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Silk Sonic, Penn & Teller, Miranda Lambert top Vegas awards in ’22

Updated January 2, 2023 - 11:49 pm

The Kats! Awards, a mirth-some celebration of the year past, are back. These honors recognize the memorable individuals and events of 2022.

There are no criteria. There is no inertia. So run it:

Best Residency Headlining Show

A very tough category (he says, obviously), but Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak inhabited 1970s funk in the Silk Sonic series at Dolby Live. This was a trip through time, a “Soul Train”-inspired groovefest and a vintage fashion show, all in one production. Just the choreography was worth the trip to Park MGM, and you could only see it in Vegas. And we have more Mars, solo, in 2023.

Best Cameo

Teller reunited with Penn Jillette at the Rio on Dec. 23. Teller was silent, as usual, but the crowd erupted as he took the stage.

“I am as thrilled as I’ve ever been in my life, to say on the stage of the Penn & Teller Theater, please, ladies and gentlemen, Teller!” a clearly emotional Jillette said in introducing his stage partner of 47 years. The walk-on was Teller’s first appearance in a show since Sept. 25. Four days later, he underwent quadruple-bypass surgery. He was cleared to do “a little bit,” as Jillette said. Teller has performed each night as Penn has co-headlined with guest star Michael Carbonaro, the stint closing New Year’s night. The Penn & Teller show, with Teller, is due back Jan. 12.

Best Venue Named For an Individual

Myron’s at the Smith Center, home of Keith Thompson’s The Composers Showcase of Las Vegas and recurring performances by Clint Holmes, Earl Turner, Lon Bronson’s All-Star Band, David Perrico’s Pop Strings Orchestra, the popular R&B group Spectrum, Las Vegas’ First Lady of Jazz Michelle Johnson, indefatigable showman Frankie Moreno and Tyriq Johnson’s Serpentine Fire tribute to Earth Wind and Fire. That is a mere sampling. Myron is Smith Center President Myron Martin, and if you don’t know that, you’ve probably not made it this far in the column.

Best Key Ceremony

Katy Perry, accepted the Key to the Las Vegas Strip at Resorts World as part of her “Play” residency. The event was held through the heat ripples on a June afternoon at Ayu Dayclub’s pool deck. Perry showed up about a half-hour behind schedule as the sun threatened to bake County Commissioner Tick Segerblom. But the superstar arrived in a dress the color of a lime Popsicle, saying an extension of “Play” was possible (the show has since been extended into 2023). Also, a giant keyhole was projected on the side of the building, so it all made sense.

Best Blend of Music, Dance and Skating

Usher does it all at Dolby Live. Sells out ticket-wise, and performance-wise, every night.

Best Blend of Comedy and Cool Hang

Brad Garrett’s Comedy Club, party in the front with Ashley Fuller’s band, funny in the back, with the namesake appearing monthly.

Best Retirement Plan

David Lee Roth knocked out what would be all of his retirement shows at House of Blues in January and February. He has held to the announcement that he’s done performing live. You can still catch Van Halen hits in such rock-tribute acts as Fan Halen, and Diamond Dave still posts VH covers on social media.

Cool Hang of the Year (Strip Division)

Brian Newman’s “After Dark” shows at NoMad Library. Newman, Lady Gaga’s bandleader, lives in Brooklyn, and has bridged the gap between Gaga’s “Jazz + Piano” show at Dolby Live and the Vegas entertainment community. Hammond organ legend Ronnie Foster, magician Murray Sawchuck and Skye Dee Miles are among the Vegas performers to jump onboard.

Cool Hang of the Year (Off-Strip Division)

Miles’ “Midnight Skye” performances on Wednesdays and Thursdays is the top of the pop at Palms’ rooftop Ghostbar club. As she says, it’s “Skye,” with an “E,” which stands for “extra everything.”

Annual Bring The Party Award

To Zowie Bowie, Chris Phillips’ live act that blasted into Vegas in 2006 and has run almost nonstop since. Chris’ wife, Jennifer, has developed the ZB Showgirls, and the show packs Fremont Street Experience’s 3rd Street Stage, Italian American Showroom, and M Resort’s Amp’d lounge.

Best Vegas Rock Concept

Michael Shapiro’s Reckless In Vegas dove into full-production mode at the Sahara Theater through the second half of 2022. The band took full advantage of the opportunity provided by the tradition-conscious resort. Several superb guest singers (Anne Martinez, Kelly Clinton-Holmes, Kelly Vohnn, Niki Scalera, Christine Shebeck and Elyzabeth Diaga ), vintage videos of Tom Jones, Elvis and the Rat Pack, and dancing showgirls peppered a rowdy Vegas experience.

