dan Aykroyd.

Bacall and Douglas haven't worked together since the 1950's classic Young Man With a Horn.

This flick will also be Douglas' first screen role since he suffered a stroke three years ago.

Reno will be rolling out the red carpet.


Michael Jackson betting on Vegas?
The next Nevada engagement for Michael Jackson may be before the Nevada Gaming Control Board as the gloved one attempts to get licensed in order to transform himself into a hotel mogul.

Jackson has his sights set on owning the Desert Inn Hotel, one of the most elegant resorts on the Strip.

Raised in a religious faith that forbids gambling, Jackson strayed from the Jehovah Witness tenants years ago. He has frequently expressed a desire to get into the ownership side of gaming and has recently made several trips to Las Vegas scouting out casino take over possibilities.

Jackson's business partner Don Barden has confirmed that they are prepared to shell out between $250 to $300 million for the resort. Jackson and Barden recently made an unsuccessful bid for one of three casino licenses in Detroit.

The Las Vegas take over isn't a sure bet for Jackson. Also interested in purchasing the Desert Inn is the Revlon Corporation.

The Desert Inn is owned by Starwoods Hotels & Resorts, which acquired the 715 room resort last February purchasing it from ITT Corp. The Desert Inn underwent a $200 million renovation and expansion.


Gladys Knight
Las Vegas resident Gladys Knight is heading towards Broadway, to star in the gospel musical Abyssinia set to open early next year.

The gospel musical was first staged by the Musical Theater Works in l986 as a workshop production. The musical has also been staged at the Goodspeed Opera House in Connecticut, but never been produced on or off Broadway.

The novel by Joyce Carol Thomas is the story of a young singer who, after being molested by a neighbor, becomes mute until she regains her faith in God and her fellow man.

Knight will play one of those close to the girl who helps her regain both her faith and then her voice.

Knight broke into show business in 1952, as first place winner on Ted Mack's Original Amateur Hour.

Grammy award winner Gladys Knight and the Pips have been Nevada nightclub regulars for decades. One of her most popular hits was Midnight Train To Georgia which topped the charts in 1973.


Footloose, the $6.5 million Broadway adaptation of the hit 1984 movie that starred Kevin Bacon has opened at the Richard Rodgers Theater.

However, it may have stepped off into quicksand.

The good news is that Fosse, on its way to Broadway, opened last Wednesday at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles, with a much improved presentation than it's start in Toronto.

Show stars Valarie Pettiford and Jason Lanier with special applause to Desmond Richardson.


Mandy Patinkin is a hit in any language.

His theatrical concert Mamaloshen, which means mother tongue - has Patinkin performing in Yiddish including - in Yiddish - Irving Berlin's White Christmas - Oy vey!

The show moved to Broadway by popular demand from the sold-out engagement at the Angel Orsensanz Foundation Center for the Arts this past summer and is presented by Dodger Endemol Theatricals, Inc.

The magnificent Patinkin, with violinist Saska Matsuyama. can be enjoyed at the Belasco through Saturday, November 7.


In 1982 the owner of the West Bank Cafe, Steve Olsen, turned the downstairs space into a theatre dedicated to artists with a focus on one-act plays, comedy and music.

An impressive list of performers, writers and musicians have worked at the West Bank Downstairs Theater. Having recently completed its renovation, the theater will reopen as The Laurie Beechman Theater on November 12 with Jim Wann & Company as its first production.

Jim Wann is the principal author-composer of Pump Boys and Dinettes, which received a Tony nomination as Best Musical, and is the longest running musical in Chicago's theater history.

Wann will lead the cast in the musical revue. Jim Wann & Company will feature songs and poetry about the spiritual dimension in everyday life. Wann, and lead guitarist, John Foley reunite for the first time since they both played Broadway in the original Pump Boys and Dinettes. Joining them are theatre and music stalwarts Rusty Magee, Patricia Miller and John Miller.


On Friday, November 20th, the off-off Broadway Castillo Theatre will stage the premiere of Crown Heights, a new play, loosely based on the Crown Heights riots in Brooklyn seven years ago, co-written by artistic director Fred Newman, Dan Friedman and Jacqueline Salit, with an original score by Dan Belmont.

It will feature a cast of young, largely unknown performers including Black youngsters from the All Stars Talent Show Network, New York's leading youth anti-violence program, and young Jewish performers cast from open auditions.

On Aug. 19, 1991 Galvin Cata, a seven-year-old Black child, died after being struck by a car traveling in the motorcade of the Lubavavitcher Grand Rebbe. Gavin's death touched off riots in the streets of Crown Heights, during which a young Jewish rabbinical student, Yankel Rosenbaum, was killed. Limmerick Nelson, a young Black man was sent to prison after conviction on charges stemming from the death.

