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‘Fuerza Bruta’ testing tent tradition on Las Vegas Strip

Tents come and go in Las Vegas. But occasionally they don’t leave and serve as harbingers of long-running Strip productions.

“Absinthe” opened in a tent for what was expected to be a six-month run. That was nearly eight years ago. Cirque du Soleil’s “Novelle Experience” played a limited, tented engagement outside the Mirage in November 1993. That show helped ignite the series of Cirque shows that continue to be staged on the Strip.

Lest we forget, “De La Guarda” set up at a 950-capacity tent at the Rio and ran from October 2000-July 2001 (the tent actually still stands on the Rio property). That show was the long-ago forerunner to “Fuerza Bruta,” set to open on the Strip-facing lot just east of Excalibur on March 7 (the first preview is March 4). The tent for that production was raised during a photo and video op at Excalibur on Wednesday afternoon.

“Fuerza Bruta” will perform at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays (dark Mondays and Tuesdays). Tickets are $72.50 (not including fees) and are on sale now at MGM Resorts box offices, at Excalibur.com or by calling 702-597-7600.

“Fuerza Bruta” is an advanced version of “De La Guarda,” but I’m not expecting you to remember that long-ago show (which ended with a rainstorm inside the tent). With “Fuerza Bruta” (translation: brute force) we’re talking about a highly stylish production in a 3,800-square-foot tent where all audience members stand and where the acrobats bound around the venue with no central staging.

You’re in the show if you want to be. You can stand and observe. Or do both.

“We’ve had the show perform in outdoor festivals, theater spaces and it’s a versatile, interactive experience,” said Jack Kenn, vice president of the show’s co-producer, EMM Williams Productions. “With no seating, you’re not a passive audience member waiting for something to happen to you. You’re actually creating an experience with the performers, around and above you.

“It’s a true 360-degree experience.”

As hotel president and chief operating officer Ann Hoff says, that participation quality helps separate “Fuerza Bruta” from the half-dozen Cirque shows currently in production, five of which are at MGM Resorts properties (Excalibur is an MGM Resorts hotel). Also, on Feb. 27, the tented acrobatic show “Celestia” opens for an open-ended run at The STRAT Hotel, Casino and Skypod.

But “Fuerza Buerta” has established its own independent pedigree since it was launched in Buenos Aires in 2003. The show ran for 10 years in New York, and was the backdrop for the music video of Usher’s hit song “Scream.” Such stars as Beyoncé, Justin Bieber, Jim Carrey, Bradley Cooper, Leonardo DiCaprio, John Legend, Madonna, Jimmy Page and Kanye West have either attended or performed in the show in New York City.

As “Fuerza Bruta’s” tent was raised on the Strip, I asked Kenn about the success of “Absinthe’ and the possibility that this might also be built to last beyond six months.

“We would love nothing better,” he said. “But the (county) requirements for this tent to be here are six months only.

“We certainly want to find a permanent home, if it goes well, whether it’s here or with this tent in another location. But we really want this show to go well and for it to be here to stay.”

P&T launch AFAN offices

Penn & Teller cut the ceremonial ribbon at the new AFAN (Aid for AIDS of Nevada) offices on Wednesday afternoon. The new digs are at 1830 E. Sahara Ave., Suite 210. The facility’s new lobby was dedicated to P&T, who are again hosting the AFAN AIDS Walk at Town Square on April 7 (registration is now open at afanlv.org). P&T’s longtime manager and publicist, Glenn Alai, is the new AFAN president.

ShowBuzz!

Former “Jubilee” dancer and swing in “Pin Up” at the STRAT, Sabina Kelley, and ace music director Aaron Fuller have been added to the cast of Michael Airington’s “Ester Goldberg’s Outrageous Brunch.” The show opens at The Sayers Club at SLS Las Vegas at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Feb. 23. Fuller is also known as music director of the still-in-limbo “Alice,” which has co-starred his wife, Ashley Fuller. Kelley was a judge on the Oxygen tattoo competition show “Best Ink.” Last year, she was enlisted to help develop a Bettie Page-licensed project with Tegan Summer, but has moved off that project … Summer, meantime has most recently been partnering with longtime Vegas producer Blair Farrington in his effort to resuscitate “Marilyn — A New Musical,” which is still without a venue or cast or “save the date” notification for its return … Terrific comic performer Mateo Ameiva, who played Maestro in Criss Angel’s “Mindfreak Live” Luxor, is guest starring in Murray Sawchuck’s show at Laugh Factory at the Tropicana at 5 p.m. Sunday, an indication of just how wacky the Vegas entertainment world is … A member of a legendary Motown act has been testing the waters (as it were) for a deal on the Strip. If it happens, really interesting … Great comic actor Max Bumgarten, who played Robert the Robot and Harry M. Howie in the “Opium” universe, has left the show temporarily to work on projects in Los Angeles. He should return in about a month. His short film, “White Men Solve Sexism,” screens at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival today and Friday.

Cool Hang Alert

Jassen Allen is starring in “That’s My Story Las Vegas” at 7 p.m. Friday at Freedom Hall Theatre in Henderson and again at 7 p.m. Feb. 16 at Starbright Theatre in Summerlin. Backed by a nine-piece band, Allen sings the best of Luther Vandross, along with country, pop, Broadway and R&B selections. This guy is really something, which is why he’s been entrusted to produce the musical elements of Monday’s Dark at The Space.

Tickets for both shows are $20 (a mere pittance). Find ticket info at Freedom Hall is at 702.614.5865; Starbright is 702.240.1301 or click to www.SunCitySummerlin.com.

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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