Most Promising New Show

Cirque has “O,” Wynn has, “Whoa,” with “Awakening.” The show’s producers throw everything but the kitchen sink (I think) in the $120 million assault on the senses. The show is going down for a two-week “dark” beginning Jan. 15. There is magic in this show, some groundbreaking puppetry, costuming, audio-visual technology and choreography. But “Awakening” can use some ratcheting in its storytelling arc. So did ”Le Reve,” the show it replaced. “Awakening” is in far better condition than that show, which ran for 15 years. We’ll find out if the ticket-buying market is as patient today as it was in 2005.

Monday Pairing Award

Santa Fe and the Fat City Horns at the Copa Room, followed by Vegas lounge legend Sonny Charles at Bootlegger Bistro. Take a tourist who wants to go where tourists don’t go to this double-header.

Entertainment-Buffet Pairing Award

Italian American Club has found the secret sauce (as it were) with its dinner-show packages in its showroom. And you can catch crisp performances in the restaurant lounge, headed up by Nicholas Cole. Always a quality hang at IAC, founded in 1960 with Frank Sinatra an early supporter.

What Works In Vegas Award

The twin tandem of Carrot Top and “Fantasy” at Luxor. A combined 40 years between these shows (17 for the comic, 23 for the adult revue) is all the evidence we need.

Best Impression

John Di Domenico as Donald Trump.

Second-Best Impression

Carrot Top as John Di Domenico as Donald Trump.

Arts District Destination Awards

To Troy Heard’s Majestic Repertory Theater, Jean-Claude Lamarre and and Eurika Pratts’ Lamarre Theater, and Wiseguys Comedy Club.

Community Venue to Watch For in ’23

The Space, and the philanthropic event Mondays Dark. Mark Shunock is always moving his feet. We anticipate Team Shunock will be advancing this cause, next year. As Shunock says when firing up Raiders, Golden Knights and Top Rank Boxing crowds, “Lemme hear ya!”

Best Non-Human Performer

BLU32, drawing raves as David Copperfield’s alien sidekick in his wondrous show at MGM Grand.

Best 100-year-old Magician

Gloria Dea, who premiered at El Rancho Vegas on May 14, 1941. She was the first magician to ever perform in Las Vegas, and celebrated No. 1oo in August.

Best Bond theme rendition

Adele scored with “Skyfall” at the Colosseum. This is a more competitive category than you might expect. Duran Duran crushed it with “A View to a Kill” at Encore Theater. But we got the chills when Adele summoned her Vegas-laden orchestra at Caesars.

Best Mix of Classic Vegas

Modern Showrooms at Alexis Park runs with “All Shook Up,” Let’s Be Frank” “All Motown” and “Carpenters Legacy.” This place is one-stop shopping for any Vintage Vegas fan.

Best Old-School Variety Show

Dennis Bono’s Thursday afternoon simulcast at South Point Showroom is a real kick. Classic showman leading a crack band with a generous sampling of talent. Cover charge is “nothing,” and it is priceless.

Best Raiders Halftime Performance

The ever-rocking John Fogerty rose to the moment with a set closed with a roaring “Fortunate Son.” Even as the team sputters, the Raiders entertainment crew moves the chains, as it were. And also, this …

Best Raiders Pregame Performance

Judith Hill, backed by David Perrico and the Raiders House Band, returning for an Oct. 1 tribute.

Hill’s performance of “Rise Up” was a homecoming of sorts. She also played the Allegiant Stadium groundbreaking in 2017. The Las Vegas Aces lit the Al Davis Memorial Torch that day, as they are the champions, my friend.

Best Raiders National Anthem Performance

Rock legend Carlos Santana and his superstar drumming wife, Cindy Blackman Santana, took the crowd on a ride prior to the Raiders-Cardinals game Sept. 18. It was a home-team loss, but another “W” for the resident Vegas legend.

Odd Collaboration Award

Billy F. Gibbons and Morris Day of The Time for the single, “Too Much Girl 4 Me.”

Instrument of the Year

Gibbons’ ZZ Top band mate Elwood Francis of played a 17-string Fender for “Under Pressure,” opening the band’s show at The Venetian Theatre. He really played it, too, at least for one song. This was no prop.

Vegas Entertainment Lesson Award

Wayne Newton, who turned 80 in April, has booked 70 shows at the Flamingo for 2023. That’s just the first six months. This is a how Strip residencies used to look.

Best Van Gogh Experience

“Immersive Van Gogh” at The Shops at Crystals, outpacing the other Van Gogh projection experience at Area15.

