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‘Ukrainian Men’ debut, pants-free theme as ‘Absinthe’ turns 12

Updated April 5, 2023 - 5:14 pm

It’s the humor, stupid. Sometimes, it’s the stupid humor.

It’s the acts. The architecture. The confidence cloaked in self-mockery. A title that meant nothing, originally, unknown to Vegas entertainment fans but now the name of the dominant show on the Strip. All of it makes “Absinthe” at Caesars Palace a hit.

The cornerstone of the Spiegelworld empire has turned 12. The show celebrated Monday with a party bitten by dumb luck, a “No Pants” event in the bitter cold. While the brave cavorted in all style of shorts and kilts, attendees were treated to another boffo “Absinthe” performance.

As customary, Spiegelworld founder Ross Mollison turned the event into a happening. The show premiered a new act from the ensemble Lost Souls, a collection of six Ukrainian acrobats and one world-champion acrobat from Russia.

The act is titled, “It’s Ukrainian Men. Hallelujah!” (refer to our lead sentence). The act is nobly performed to the disco song “It’s Raining Men.”

Mollison claims it’s the most dangerous number ever in the show. How to quantify whether that act is more dangerous than, say, any of the aerial numbers or the skating act that nearly clips folks in the first row, is up to producers. It’s thrilling, regardless of its danger grade.

“Absinthe” also staged an arrival from the filthy (rich) fictional character Gazillionaire, in a new Gaz Roller. This is a very real Rolls Royce Ghost with a gleaming-gold wrap, available in a VIP package for the show.

The “No Pants” logo was stamped on the event, with No Pants burgers, cocktails and (thankfully) coffee provided. No Pants is the official name for the food and beverage concept (but not its binding dress code) at the Green Fairy Garden.

The No Pants Band and Dancers, with real musicians and showgirls showing off their shivering legs, provided post-show entertainment. Guests milled in the Green Fairy Garden under the Absinthe Electric Oak, and inside Pier 17 Yacht Club, named for the Brooklyn Bridge location where the show was launched in 2006.

“Absinthe” had planned just a six-month stay when opening at Caesars’ Roman Plaza in April 2011. The show was originally headed for the theater at Fontainebleau before that resort’s construction was halted in 2009. The original Spiegeltent barely survived that run, but the show inside flourished.

Today, “Absinthe” plays twice a night, every night, with separate companies — the Moustache and Unicorn teams — effectively creating two productions under a single title.

The show’s success is easier to explain than duplicated. Mollison has created a portal into the vaudeville era, when characters rejoiced in raunchy humor and fearless insults. Gazillionaire is himself the butt of these jokes, a completely self-unaware character who believes his untrammeled wealth shields him from all forms of bad taste and ill-advised behavior.

From the beginning, Gazillionaire, created by the amazing Voki Kalfayan, has served as the one-person ambassador of all that is right and wrong with “Absinthe.” A rotating group of actors has kept the character’s edge intact.

“Absinthe’s” far-reaching talent has always been its selling point. Both the Moustache and Unicorn companies showcase four-member, sway-pole acts (dubbed the Silicon Valley Girls upon its debut three years ago) that took years to perfect. Twin tappers Sean and John Scott, who were not in the anniversary show, also bring an element original and unique to this production.

Having spent a decade with the company and turning 40 this October, Sean and John just premiered an updated version of their act, and one day want to perform their own Spiegelworld production.

The Spiegeltent’s in-the-round seating pattern allows audience members to observe not just the show, but each other. Seated in unmatched folding chairs, ticket-holders can actually make eye contact with those seated across the tent.

And the tent “Absinthe” has created is only expending, with the show’s success leading leading to “Opium” now “OPM” at the Cosmopolitan, “Atomic Saloon Show” at The Venetian’s Grand Canal Shoppes, and further expansion to Linq Hotel with “DiscoShow” in 2024, “Hook” at Warner Theatre in Atlantic City (opening in a hurry, in June); and eventually a new show and venue at Harrah’s in New Orleans.

Live entertainment an inexact science, especially in Vegas, not everything Spiegelworld has trotted out has worked out ideally. The extensive “Vegas Nocturne” was unable to survive after six months at the Cosmopolitan in June 2014. “Opium” took on a rebranding and healthy rewrite, post-COVID. But that project brought in Superfrico, and the combined entertainment-culinary experience has been positively received. “Box Box,” a boutique show next to the “OPM” theater, is being developed for November’s F1 Las Vegas Grand Prix.

Amid the new act’s premiere, the Rolls Royce roll-out and pants-less frivolity, an “Absinthe” original closed the performance Monday.

The body-balancing act Duo Vector, featuring Misha Furmanczyk and Lucasz Szczerba, performed again their feats of strength. Szczerba holds Furmancyzyk, parallel to the stage, waist-high with one arm. You can still feel the power from these guys, representing the muscle of “Absinthe.”

The crowd stood and roared, as always, for the guys who donned athletic shorts years before the No Pants Party. And off to the side, Gazillionaire was smiling and nodding, certainly thinking, “(Expletive) yeah.”

Cool Hang Alert

Keeping with the “Absinthe” vibe, our first YouTube CHA stars none other than Green Fairy originator, captivating chanteuse, and ace baker Melody Sweets. The second “Sweets’ Spot” YouTube series has been launched. Episode Two is all about Elvis (with a five-tier Elvis cake, even). Many familiar Vegas artists in this series, which can be enjoyed from the comfort of your own phone.

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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