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Cirque CEO Lamarre ‘eternal optimist’ on 20th anniversary

Updated January 17, 2021 - 8:58 am

His company almost totally latent as it hopes for a return to the stage by this fall, Daniel Lamarre marked his 20th anniversary Friday as Cirque du Soleil.

In a favorable climate, Lamarre would have celebrated at a Cirque show. Instead, his theater was Facebook. Allowing for challenges in “unprecedented times,” Lamarre posted a message on Facebook on Friday, offering optimism to sidelined employees and the company’s worldwide following.

“Now, you might wonder what makes me get up in the morning, after 20 years in the same company, especially during these most uncertain times,” Lamarre wrote. “My secret is that I am just as passionate today as I was on my first day in 2001.” He cited Cirque’s expansion over the years and its success in Las Vegas, where the company has transformed the scope of live entertainment on the Strip.

“As a risk-taking creative company, we did make mistakes over the years, and we learned from them,” Lamarre said. “But we owe it to our audiences, and to ourselves, to always push the boundaries of live entertainment and to always produce highly creative, daring and surprising content.”

In November, Lamarre answered, “Yeah, oh yes,” when asked if Cirque would be back onstage by this November. “Mystere” at Treasure Island and “O” at Bellagio would lead Cirque’s still-unscheduled restart. “Zumanity” has been closed permanently, but Lamarre said Cirque plans to reopen all of its remaining Strip shows beginning this fall and into 2021.

“Love” at Mirage, “MJ One” at Mandalay Bay and “Ka” at MGM Grand are the temporarily closed shows.

Cirque holding Blue Man Group at Luxor is also being planned for return.

Internationally, the company continues to run “Joya” in Cancun and “X: The Land of Fantasy” in Hangzhou, the capital city of east China’s Zhejiang province. Such touring shows as “Totem” (selling tickets for March 17 in Rome) and the ice-skating production “Crystal” (opening in Germany in September) are on the books, but Cirque’s return remains fluid.

“As an eternal optimist, I sleep at night knowing that I work with an incredible team of strong-minded creative people who, together, will relaunch Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group into the brand we all know and love, and even bring it to new heights,” Lamarre said. But he was realistic in facing the company’s challenges this year and beyond.

“I can say, without a doubt, that last year has been the most difficult of my life. It’s like the world stopped turning,” Lamarre wrote. “The months ahead will certainly not be smooth sailing. However, these challenges build us into who we are and bring us closer.”

But when it happens, and exactly where, is a challenge topping Lamarre’s list as he enters year 21 in ’21.

Back Holmes

“When the curtain goes up …” is the lyric of a killer Santa Fe & The Fat City Horns song, finishing off with, “the nonsense stops.” Or, something similar. The song is apropos for the band’s next Monday-night virtual hang.

Vocal greats Clint Holmes and Noybel Gorgoy are special guests of Jerry Lopez and the gents in the band’s eighth livestream show at 6 p.m. Pacific time. Catch “The Healing,” virtually, at www.santafeband.com/live.

The show originates from Santa Fe’s home venue, the Copa Room at Bootlegger Bistro.

The event is a reunion of sorts, as Holmes hired Santa Fe as his backing band, along with music director Bill Fayne, for his 6 1/2-year run at Harrah’s ending in 2006. The event is further a reunion, of sorts, for Holmes and Gorgoy. The Cuban-born vocalist was featured in Holmes’ “Between The Lines” show at Palazzo Theater in 2016.

The singers will perform live, onstage (socially distant, natch) at Copa Room. The show marks Holmes’ first appearance onstage since his Ray Charles tribute tour with Take 6 was cut short March 14.

“This is the longest I’ve ever been offstage, by far, in my career,” Holmes said Saturday. “Even when I had cancer in 2004, I only missed three weeks. I am really grateful to be back with this band.”

We call it TVR

The Vegas Room is presenting new entertainment along with Chef David James Robinson’s innovative menu. Column fave Jamie Hosmer, a Santa Fe vet, premieres at the supper club Jan. 22-23. Serena Henry, from Holmes’ show and also a backing singer for Smokey Robinson and Gladys Knight, is in Jan. 29-30.

