Mosaic trying to reinvent a cappella

You don’t have to go far at the Flamingo Las Vegas to remind Josh Huslig that a cappella isn’t quite the coolest musical genre.

Huslig’s sextet Mosaic is comedian George Wallace’s opening act every night in the Flamingo’s main showroom. In the same casino’s cabaret venue, The Second City closes its nightly sketch-comedy show with a spoof of the vocal groups as most people know them, a theme park breed that runs neck-and-neck with Up With People on the peppy and perky scale.

“We’re trying to reinvent it,” Huslig says, comparing his group’s efforts to the way Savion Glover put a cool face on tap dance, or Cirque du Soleil rehabilitated the circus.

“If I say ‘a cappella,’ people say, ‘You mean like barbershop? Or doo-wop?’ ” he notes. Huslig prefers to call Mosaic a “vocal band.” But even with that, “there’s no place holder for what we’re doing.”

Mosaic found a distinct niche with Wallace, but the group gets its first chance to do its long-form show in two benefit concerts next door at Harrah’s Las Vegas. Both shows, at 1:30 p.m. Sunday and 7:30 p.m. Monday, are hosted by entertainer Clint Holmes and raise money for the Public Education Foundation of the Clark County School District. Tickets are $45 through the casino box office, 369-5111.

The group was performing on a cruise ship two years ago when Jack McKimmey, the Flamingo’s maitre ‘d, caught their act and talked them up to Wallace. They went into the show on a trial basis, but on the second night the comedian informed them the job was theirs as long as they wanted it.

Now, the six do their 25-minute opening set, but remain onstage as the comedian’s “band” and comic foils, much as Doc Severinsen was to Johnny Carson on “The Tonight Show.” “It’s found itself,” Huslig says. “It really has taken on a new feel and a new flavor in the past year.”

But Las Vegas is a town with more than one of everything, and Huslig is friendly with members of Toxic Audio, another a cappella group on the Strip, and one that also came out of the Orlando, Fla., theme parks. While Toxic pushes the comedy, “we have more of a mainstream edge,” Huslig says. “We’re trying to put music back in pop music.” …

The original half-price ticket outlet, Tickets2Nite, appears to be out of business, leaving the majority of the same-day discount business in the hands of one operator, Tix4Tonight.

Tickets2Nite introduced the Broadway-style outlets offering same-day, half-price discounting to the Strip when it opened in 2002 as Coca-Cola Tickets2Nite in the Showcase mall. The original partners, Mitch Francis and Hal Kolker, had a litigious split two years later, with Francis forming Tix4Tonight and Kolker’s firm keeping the original name and location.

Francis’ company now has five outlets around town after taking over the original Showcase mall location late last year. Tickets2Nite moved into the nearby Boulevard Camera Store and began offering advance phone reservations, a move Francis argued would cost producers full-priced sales.

Tix4Tonight still has competition from All Access Ticketing, based at Circus Circus. While full-priced venders such as Vegas.com may well jump into half-price sales, Francis probably will use this window to push for as many exclusive contracts as he can sign with show producers. And producers might well opt for a near-monopoly over further half-price proliferation, which has tottered on the edge of getting out of hand and turning the whole thing into a “mark ’em up to mark ’em down” racket. …

Once in a great while, it may pay to procrastinate. If you wait until the final performance of “Monty Python’s Spamalot” on Sunday night, you are very likely to see something special from John O’Hurley and company at the end of the show.

There are four more chances to see this great comedy, which bows out after 509 performances. Time and Danny Gans will tell if that number will be counted as a win, loss or draw.

One less Broadway title will undoubtedly fuel the “Broadway don’t work in Vegas” talk. On the other hand, 509 shows would be a great run in Los Angeles or Chicago.

It’s no secret the show was heavily discounted in promotions, but only the Wynn Las Vegas folks and the producers know whether it generated enough casino traffic to pay off. And next year will answer the question of whether Gans will do any better.

Mike Weatherford’s entertainment column appears Thursdays and Sundays. Contact him at 702-383-0288 or e-mail him at mweatherford@reviewjournal.com.

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