Vinny “Vin A.” Adinolfi is really one of us. In case we miss the point, the keyboardist/guitarist/oldest son in Bronx Wanderers actually becomes one of us, taking a seat in the crowd for a guitar solo at Mat Franco Theater.
South on the Las Vegas Strip, Chris Wayne and Mike Tyler of Naked Magicians often directly recruit volunteers from the audience. The are unafraid of meandering into the seats at Brad Garrett’s Comedy Club at MGM Grand, while partially undressed, to find a willing stage assistant.
These two shows have little in common, other than they just celebrated opening (or, in the Bronx Wanderers’ case, re-opening) parties over the past few days. Bronx Wanderers formally returned to action, at Linq Hotel, on Wednesday. The Naked Magicians took over the 10 p.m. slot at Brad Garrett’s Comedy Club on Friday.
Their shared qualities are simple to explain. They are people you’re good to spend time with on the Strip. There is a common connection crucial to succeeding in front of a live audience, especially in more intimate venues. They are people you might actually know — I feel I’ve spent time with the stars of Naked Magicians in some previous life, maybe during a bachelor party to Vegas before I ever moved here.
In Bronx Wanderers, patriarch Vinny Adinolfi and his boys, Vin A. and Nick, carry a familial familiarity. They seem like cousins. They play music my family likes. They joke around at the expense of everyone; I love when Vin A. says that he owes his work ethic and tolerance of the others to “Jack Daniel’s and Prozac!”
Father Vinny worships Dion. The boys like Bruno Mars. Vinny, once a star-crossed record producer who lost his job when Sony Corporation bought out Columbia Records, drops the names of such friends as Chazz Palminteri (present at the opening), Wayne Newton and Tony Orlando; Vin A. opened for Bon Jovi at T-Mobile Arena a few months ago. They bring stories of all these relationships and inspirations to the stage.
The result is a performance to which that locals can confidently bring their families. The show passes the Boise test — the show that can make your family happy for one night of a three-night visit. If you can sell that quality to Las Vegas residents, you have achieved something, trust me.
Not such an easy sell are the naked newbies at Garrett’s underground comedy club. I keep harping on the high volume of magic acts already performing in Las Vegas, but it is a staggering quantity of shows in this city. There are a total of 23 ticketed performances in the magic/mentalist/mystic/psychic category with two other major headliners — “America’s Got Talent” champion of “Champions” Shin Lim (the Mirage) and Dutch sensation Hans Klok (Excalibur) — arriving by the summer.
So, you need to do something different. Shedding your clothes is certainly uncommon for magicians, and Wayne and Tyler do perform something of a long-running striptease during a tightly designed series of magic acts. No, they do not produce full nudity. This is not “Puppetry of the Penis,” nor is it an aggressive male revue where the performers perform a series of striptease numbers. Instead, the eventual nakedness is the show’s long-running punch line.
Traditional magic, the guys’ forte, is certainly the center of the show — even with such naughty twists as pulling a hidden cellphone from a blow-up doll on stage left. The guys finally adhere to the show’s title, more than an hour into the performance.
Because “naked” is in the title, and because the show’s marketing shows the gentlemen in a similar state of undress as such male reviews as “Thunder From Down Under,” the show will invariably draw a crowd expecting to see nudity. There was a tipsy trinity of females a couple rows in front of me at the opening. “Oh, yeah! Take it off now!” were among their improvised directives shouted at the stage.
Wayne did a masterful job of dissecting their behavior, glaring at them and saying, “Hey, those who are shouting out, pay attention to social cues, OK?” The women eventually skulked out, probably headed to Hakasaan Nightclub.
But when you’re posing naked with nothing but a rabbit and top hat on signage around the hotel, what do you expect? The Naked Magicans, fortunately, understand how to navigate nutty crowds and produce nuanced magic tricks even as they drop trou. They are fun and funny, having hit the gym to show off their unclothed performances.
But I couldn’t help but think they went for hot in place of humor, sacrificing a chance at even greater laughs. I imagined what that show would have been like with a couple of magicians who didn’t look like a pair of Chippendales dancers, a couple of regular Joes who acted if they WERE buffed and seemed oblivious to the fact that that they weren’t.
The result might have felt like the movie “The Full Monty,” when the men performed a striptease without bothering to build their bodies. They just learned the steps. That approach worked, but that was in Sheffield, England, too, which is a lot different entertainment community than Las Vegas.
In any case, Naked Magicians, with their descriptive title and cheeky disposition, deliver a smart, funny, distinctive production. But don’t take my word for it. Send the folks there. They’ll tell you if it’s a winner.
John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His PodKats podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at email@example.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.