That ever-spiraling human tragedy only exacerbated the tensions between the Blacks and Jews and turned Crown Heights into a symbol of antagonism between the two communities.

Newman, a practicing psychotherapist and founder of the All Stars, has spent 25 years developing the cultural-performatory methodology, which the youth anti-violence program incorporates. It was a member of All Stars, Jamel Thigpen, who suggested to Newman that this play be written.

"Crown Heights is not a docudrama," said playwright Newman, who is Jewish. "It is an attempt to explore, dramatically, the human tragedy of Crown Heights. We are bringing Black and Jewish youth into this project. We are not creating this production in the interests of making a judgment but, rather in the interests of creating something new -- together."

AMERICAN MOVIE CLASSICS tomorrow, October 27, Lauren Bacall, Gloria DeHaven, Janet Leigh, Rita Moreno and Debbie Reynolds on hand in Washington, D.C. for the salute to Kate McEnroe, president of the American Movie Classics cable network.

DISTINGUISHED ARTIST AWARDS Kirk Douglas, Jerry Herman, Ann Reinking, Lalo Schifrin and Garth Brooks receive Distinguished Artist Awards at the LA Music Center's 17th annual bash on Nov. 4th. Presenters include; Gregory Hines, Martin Landau, Jay Leno, Betty White and Forest Whitaker.

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CELINE DION'S pretty kisser has been plastered all over casino gaming chips. In honor of her Las Vegas performances last week, Caesars Palace commissioned Paul-Son Gaming to manufacture 1,000 green Celine Dion $25 chips and 500 black $100 chips.

STARDUST HOTEL Las Vegas to undergo a $24 million renovation.

Get into the spirit early by attending Bette Midler's Hulaween II: The Makeover Ball at the Waldorf-Astoria on Oct. 30th. Benefits Bette's New York Restoration Project. Rosie O'Donnell is a real "witch" when if comes to being the auctioneer. She'll cast a spell over you that results in big bucks bids. If you don't ante up, watch out, those chants have been known to come true. This year the guests are to dress "as you wish you were!"

In Las Vegas, on Oct. 29th, the Beaux Arts Halloween Ball, with a Bette Midler impersonator, takes place at Studio 54 inside the MGM Grand Hotel. Beaux Arts will benefit AIDS of Nevada. Just for the fun of it there is always Universal Studios Hollywood's Halloween Horror Nights II. Open weekend nights through Oct. 31.

The theme park features fog-shrouded streets prowled by Dracula, the Mummy Frankenstein's monster, the Wolfman and other creatures.

The Hickory Nut Gorge Chamber of Commerce in North Carolina has five cities and one lake getting into the spirit. Lake Lure is being transformed into a haunted one, and on the city streets a headless horsemen is on the prowl.

In NYC the Madison Square Garden Scream Park is open to Nov. 1.


Tim Cavanagh has a B.A. in Philosophy and taught religion at an all-girl's Catholic high school. He decided to laugh at life rather than try to figure it out. The comedian does his stand-up at the MGM Grand Hotel's Catch A Rising Star Club tonight, Oct. 26th through November 1.

Bernie McGrenahan - a native of Mt. Vernon, NY is a former surgical technician, who was associated with Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx. When work became too pressure-filled he turned to standup comedy as a tension reliever. Now he's into the jokes full time. He's worked with Rodney Dangerfield and B.J. Thomas and appeared on Comedy Center. He opens tonight, October 26th, at Dangerfields in NY for a week long gig.

In Reno, Nevada the Silver Legacy Casino is home to the Catch a Rising Star club where C.D. LaBove, one of Sam Kinison's original Outlaws of Comedy, storms the stage Nov. 2nd through the 8th.


TINA SINATRA will preside over a seminar on her father, Frank, at Hofstra University in Uniondale, L.I. on Nov 12-14. Speaking of the name Sinatra, several years ago Tina's brother, Frank, promised Cynthia McMurrey that, if she'd just be patient, one day he'd marry her. She was and he did. Happiness to them both.

WHEEL OF FORTUNE returns to Las Vegas to tape their 3,000th show.

THAT 1967 off-Broadway hit, You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown, is still wagging it's tail. Opens at the Longacre Theater NYC in February.

MORE TO LOVE: A BIG FAT COMEDY turned out to be a big, fat flop, closing at the Eugene O'Neill Theater after four performances.

Next column: November 2, 1998
Copyright: October 26, 1998. All Rights Reserved. Reviews, Interviews, Commentary, Photographs or Graphics from any Broadway To Vegas (TM) columns may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, utilized as leads, or used in any manner without permission, compensation and/or credit.
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Laura Deni