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‘Absinthe’ celebrates 13 years on the Strip with a Halloween-in-April party

Updated April 19, 2024 - 2:01 pm

Following is a Spiegelworld-specific post, after “Absinthe” celebrated its latest anniversary with a Halloween-in-April fete. Read on …

Ghost runs the machine

Ross Mollison was dressed as a ghost while praising the humans at the Strip juggernaut “Absinthe” 13th anniversary party on April 10. The Impresario Extraordinaire recognized the husband-wife team of Voki Kafalyan and Anais Thomassian.

The two comic greats are more famously known as creators of The Gazillionaire and Penny Pibbets, the duo that supplied the show with its raunchy edge from its inception in April 2011.

“They don’t get a lot of attention,” Mollison said, we expect in jest. “We couldn’t have done it without them.”

In their character personas, Kalfayan and Thomassian have been righteously praised since arriving in Las Vegas more than a decade ago. They developed and performed the original version of Cesarean Ballet, from the fictional Cirque du Soleil show “Le Petit Merde” in Reno, one of the show’s many jabs at Cirque.

Mollison also gave a nod to the show’s general manager, Beth Camuso, who helped lift “Absinthe” out of COVID. He noted original cast members still with the show. Strength act Duo Vector’s Misha Furmanczyk and Lukasz Szczerba, and chair-balancer Maxim Popazov, are signed for another year.

Beyond its cast and crew, “Absinthe” owes a massive measure of its success to a former Caesars Palace executive.

“It’s been 14 years since I first met then-president of Caesars Palace, Gary Selesner, who gave Spiegelworld a shot at creating a new show on this hallowed fake Las Vegas turf, up to then known for Evel Knievel’s fateful jump,” Mollison said from under his ghost-white sheet. “Surely, we landed it better than Evel! Without the belief and support of Gary we would have never opened, and certainly never survived.”

Selesner, an entertainment and culinary visionary, championed the show when it seemed it was destined to fold the tent after its initial six-month contract.

“He was the only one who supported ‘Absinthe’ from the beginning,” Mollison said days later.

If not for that support, says Mollison, “Absinthe” likely would have folded the tent after its initial six-month contract. Instead, the show has expanded to 14 performances and 7,000 fans a week at its Spiegeltent on Caesars’ Roman Plaza. It has built the themed Green Fairy Garden and Pier 17 Yacht Club on that parcel.

“Absinthe’s” runaway success has led to “Vegas Nocturne” and “OPM” at Cosmopolitan (critical successes that nonetheless have shut down), “Atomic Saloon Show” at Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian; “The Hook” in Atlantic City; the upcoming “DiscoShow” at Linq Hotel, which opens July 27; and a new show, venue and restaurant at Caesars New Orleans to be ready by Super Bowl weekend February 2025.

What else … Ah, Spiegelworld also bought Nipton, Calif., turning it into Circus Town, U.S.A. Spiegelworld has bi-coastal productions and restaurants, a hit show going on its 14th year, and two productions on the way.

And all of it started with a boost from one top-level exec. Evel Knievel should have been so lucky.

Who was there?

During the anniversary show, Gazillionaire mentioned the show had played 13 years, adding, “That’s not as long as ‘Love,’ from what I understand,” a not-subtle dig at the show soon to close.

A day before “Absinthe” celebrated No. 13, Cirque announced “The Beatles Love” is closing July 7. We learned just last week that Mollison was at “Love” on its opening night in June 2006.

In that crowd were the Apple Corps Row of Royalty: Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono, Olivia Harrison and George and Giles Martin.

Mollison was promoting Cirque’s brand in Australia and New Zealand at the time.

“I flew from Australia to go to that opening night, and was seated a few rows behind McCartney and all of them,” Mollison recalled. “Such a great performance, and then that party was so great afterward. You would be in a party, open a door to another party, and another little room that had a party … Oh my God, I was there all night.”

Mollison said he was distressed to learn “Love” is closing.

“This is a really sad day for Vegas, and for Beatles fans, and as an enormous Beatles fan, for me,” Mollison said. “I love that show, and everybody who has ever seen it has loved it.”

‘Atomic’ energy

There has been word out of The Venetian that “Atomic Saloon Show” is struggling. But Mollison said, “I haven’t heard those reports. You know, it’s still the best show in Vegas.”

Wait. Better than “Absinthe?”

“Oh, no,” Mollison said with a laugh. “But ‘Absinthe’ does 7,000 people a week.”

Then it’s the best show that isn’t “Absinthe.”

“‘Atomic’ still just continues to get incredible responses from the audiences nightly, it does great box office and we run the bar there,” Mollison said. “We do we do fantastically well out of the bars, because it has an incredible cocktail program.”

The booze, along with Boozy Skunkton, is the “Atomic’s” life blood.

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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