Updated October 30, 2021 - 10:41 am
Come for the Captain. Stay for the pasta. Or vice versa.
Spiegelworld does a lot in Las Vegas, but doesn’t do it twice. The company’s zeal for exploration at the Cosmopolitan with the twin hospitality experience of “Opium” and Superfrico. The show celebrated its grand reopening Thursday night.
This was the company’s second such event, following an unveiling last month. If there’s a third, we’ll be there, too, so long as Harry M. Howie is around.
We know the show very well, or have, since it opened in March 2018, the replacement of “Vegas Nocturne,” which ran for six months ending in June 2014. An interplanetary farce aboard the Spaceship OPM 73, “Opium” had just begun to run in the black in early 2020 when it was pulled from the stage. Some of the characters popular at the Opium Theater wound up supplementing Spiegelworld shows that beat “Opium” to the stage.
— John Katsilometes (@johnnykats) October 29, 2021
Asher Treleaven, known as the above-reference Captain Kunton; and Grace Lusk as Lt. Karen are among the “Opium” stars who helped “Absinthe” fill two companies and roll with 14 shows a week at Caesars Palace.
“Opium” has managed to work inside a comparatively restricted space. The Opium Theater doesn’t allow for great aerial acts simply because the ceiling is lower than the Absinthe Spiegeltent and Atomic Saloon Show at The Venetian’s Grand Canal Shoppes. But even as a more, shall we say, grounded production, “Opium” uses wicked-sharp comedy writing to keep the show consistently entertaining.
— John Katsilometes (@johnnykats) October 29, 2021
The captain’s lead-in to his “Sexy Diablo,” act includes a message to the fans for which the act is directed, “If you’re man-like lady, or a lady-like man …” Brett Alters’ Chiptells Rob the Robot (Eli Weinberg) his romantic experience has peaked at “lips to cheek,” which sends the sexual references careening to outer space.
Rear Admiral Todd (Brett Loudermilk) has cropped his fuchsia-colored hair, but his sword-swallowing routine is still sharply effective. Leeloo’s balloon-contortion routine is deemed impressive enough to lead the company’s marketing blitz. We have new, manic, plate-spinning from Gypsy Wood as Nurse Chardonnay, a comically inventive banana-spitting act from Jonathan Taylor and Ann Goldman of Daredevlil Chicken. Denis Lock’s brilliant bubble act, performed in a classic pinstripe suit, is brilliant. It’s also the one act not presented as an outer-space segment.
Spiegelworld founder Ross Mollison’s knack for international recruiting is evident again in the Pedal & Metal risley act, for which Mollison traveled to Ethiopia on a scouting trip. The two perform a risley act, in which one member flips the other at high velocity while prone on his back. Similar to many “Opium” acts, you wonder about the learning curve in this one, because it has to have failed several times to be performed so expertly now.
The whole of “Opium” makes a great production, tight and impressive and funny. But the restaurant adjacent offers something different from Spiegelworld. The food at Superfrico is great, the decor neatly matching the “Opium” design — in terms of aesthetics and attitude.
Guests arrive in separate venues as they reach the second-level “Opium” annex at the Cosmopolitan. The Artery dining room is home to what the company calls “Italian American Psychedelic” cuisine. The Studio is the dining space and bar where the performers were set up during the Rose. Rabbit. Lie. days. Ski Lodge is the cocktail bar design, yep, as a ski lodge. Enjoy this wintry spot when it’s 100-and-teen outside.
The Bottle-O at the edge of the theater offers the collection of company-blended and bottled cocktail flasks. We are pushing for mocktails, or at least a specific FizzyWater entry on that menu. That program is headed up by James Beard Award-winning mixologist Leo Robitschek and restaurant GM Greisy Pacton. Behind the scenes, longtime Vegas entertainment pros Allegra Libonati and Shannan Calcutt have worked to blend the dining and entertainment experiences, as “Opium” artists perform around the restaurant and apart form the theater.
I had previously referred to Superfrico as a pizza place. It does present great pizza, led by a man so adept at conceiving the pies he’s known as “International Pizza Czar,” Anthony Falco. But it is more than that.
The team has conceived great pasta dishes, steak, seafood, small plates and desserts. The chicken parm is very good. Bistecca alla Fiornita the 40-ounce Creekstone tomahawk, is what we’ll call a “destination” dish.
The art around the room is a bonus, but adds to the all-encompassing experience. Art consultant Heather Harmon leads the effort, keeping with the company’s circus underpinnings. More than 20 original works decorate the walls, highlighted by Adehla Lee’s Psycho Pop Party, a color-splashed acrylic that is the first painting be commissioned for Superfrico.Tiza’s Paranormal Activity is in the Purple Lodge, the venue’s entryway. Morgan Phillips (aka The Sucklord) has created 20 action figures based on “Opium” characters.
Among those early figures is Harry M. Howie himself. The show has effectively run without his ongoing participation, as he’s taken off for other ventures in L.A.. But was back Thursday night, grinning at what has been achieved.
Spiegelworld has satirized traditional circus in “Absinthe” and given the Wild West a once-over in “Atomic.” But the relaunched “Opium” is the company’s moon shot. May it always play among the stars.
Cool Hang Alert
The Moonshiners, Vegas’s terrific Gatsby-themed, top-40 cover band, plays Star Piano Cocktail Lounge at 10 p.m. Saturday. This is the former Sonny’s Saloon dive bar at 3449 S. Sammy Davis Jr. Drive. There is a costume party. There are prizes. There will be grooving. Go to starloungelv.com for details.
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.