We’ll be back in the room Saturday to see Philip Officer behind the mic and Dan Ellis on the keys. A Manhattan Association of Cabarets (MAC) award-winner, Officer is celebrating his 65th birthday with a flurry of such TVR regulars as Ruby Lewis, Ian Ward, Kitty Green, Paula Dione Ingram, Carnell “Golden Pipes” Johnson, Amanda King and new Vegas Room Entertainment Director Jassen Allen.

We caught Allen’s full show for the first time last weekend at Italian American Club. The performance was a dazzling, crisply paced array of songs ranging from “That’s Life” to Reba McEntire’s “Why Haven’t I Heard From You?” We had wondered which McEntire song Allen was going to invoke, and he chose right.

Allen is still singing at Mayfair Supper Club at Bellagio, at Prosecco Fresh Italian Kitchen restaurant from 6 p.m.-9 p.m. on Saturdays, and helping pilot the Mondays Dark shows at the Space. That series resumes Monday with the No. 1 hits of 2010-2020, benefiting Barn Buddies Rescue.

At the risk of sounding rah-rah, Allen’s growth in the Vegas entertainment community is something to applaud.

Alexis! Put on a show!

Add vocalist Gabriella Versace to the lineup of the new “BurlesQ” at Alexis Park. Versace is making occasional appearances. The show already features a popular Strip performer, comic emcee Sean E. Cooper, who spent 17 years at “Fantasy” at Luxor.

Versace, who has been with Jen Romas’ “Sexxy” at Westgate Las Vegas since the show launched about six years ago, has been unable to join the show’s current run at Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club. She has been focused on a new Barbra Streisand tribute act, which debuted this month at Chianti Restaurant at 4275 S. Durango Drive in Las Vegas. Versace appeared along with Rob Garrett as Neil Diamond, Chris Jason as Frank Sinatra and Justin Shandor as Elvis Presley.

I’m calling Versace’s new project “Gabs Does Babs!” even if no one else is. Versace is also focusing on her Showgirl Cupcakes business, and an in-development line of bathing and swimwear products. Side note, the first time I ever talked to Versace, she was dressed as Lady Liberty during a gig at Crossroads of the West Gun Show at Cashman Center. Torch, crown, the whole nine. True story, that.

In the hopper

Vocal and music master Jimmy Hopper performs at Italian American Club’s dining room, formerly the restaurant’s showroom, Sunday night. Dinner is 6 p.m., show is 7:15. Lou Gazzara (Wednesday), Lannie Counts (Saturday) and Bronx Wanderers (Jan. 24) are coming up in the not-too-distant future.

IAC’s pandemic mantra remains, “Ambient music for our dining guests.” Ours is, “Mask up and live.”

Our Farkas moment

The final night of Sand Dollar’s Miracle On Spring Mountain display was a pop-up pizza party to help MGM Resorts International PR rep Ashley Farkas pay her medical bills. Farkas has been battling leukemia throughout COVID.

Sand Dollar co-owners Anthony Jamison and Nathan Grates, and Bardot Brasserie at Aria Chef Nick Dugan, advanced the idea of fundraising during the club’s expanded holiday display. Over three nights, several of the city’s leading chefs auctioned off specialty pizzas for as much as $500 apiece. Boosting the value were such toppings as caviar, lobster and black truffle.

Restaurateur Michael Mina himself put in a phone bid for $500, for Dugan’s caviar-topped masterpiece. Mina had it delivered to one of the tables in the club.

Among the culinary stars lending their efforts were Brian Lhee (Majordomo at Palazzo) Vincent Rotolo (Good Pie) and Adam Sobel (Mina Group). The effort raised $8,800 for Farkas, and another $6,800 for Las Vegas Rescue Mission in an earlier campaign.

Farkas remains in positive spirits, leading us to …

Great Moments In Social Media

Check out Farkas, bald through her treatment and wearing oversized glasses and the Vegas Golden Knights golden alternative jersey, grooving it up on her Facebook page. This video is everything, even though she has copped at least two of my moves.

Note: This version of the column corrects Chef Brian Lhee’s restaurant.

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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