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‘Atomic Saloon Show’ swings in opener at Edinburgh

Updated August 7, 2019 - 6:57 am

EDINBURGH, Scotland — The Kats! Bureau is Assembly George Square Gardens, the heart of Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The espresso is flowing, we’re between drizzles and someone with a brogue accent (I think Scottish) asked, “What is chaos about, sir?” I said, “Once more?” which I say a lot during this trip.

Then he pointed at my open umbrella, which is from — I’m not kidding — Kaos Nightclub and Dayclub in Las Vegas. I told him where I was from and about the club, and he said, “You need money for honey in Las Vegas.”

I said I’d pass along that phase to our tourism officials.

More from this scene, and elsewhere:

Swing both ways

The VIP premiere of “Atomic Saloon Show” was Tuesday night, a 10:10 p.m. performance for an audience peppered with Spiegelworld staffers. Founder Ross Mollison led the group, rejoicing in the slamming opening performance of the show, which will open Sept. 8 at its renovated Atomic Saloon (the old Act space) at The Venetian’s Grand Canal Shoppes. The show is playing at Palais du Variete Spiegeltent, with a nearly in-the-round design and atmosphere — folding chairs, a small central stage — similar to the “Absinthe” Spiegeltent.

We’ll post a full accounting of the opening night performance and an interview with Mollison in a subsequent post. But the opening song, performed by Colin Cahill as Blue Jackson the Singing Cowboy, addresses a cowpoke’s dual thirst for lust and fisticuffs. This ditty might need some editing (at least in the title) before it hits the Strip.

Elsewhere, saloon proprietor Madame Boozy Skunkton, played by onetime “Zumanity” clown character Petra Massey of Spymonkey, puts out an actual bush fire onstage and notes, “This is a brothel! It’s no place for romance!” Ace comedy director Cal McCrystal, who celebrated his 60th birthday on Tuesday, littered the script with hokey zingers: “I’m like a saloon door, I swing both ways!” And nun character Sister Maria Immaculator Chorizo Perez Perez Perez Lopez performs “I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy” with a ping-pong ball and a xylophone, which seems innocent enough (cough).

Spiegelworld has found a show that matches the high standards of lowbrow comedy and dazzling acrobatics set by “Absinthe” and “Opium” on the Strip. Fringe audiences are said to be a tough nut to crack for comedy, but the audience Tuesday loved the production. We’re checking back again Thursday for another look-see.

The Festival scene

During my spree of shows I’ve enjoyed the diversity for which Edinburgh is famous. Australian comic Sam Taunton, performing in a curtained Edinburgh University classroom or conference room, performed a great stretch about WiFi. “Where is it, the WiFi? It’s here! In the air! I’ll open the door and let it out!” He’s not played Vegas ever, but would be a good fit as host or middle comic at the city’s comedy clubs, for starters.

The Black Blues Brothers musical comedy tribute performed street acrobatics to the music of the Blues Brothers, or songs featured in “The Blues Brothers” movie (“Flip, Flop & Fly,” “Sweet Home Chicago,” “Shake Your Tail Feather” by Ray Charles). The quintet dresses Jake and Elwood Blues, performing such acts as a flaming limbo routine and five-man human pyramids in a Prohibition Era set.

Brought to the stage by Italian production company Circo E. Dintorni, the show drew an energetic standing ovation, a classic example of how dazzling acrobatics can be — if you haven’t been exposed to a steady diet of Cirque du Soleil and Spiegelworld and such shows as “Celestia” and “V — The Ultimate Variety Show.” Blame or credit those companies for widespread exposure to this medium.

So, I watched the Black Blues Brothers performance as if I was a producer or director of a Strip show. I’d want to break it down to a single, great act — or a series of few solid, five-minute acts — and use those artists in rotation in a show like “Absinthe.” That’s the approach Spiegelworld has used to fill its productions with inspired international artists, many of whom have performed at the Fringe.

Piffles at 10

This year marks the 10th anniversary of Mr. Piffles’ debut with Piff the Magic Dragon. A year into portraying the costumed dragon, character creator John van der Put was performing his first hourlong show and needed a gimmick.

A young woman running the venue had a chihuahua, so Van der Put snagged the pooch and used him in his act. Then he went out and adopted Mr. Piffles. The unlikely Strip performer was a rescue dog from the coastal city of Dundee, 60 miles or so north of Edinburgh. That’s the canine sidekick used in the show today.

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson. Las Vegas Sands operates The Venetian.

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 Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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