Magician hopes China likes talent

Nathan Burton owes much of his longevity to TV exposure on "America's Got Talent." Now, he hopes to open new trade routes as a guest star on "China's Got Talent."

The magician will take a break from the Flamingo Las Vegas Jan. 17-21 to perform on China's version of the talent show, which is watched by an estimated 80 million people.

"It's like the U.S. back when everyone watched only three networks," he says.

"Talent" is licensed to several countries, so it does not share the same hands-on producers Burton got to know during his run on the first season of "America's Got Talent."

This invitation was a coincidence, he says, based on a Chinese promoter coming to his show at the Flamingo and promising big things.

"We get these things all the time. People always talk a lot of smack," he says.

But this one was for real. Performing eight minutes on the competition's season finale could open the door to Burton performing ticketed shows in China.

But the act did have to pass heavy censor scrutiny and adjust to different cultural norms. For instance, one illusion involving toilet paper had to change the color from white to red.

But of course, you say. Burton was told that white is considered an unlucky color this time of year. ...

Elsewhere on the magic front, Stephane Vanel has closed "The Magic of Paris" at Paris Las Vegas. The little cabaret revue opened last summer, disappeared for a stretch, then returned for a holiday run.

Veteran magician Rick Thomas also wrapped his limited-run holiday show at the Tropicana. It sounds like the door is open to a return, even if he did have to load the production out instead of letting it just stay put.

"He did a great job," said Melissa Steinberg, the Tropicana's vice president of entertainment. But if Thomas returns, it won't be before he completes a spring run in Korea. ...

Cirque du Soleil's "The Immortal" tour is back on the road, playing Denver this week, after its December run of 33 shows in the Mandalay Bay Events Center.

Entertainment grosses are one of the few secrets that usually stay in Vegas, but the concert trade publication Pollstar listed the show as 16th on its "Top 25 North American Tours" for 2011, reporting a $34 million gross for 51 shows in 19 cities, including the 33 in Las Vegas.

From there it's hard to say just how well "The Immortal" did at Mandalay Bay, because the long residency here did not fit conventional touring patterns.

Pollstar says the reported average gross per city of $1,924,258 is a rolling average based on a three-month window.

By contrast, Andrea Bocelli's single MGM Grand concert during the same stretch grossed $2.4 million and Taylor Swift's tour averaged $1.3 million.

"The Immortal" will spend most of this year on the road before coming home to roost at Mandalay Bay next year. ...

Finally, the story Ron Shock didn't want to tell, though he is the first to say, "I don't know how it ends."

The Las Vegas comedian and comedy club favorite made a 13-minute video for YouTube and Facebook to tell fans he has urethral cancer, which he calls "very rare and aggressive."

This week he goes to the MD Anderson Cancer Center in his native Texas.

News that the center agreed to see him brought back some of Shock's trademark humor for a short follow-up video commenting on how mismatched the "Like" and "Dislike" features of social media are for such a dire announcement.

Does "Like" mean "Thank God Shock got cancer!"? he mused. Or maybe "Dislike" means, "We want to watch a dog playing harmonica. Taking someone on a life's journey holds no interest for us."

See why so many people "like" this guy?

Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at mweatherford@ or 702-383-0288.