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‘The Cocktail Cabaret’ toasts its opening at Caesars Palace

Updated November 7, 2017 - 9:36 am

As the song insists, its 5 o’clock somewhere, a time to relax and imbibe. That’s the befitting starting time and vibe of “The Cocktail Cabaret,” the new show at Cleopatra’s Barge at Caesars Palace.

The live music production tapping into classic Vegas lounge presentation opens Nov. 30, and its arrival was first trumpeted Sept. 13 by Keith Thompson at The Composers Showcase of Las Vegas. Thompson and fellow music director and musician Philip Fortenberry are backing the show through their PK Entertainment company. The show runs Wednesdays through Sundays, 5 p.m. start in an open-ended engagement, with tickets set at $55 (not including fees) and are onsale Wednesday at Ticketmaster.com or at any Caesars Entertainment hotel box office.

Both Thompson and Fortenberry are familiar with stage shows in Las Vegas, and are respected pianists, music directors and composers. Thompson is the former music director of “Jersey Boys” at Paris Las Vegas and Palazzo and is co-founder and host of The Composers Showcase of Las Vegas. Thompson has been a creative force on the Strip since arriving to help direct “We Will Rock You” at Paris more than a decade ago.

Fortenberry, who will lead the four-piece band from the piano in “The Cocktail Cabaret,” worked with Thompson on “Jersey Boys,” performed at the cabaret room at Liberace Museum in “Liberace & Me,” and was the body double for Michael Douglas in his portrayal of the entertainment icon the HBO film “Behind the Candelabra.” Fortenberry has also been a popular draw at Myron’s Cabaret Jazz at Smith Center with his own “Man at the Piano” and “The Hands of Liberace” performances, and backing such artists as the richly talented vocalist Daniel Emmet, one of the stars of “The Cocktail Cabaret.”

The show’s onstage host, Eric Jordan Young, is a veteran of Broadway and touring productions who opened “Starlight Express” at Las Vegas Hilton, appeared as Billy Flynn in “Chicago” at Mandalay Bay, originated the role of Ernie the Janitor in “Vegas! The Show” at Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood, and is the new resident director at “Baz — A Musical Mash-Up” at Palazzo Theater.

The show’s cast also features Niki Scalera (“Hairspray,” “Tarzan” “We Will Rock You” “Peepshow” and her “Bassey & Me” Shirley Bassey tribute), Maren Wade (“50 Shades! The Parody,” “Pin Up,” “Fantasy” “Vegas! The Show” and “Vegas Nocturne”), and Emmet, who has headlined at Cabaret Jazz and Myron’s Cabaret Jazz over the past couple of years with his soaring mix of pop and opera tunes.

The show promises a series of slickly staged contemporary songs and standards, the singers swapping turns with numbers ranging from “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” “Diamonds are Forever,” “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” “That’s Life,” “Viva Las Vegas,” and a medley of cocktail-themed songs and blues favorites.

The show is the first ticketed residency in Cleopatra’s Barge since Matt Goss closed his show in September 2016, though Caesars Entertainment plans to continue such limited engagements as Paul Shaffer’s appearances in December and January. David Perrico’s Pop String continues to anchor the venue with no-cover shows at 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

The vision of “The Cocktail Cabaret” is to refine the traditional lounge experience at the Barge, which seats 140 and has been closed off to feel like a small showroom rather than an open lounge.

“How we’re presenting this is a smart and stylish show where we are re-imagining modern standards, songs that people want to hear but do them in a slightly different way,” Thompson says. “We look at it as a great way to get the evening started, not to be seen as a lounge act, or a tribute act, but something that reminds people of vintage Las Vegas.”

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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