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40-year Las Vegas headliner announces off-Strip residency

Updated March 28, 2024 - 3:20 pm

In Frank Marino’s show, Joan Rivers lives forever.

Marino is keeping Rivers’ legacy — and his own — at center stage as he extends his “Divas, Drag & Drinks” show at Virgin Hotels’ 24 Oxford. The production returns 4 p.m. April 7 and runs “scattered” Sundays (Marino’s term) through the end of the year.

The Vegas drag icon is back May 5 and May 12, then breaks until Aug. 11, 18 and 25.

Marino has portrayed Rivers, or an act inspired by Rivers, for nearly 40 years in Las Vegas, beginning in 1985 with “Evening at La Cage” at the Riviera. The 60-year-old headliner has starred at Linq Hotel in “Divas Las Vegas” and fronted the “Legends” production at Tropicana from September-December 2019. He also test-drove a drag-brunch concept at the Westgate.

All the while, Marino has been portraying Rivers, while reciting the classic line, “Can we talk?”

But Marino’s show at Virgin showcases drag adaptions of stars across several demographics. The characters in the latest show include Lizzo, Rihanna, Beyonce, Pink, Cher and Britney Spears.

“It’s a different kind of vibe, after I made it younger,” Marino said in a recent phone chat. “We have characters with wide appeal, something for all tastes.”

Marino has been selling out his Sunday performances at 24 Oxford, having moved from its original venue at The Shag Room. Virgin President Cliff Atkinson is a friend, fan and (as it tuns out) neighbor of Marino’s in Las Vegas.

The two live about a dozen houses apart in the gated Eagle Hills community in Summerlin. Expect Marino to joke about his real-life residency status as his production residency moves forward.

A veteran Vegas resort exec with stops at Mandarin Oriental, Luxor and the pre-opening Fontainebleau, Atkinson has been a friend and fan of Marino’s for years.

“Frank’s show, and personality, is too big of a production for The Shag Room, so we moved him to 24 Oxford,” Atkinson said in a text Tuesday. The official added, “More entertainment to come,” at the hotel.

Marino has achieved a balance of how to portray Rivers, who died in September 2014. Younger fans remember her from her “Fashion Police” show and the reality series “Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best?” reality series with her daughter, Melissa.

Marino says Rivers’ set-up, punch-line delivery and salty material can stand on its own. Introducing the character by name is a formality.

“I do my own version of Joan Rivers. I think I broke away from doing a formal Joan Rivers character about 10 years ago,” Marino said. “I’ll keep the name in the show, for people who want it. But my material is just Joan Rivers-esque.”

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 X, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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