Wanda Widdles said she didn’t have $4,000 to spend for entertainment for “Absinthe’s” 4,000th show Friday night.Instead, the production’s co-host said she spent the 4,000 pennies gifted to her by the show’s character producer, The Gazillionaire, on an assortment of guest stars: A group of authentic, costumed buskers from the Strip.
As we would learn later, that was not quite the fee paid to these street performers and photo posers who populate the sidewalks in front of Bellagio Fountains, the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas and Planet Hollywood on the Strip. Regardless of cost, Widdles called forth a parade led by Darth Vader and a Stormtrooper, followed by a pair of bedraggled Spider-Men, showgirls, Mickey Mouse (or his understudy), Captain America, Deadpool and a pair of Playboy bunnies.
The busker team was reminiscent of “Absinthe’s” opening night. April 1, 2011, when street performers streamed in the courtyard at Roman Plaza. We were greeted by no less than five different varieties of Elvis impersonators that night.
Then, on Friday, most were lured to the show from the sidewalk in front of Bellagio Fountains. Commenting through a Spiegelworld official, Gazillionaire said, “We are grateful to Jim Murren for sending them over to us for the night.”
That’s a joke, folks. Murren is chairman of MGM Resorts International — which owns Bellagio. He has no authority over, or use for, these inhabitants on the public sidewalks. (Murren told me at the opening of The Park promenade, which his company does own, “This is where no Spongebob is welcome.”)
Credit for this idea and its execution in fact goes to “Absinthe” Resident Director Daniel Kells, who personally recruited the entire busker lineup every night during the week beginning Monday night. The first to agree was Darth Vader, who said, “This sounds pretty fun!”
Once Darth was in, a total of 15 other characters fell in line. The costumed contingent met Kells at 10;45 p.m. in front of the fountains, and were marched across the bridge over Flamingo Road and into the show. They group caused quite a stir among Strip onlookers.
As Kells said, “At the end of the day, everyone’s a performer.”
The buskers’ appearance fee was more than 4,000 pennies — each performer was paid $65, along two tickets to a future “Absinthe” performance. But even the Gaz would have to allow, it was worth every penny.