Show We Want To See Return

“Undisputed Truth,” starring Mike Tyson. The title, and star, say it all.

Best Mix of EDM and Vegas Musicianship

The Chainsmokers summoned the Santa Fe’s horn section for the song “iPad,” the third cut from “So Far So Good.” Chainsmokers remain resident headliners at XS Nightclub/Encore Beach Club at Wynn Las Vegas.

Best Sibling Reunion

To Donny and Marie Osmond, with Marie checking out brother Donny’s show at Harrah’s Showroom on Nov. 5.

This familial reconnection was nearly three years to the day after the duo closed at the Flamingo. During the show, Donny coerced Marie to sing a stretch of “A Little Bit Country, A Little Bit Rock ‘n’ Roll” from her VIP booth. The crowd loved it. The song was a staple in the “Donny & Marie” TV show in the late-’70s, covered later by Pantera (kidding about that).

Best Vegas ‘Finale’

Elton John, who closed it out — for now — at Allegiant Stadium. Strong in voice, hands flying across the keys and basking in the adulation, Sir Elton said the Nov. 1 show was his last touring performance in Las Vegas. He opened in town in 1971 at Las Vegas Convention Center. Including two residencies at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace, John has played 469 shows in Las Vegas, the most of any city. We’re still holding out that he’ll return for residency in 2024.

Elvis Legacy Award

Pete “Big Elvis” Vallee still fills the lounge at Harrah’s Piano Bar at 2, 3:30 and 5 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Vallee also hosts his “Blue Hawaii”-themed show at The Golden Tiki from 4 to 7 p.m. the first Tuesday of every month. Great voice, great costumes, great man.

Allegiant Stadium Wipeout Award

BTS filled the stadium four times April 8-9 and 15-16. The K-pop superstars also packed MGM Grand Garden for four viewing events. The Grand Garden was something of a casita for Allegiant Stadium, where BTS grossed $35,944,850 in four shows, trailing only Harry Styles’ 15 performances at Madison Square Garden and Ed Sheeran’s five shows at London’s Wembley Stadium in 2022.

T-Mobile Arena Wipeout Award

Comic and onetime UNLV student Jo Koy sold out the venue in November. That’s 14,000 seats for the stand-up who play Huntridge Theater and Catch a Rising Star at MGM Grand nearly 20 years ago.

Best Upcoming Superstar Comic Residency

Kevin Hart at Resorts World Theatre.

Best Blast

Miranda Lambert’s “Velvet Rodeo” has been a wild ride at Zappos Theater. Lambert and her band have turned the venue into Boomtown, with all that pyro and musical power, and we like it.

Best Comeback

Barry Manilow was hospitalized for an atrial fibrillation (AFib) heart episode the night of Dec. 1. Then he made up for that show by performing “A Very Barry Christmas” premiere the following afternoon at Westgate’s International Theater. Then he performed a second show that night. Even Manilow’s veteran musicians bowed down to that effort.

Statue of the Year

To Oscar Goodman’s figure at Historic Fifth Street School. Goodman is grinning and holding a martini, likely contemplating his next NFL wager (take the 49ers and the points this weekend). We prefer this statue over “Good Counsel” at Oscar’s Steakhouse at the Plaza, where Goodman is shown looming over mob figure Tony Spilotro. Artist Brian Hanlon created both pieces.

Most Adventurous Incoming Limited Engagement

“Six” is descending on Palazzo Theater for a seven-week run beginning March 21. The hit musical musical tells the tale of the six wives of Henry VIII. Broadway-style shows struggle to maintain a pulse in Vegas (unless they are touring shows at the Smith Center), but “Six” is a concert show above a storytelling show. That concept might flourish where “Baz” did not.

Best Outgoing Extended Engagement

A top-notch cast and crew, producers willing to invest a ton of money, and even a visiting shaman couldn’t save “Bat Out of Hell — The Musical” at Paris Theater. Chalk this one up to a miscalculation of the Vegas ticket-buying market, which is not going to flood to a Strip theater for Meat Loaf hits.

Best New Show

“Mad Apple” has survived a choppy market (see previous) to score critically and financially at New York-New York. Cirque has adroitly replaced the great “Zumanity” with a talented, fast-moving, highly entertaining production. The theater is gorgeous, and comic Harrison Greenbaum has seized the role of fearless master of ceremonies. The show has an edge that can only help Cirque advance its cause on the Strip.

Best Show That Is Not New

We have to mention “Absinthe” at Caesars Palace in any “best-of” list, lest we risk the wrath of Gazillionaire. Once an upstart, the show has become a Las Vegas institution. Such fantastic performers as twin tappers Sean and John Scott, the show sway-pole troupe and Duo Vector’s Misha Furmanczyk and Lucasz Szczerba have made Gaz a Vegas icon.

