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N' Dulge

November 7, 2013

Elaborate Vegas Performances Showcase MJ, Motown and Mystery

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Vegas – It’s almost my 50th trip – yes 50th trip, but I DO travel to other places – to Las Vegas, the Peter Pan capital of the civilized world.

Anticipation still reigns after all these years and buffets and loyalty cards and long lines, what with this ersatz city’s uncanny ability to reinvent itself right before your eyes, and to a degree that enthralls regulars and virgins alike. And still separates uninitiated fools from their hard-earned money.

Regardless, I am forever in love with Las Vegas and Las Vegas loves me (and my money, too) right back. Now, on to the highly publicized shows with the high production values…

Michael Jackson Returns to Mandalay Bay

In a word, visually stunning. Ingenuously creative. Nostalgic. Energetic. Loud. And as politically incorrect as it may be, if you unfortunately suffer from epilepsy, probably a show to pass on. So that’s more than one word but reliving the Michael Jackson ONE by Cirque du Soleil performance at the Mandalay Bay is more than a notion – especially when you’re a lifelong fan and contemporary of the late King of Pop.

The challenge here is describing a show that never stops moving, seducing your eyes and ears, what with limber, nubile, acrobatic dancers crowding the stage while other human beings twirl like human pretzels as they descend from the walls and ceiling while a guitarist who’d make Slash look like Mother Teresa jets from one end of the stage to the other.

All at the same damn time.

LAS VEGAS, NV -  Creators and cast on stage during “Michael Jackson ONE” by Cirque du Soleil at Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino  Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Isaac Brekken/Getty Images)

LAS VEGAS, NV – Creators and cast on stage during “Michael Jackson ONE” by Cirque du Soleil at Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Isaac Brekken/Getty Images)

Enter the theater named after the world’s greatest performer, and get ready from the traditionally non-traditional Cirque du Soleil show and tribute to MJ’s jams over a state-of-the-art surround-sound system that makes DJ’s envious.

Much to my foot-stomping pleasure, the show featured what felt like all of Jackson’s hits at a level so loud that your cell phone wedged between your legs vibrated during the 90- minute show, but the smooth, seamless mixes would make renown Chicago DJ Steve “Silk” Hurley greener than the Hulk with envy.

You’re a Michael Jackson groupie or a casual listener of his catalog? You’re going to Vegas? Simply stated, don’t miss this show.

I wanted to stand up and dance but there was no room and that would’ve been too stereotypical, frankly. MJ would turn over in his grave at the thought of you skipping out an unforgettable tribute to him. Actually, come to think of it, if he’s spinning in his grave, he’s dancing along with more than 60 Cirque performers from all over the world who do him and his musical legacy justice.

Human Nature at the Venetian

It would be editorially easy to segue from a mention of Michael Jackson’s sexy “Human Nature” hit as it was memorialized in the “One” show to a review of the energetic Human Nature quartet’s residency at the Venetian. But I’m going to do it anyway because it’d be hard not to after taking in both shows within a few days of each other.

Motown legend Smokey Robinson (C) appears with Australian vocal group Human Nature (L-R) Michael Tierney, Toby Allen, Phil Burton and Andrew Tierney during a news conference to announce the group as the new resident headliner at the Imperial Palace Hotel and Casino May 13, 2009 in Las Vegas Nevada. Human Nature will perform the show "Smokey Robinson Presents Australia's Human Nature - "The Ultimate Celebration of Motown"  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images for SPI Ent.) *** Local Caption *** Michael Tierney; Toby Allen; Smokey Robinson; Phil Burton; Andrew Tierney

Motown legend Smokey Robinson (C) appears with Australian vocal group Human Nature (L-R) Michael Tierney, Toby Allen, Phil Burton and Andrew Tierney at the Imperial Palace Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas Nevada.(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images for SPI Ent.)

Blessed by soul music icon Smokey Robinson, Human Nature, better known as Australia’s best-selling pop vocal group, has put their own melodic spin on Motown music and brings their touch of showmanship to adoring can’t-stay-in-their-seats-even-if-they-can’t-dance audiences at the visually pleasing Sands Showroom at the Venetian.

If you love the music of Motown, here’s a great opportunity while in Las Vegas to relive some of the best-loved hits recorded on the label by legendary soul and R& B artists. Think the Four Tops, Supremes, Temptations, Smokey and The Miracles, and Stevie Wonder.

Singing and bonding since 1989, which is when brothers Andrew and Michael Tierney hooked up with fellow students Toby Allen and Phil Burton to represent their local high school in a schools concert, the four Australians (their accents are far more noticeable when they talk but not as much while singing) called themselves The Four Trax, a reverential tribute, of sorts, to the Four Tops.

Fast forward to 2013 and with 23 best-selling albums under their belt along with appearances on “Dancing with the Stars,” “Oprah” and their own PBS Special “Human Nature Sings Motown,” Human Nature has hit the big time in Vegas with a high-energy, well-lit show backed by a tight, personality-filled band that makes this ticket one worth buying.

Dream in Drama at the Wynn

After an aural and visual musical assault at the Michael Jackson and Human Nature performance, what better way to come down with an equally gorgeous, yet sultry story told with and through water – yes, water – at the Wynn. When you experience Le Reve – The Dream, expect to experience a sultry, romantic show that combines water, fire, swimming, acrobatics and spectacular effects in an awe-inspiring venue in the round.

Expect aerial acrobatics and diving that will almost make you close your eyes just in case a performance ever so slightly misses their mark during a 30’ plunge. Expect water ballet and underwater acrobatics that will make you wonder just how long they can hold their breath.

Expect to quietly flex your own muscles in your seat as you wonder just how strong that one guy has to be to hold himself up and out on an artificial tree branch using only his feet and ankles. Expect to be amazed in the Aqua Theater that features virtually every seat close enough where you don’t feel disconnected from the story – but hopefully far enough away to not get splashed – especially if your outfit is as elegant as the venue’s décor.

The young woman known as The Dreamer takes the audience on a journey that highlights love, romance, action and fantasy in rotating settings that speak to how and why the producers of the high-end shows in Las Vegas have to feel pressure to keep up with and ideally outdo their peers.

No expense is spared with lighting, staging and music. The performers have to be some of the most physically talented, lithe, yet robust you’ll see in a show in this town.

Take in The Dream and the Wynn. Chances are you’ll later dream about something or someone you saw in this award-winning show.



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Derrick Baker





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