Updated November 10, 2020 - 7:00 am
The Kats! Bureau at this writing is the Quarantine Ballroom at Tuscany Suites. Wait, it’s Florentine Ballroom. But lighting consultant Matt Dillingham with the “quarantine,” quip, which refers to the new and temporary venue for “Rat Pack is Back.”
The tribute show has been elevated from the Copa Room on the casino floor to a second-level ballroom at Tuscany, where it can spread out and spread the love in its return Thursday night. “Rat Pack is Back” will now play to between 160-250 in the new room, with groups of up to four at each table. The venue has a real “corporate gig” vibe, in a room modified with black drapes and silver lighting scaffolds for a live stage show
“It’s as good as we can hope for,” producer Dick Feeney says. “We still have the dinner package. Our crowd isn’t traveling to Las Vegas right now, so we’ll see.”
The production returns with its cast of Chris Jason (Frank Sinatra), Drew Anthony (Dean Martin), Kyle Diamond (Sammy Davis Jr.) and Joelle Righetti (the comic showgirl). Lon Bronson is back as music director, presiding over a seven-piece band.
The production stands alone as the only ongoing tribute to the Rat Pack. Over the past 21 years, the show has bounced from Desert Inn, Sahara, Greek Isles, Plaza, Rio and finally Tuscany, where it opened in 2015.
Between Rio and Tuscany, “Rat Pack” was bound for Riviera in 2014, investing more than $100,000 in the old Versailles Showroom. Instead, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority stepped in, buying and later imploding the property for its convention-center expansion.
But during the Versailles renovations, Bronson and producer Dick Feeney unearthed some old-Vegas artifacts. Old video cassettes of “Splash,” and an audio cassette for show introductions.
“I have one, I think of Pat Cooper,” Bronson says, referring to the legendary stand-up. “We were trying to rebuild the stage, and sifting through the debris came up with a lot of Riviera history.”
Hanging with Bronson and Feeney is itself a history lesson. Somehow Feeney has been reminded of his 10-day run in “Evening At La Cage,” where he played Disco Dolly, in full drag, spending $6 on a dress at Goodwill for the role.
“The place roared,” Feeney remembered. “People were wondering what we were doing, putting the producer in the show. But it was great. Those were some times.”
“Stealing Chaplin,” a based-in-Las Vegas story of the theft of Charlie Chaplin’s body, is something of a family project for Wayne Newton. No, the family does not steal Chaplin’s body. That’s left to a pair of British con men.
But Wayne’s wife, Kathleen and daughter Lauren are both cast in the film. Kathleen is a TV reporter and Lauren is the gum-chomping waitress Janice, best friend of the lead female character. Wayne plays a Vegas superstar named Wayne Newton, and some scenes were filmed last year at Newton’s Las Vegas estate.
The movie’s Las Vegas premieres is 7 p.m. Thursday at Century 16 Suncoast Theaters. It’s opens to the public Friday, running across 18 states.
The story is based on entertainment culture lore. The Chaplin body theft is an adaptation of the 1977 attempt by a couple of, I don’t know, exhumation entrepreneurs, who stole and held Chaplin’s body for ransom in Switzerland. The two were caught, of course. The refashioned story has shifted to Las Vegas, with a pair of British con men conjuring a plan to unearth Chaplin’s body.
Real-life brothers Simon and Doug Phillips play British con men Cal and Terry. British actor Peter Woodward and “Sopranos” cast member Al Sapienza are also cast.
Among the Newton family, Kat Newton is proud to note, “Lauren was actually the first one cast, then Wayne, and I was the last. But we are all in it.”
Franky Perez is on his second “Crossing The Great Divide” motorcycle and music tour of the U.S. The Vegas native and rocking singer/songwriter is developing a documentary about this project, in which he rumbles across the country playing health-care facilities, shut-down music venues, or event the occasional gas station/mini-mart.
As Vegas productions plow forward to reopening, a veteran headliner is still sorting out his future. Terry Fator says he’s still in talks to return a version of his show to an MGM Resorts International venue.
“MGM Resorts for sure,” he says. “I love being part of that family.” Fator spent a decade at Mirage, in the theater named for him, before his closing date fell in the COVID shutdown.
The nearby venue, 1 Oak Nightclub, has been renamed Capri (why not the Dunes Room, I ask). There has been some tire-kicking for a possible production/nightclub show, but not related to Fator, in that venue this month.
Expect to hear of a large-scale production returning to VegasVille this week. Also, a live-music show expected to be sidelined until 2021 is working on a return next month.
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.