The KATS! Bureau at this writing is Cleopatra’s Barge at Caesars Palace, a favorite entertainment hovel but a new position from which to write.
I’ve just watched the first performance of “The Cocktail Cabaret,” which fairly blew my mind — and I came in with lofty expectations. The talent of cast members of Eric Jordan Young, Daniel Emmet, Niki Scalera and Maren Wade and pianist Philip Fortenberry is well known around VegasVille.
The show is a spirited, swift-moving presentation of musical theater standards and contemporary hits. These vocalists are unleashed in the moated enclave, running through such familiar, yet mashed-up, tunes as “Viva Las Vegas/Burn My Candle” and Diamonds Are Forever” (from Scalera); “Can’t Live (If Livin’ is Without You)” (from Emmet); “The Birth of the Blues” (Young) and “You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby” (from Wade).”
But the development of this show was complicated, or maybe it was enhanced, by the design of the Barge. This is a multi-leveled lounge that has been modified to feel like a showroom by the recent addition of curtain-shaded glass separating the action inside the room from passers-by.
It’s a risk, because much of what happens at the Barge is visually interesting to those hoofing tourists. Better have good directional signage inside the hotel, kids, and a focused marketing campaign outside.
Aesthetically, closing off the room allows for better sound and a classier feel. But the venue is still notoriously tricky because of the many platforms of seating — I’ve often compared the Barge to a four-level chess board, and to win you have to use those levels smartly. Show creator Keith Thompson and Caesars Entertainment Entertainment Director Gene Lubas have done that, directing the singers to move, groove and sashay between tables and in the aisles.
At one point, I found myself walking next to Wade while heading toward the bar. This is an ideal manifestation of a show that strives for malleability. After the show, Wade, Emmet and I joked that “Cocktails” should add an all-aquatic medley — “My Heart Will Go On” from “Titanic” and Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” — to be performed in paddle boats in the moat.
That move would be what we call “optional.”
The show already moves at a crisp clip with a cocktail medley (“Margaritaville,” “I Get a Kick Out Of You,” “Red Red Wine” in the mix) and a blues medley (“Stormy Weather,” For Your Love” and “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue”) in play there. The entire experience, which is called the Cocktail Experience in shorthand, is something of a medley in a 70-minute glide through Caesars’ regal nightspot.
“The Cocktail Cabaret,” not so incidentally, plays at 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays. That start time is already being discussed. Is it right? Should it be later? No. Give it a shot. Make it a tequila, even. Clink the glasses at the Barge and then hit dinner, or even Celine, who also knows something about how to navigate the waves.