Best Recovery

Adele showed why she has earned international adoration in her series at the Colosseum. She holds a rare capacity to connect with an audience. She walks through the crowd, and is an iconic figure on the venue’s massive video panels. Bringing on the Vegas players was a great artistic move, and generated good will across the city.

King of Magic Award

To Mac (King) at Excalibur, the longest-running headliner on the Strip, dating to January 2000. He keeps reappearing, despite his Cloak of Invisibility.

Hot-Flash Award

Alan and Kathi Glist’s “Menopause The Musical” at Harrah’s hits its 17th anniversary in Vegas in February. This is the longest-running musical currently performed in Las Vegas.

Venue Relaunch Award

Jimmy Kimmel’s Comedy Club returned to ticketed business in 2022 after a 2½-year pandemic pause. Top comics Luenell and Vicki Barbolak and comic-magician Farrell Dillon have been among the club’s rotating headliners. Pompey Entertainment’s Damian Costa and Nick Cordaro have taken over club operations. “We had to figure some things out because Caesars Palace changed hands, and we were a part of their empire,” Kimmel said on reopening night in November. “Now we’re still kind of part of their empire, but more independent.”

Venue Versatility Award

Shedding its nightclub persona, Kaos at the Palms showcased Moreno, buoyant yacht-rock act Yächtley Crëw, veteran comic John Caparulo and … “Brunched By an Angel (Where VIPs Dine With The RIPs).” We don’t accept every entertainment strategy in VegasVille, and the seance-over-scones experience is in that category. But we applaud the concept of variety.

Best Off-The-Midway Experience

Cheapshot on Fremont East. Visionary Amy Saunders always delivers an edgy vibe, and (related) she’s a famous sword-swallower.

Family Production Award

Matt and Angela Stabile’s Stabile Productions is running the table (to use a pool term) with Piff The Magic Dragon and “X Burlesque” at Flamingo and “X Country” at Harrah’s. Angela’s daughter and co-producer Tiffany Mondell and co-producer/choreographer Anthony Cardella are integral members of “Team X.” And, Angela’s son, Frankie Sidoris, is at once a rock-star guitarist (with Slash Ft. Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators or with Van Halen’s Mammoth WVH) and co-owner of Hard Hat Lounge on Industrial Road.

Pandemic Survivor Award

Ken Henderson’s Notoriety Live has made it through the Covid-19 shutdown, continuing to run a consistently high-caliber schedule where others have since shut down. The third level of Neonopolis has become a destination.

Dynamic Duo Award

The husband-and-wife team of Saku and Hanh Pruitt’s AE Group has put on high-quality shows in intimate venues since 2018. I just got to know the couple this year and have been impressed at the performances they put on at Gatsby’s Supper Club at Gambit Henderson, among other Vegas haunts. The shows are loaded with such talented entertainers as Ms. Monet, John Wedemeyer, Steph Payne, Toscha Comeaux, Linda Woodson, Tymara Walker, Noybel Gorgoy, Pepe Jimenez, Rita Lim, Joey Melotti, Dave Ostrem and Lisa Gay, JUST to name a few. The shows sell well, often selling out, and you know you’re getting a high-quality experience. It ain’t cheap, but neither are these folks.

Canine Headliner Award

Mr. Piffles, raising the standards while lifting his hind leg for Piff’s show Flamingo Showroom.

Best Use of Zamboni

The Dollar Loan Center’s ad campaign utilized Alice Cooper; Mötley Crüe front man Vince Neil; Rick Harrison of “Pawn Stars”; Public Enemy co-founder and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Flavor Flav; longtime Skid Row vocalist Sebastian Bach; Harrah’s headliner Tape Face; and Sawchuck and his wife, former “Crazy Girls” and “Jubilee” showgirl Dani Elizabeth.

Best Anniversary Performance

Tape Face celebrated his 1,043rd show at Harrah’s Cabaret. The fantastic comic mime selected that number randomly, then realized it stands for “love” in numerical slang. The comic shows legal name is Sam Wills is paired with Christina Balonek’s Phyllis Vanillis character, and uses oven mitts, staple guns, gaffer tape and dozens of red balloons to make the show go.

Entertainer’s Vintage Car Award

Pump the gas for Vegas rocker and Yellow Brick Road founder Brody Dolyniuk’s garage-built, twin-turbo, 850-horsepower, 1967 Chevy II Nova.

Entertainer’s Vintage Truck Award

Hop in the bed for Soul Juice Band founder David Tatlock’s 1979 Datsun 620 pickup.

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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