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New acts working Vegas venues

If you want to open a new magic or impressions show on the Strip, it’s good to know what you’re up against. Good thing two magicians and one impressionist already live here.

The one you may have seen on TV is Seth Grabel, an 11-year Las Vegan who was drawn from California by the hotel management school at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

But a real job kept getting sidetracked by the fact that “I can’t stop doing magic and making people smile.”

Hoping to ride last summer’s exposure on “America’s Got Talent,” Grabel says he’s well aware that success here is “90 percent marketing and 10 percent having a good show. I’m going to be busting my butt to make sure it works (on the marketing end) as well.”

Grabel was to launch his “Comedy, Magic and Burlesque” on Wednesday in the new Royal House Showroom at the Royal Resort. He is part of a surge of new hopefuls, several of them taking residence in some of the less-explored corners of the tourist corridor. They include:

■ British impressionist Jonathan Clark, who opened in the Riviera’s Starlite Theater last weekend.

■ “Comic Therapy,” an afternoon entry sharing the Royal’s 110-seater with Grabel. As the author of the book “Don’t Feed the Bully,” Brad Tassell combines stand-up with a self-empowerment seminar.

■ Michael Turco, another “America’s Got Talent” magician, offers “Magic and Mayhem” at the V Theater with a dance component from Lacey Schwimmer of “Dancing with the Stars.”

■ Two Lake Tahoe imports open Friday as afternoon shows in the King’s Room at the Rio’s Crown Theater, a former restaurant already hosting stand-up by night. Producer Tom Biscardi moves two titles south from Tahoe’s Horizon Casino:

“One Voice,” a showcase of celebrity impressions by former Las Vegan Bethany Owen, at 2:30 p.m. She’s followed at 5:30 p.m. by “Two Kings,” which should end your soul-searching on whether to see an Elvis or a Michael Jackson impersonator. Charlie Franks is Elvis and Chris Gardner the Gloved One.

■ Valentine’s Day brings the debut of 21-year-old magician Tommy Wind at the Clarion. Wind follows Jan Rouven, who is moving from the Clarion’s larger showroom to the Riviera. Wind is going into the Wolf Theater, the smaller of the Clarion’s two venues. (The moves are related, thanks to contract provisions for only one magic show on property).

■ Musical-variety entertainer Tony Pace, who worked the Clarion much of last year on Rouven’s nights off, will return Feb. 7 on a weekly schedule, performing every Tuesday.

As well as being the youngest headliner to take up residence in Las Vegas, Wind says he hopes to make his magic stand out by incorporating his skills as a musician and martial arts practitioner.

“My team around me always said, ‘You play all these different instruments, you do the martial arts, why not incorporate that?’ ” Working that into the show, Wind found “this stuff really pops, and people like the diversity.”

Las Vegas may have always been in the New Yorker’s destiny; he’s a distant cousin of original Vegas headliner Jimmy Durante. But he “stationed” himself in Las Vegas four years ago, and has been a permanent resident for the past two.

Grabel already has experience on the Strip, working more than two years as an opening act for The Amazing Johnathan. But it was “Talent” that put him on the map.

“There’s nothing like it. It hits home to so many people,” he says of his five appearances on NBC’s hit last summer. “The window’s not closed.”

The Riviera’s Clark is from England by way of the Gold Coast of Australia, but he now drives to work from Summerlin.

“It’s something I’ve dreamed of for my whole career. If I didn’t do it I would regret it for the rest of my life,” Clark says. After a couple of years of fighting for visa waivers, “the fact that I’ve managed to pull it off even to this point is a huge achievement for me.”

Clark has done his singing impressions for the Royal Caribbean cruise lines since the late ’90s, and says he has learned how to keep his act contemporary while playing to a base of older patrons.

“It’s a difficult road to walk,” he says of adding current references to the likes of Brad Paisley, Cee Lo Green and “Family Guy.”

While former Danny Gans band member Tim Manfredi is on board as musical director, Clark says his act is free of such overworked bits such as Kermit the Frog, Willie Nelson duets with Julio Iglesias, or wig-imbedded Michael Jackson fedoras.

“I’ve always tried to pride myself on trying to do it in a different way,” he says. “We (Brits) have our own way of doing things. The humor is, I would consider, very British (but) generic in a way that basically, if you speak English you’ll get the show.”

Clark adds that the comedy drives the impressions, instead of the other way around. There are points in the show where “I step outside of the impressions and do stand-up.”

On his opening weekend, Clark told his audience, “I’m living the American dream. I’m $350 grand in debt and they’re foreclosing on my house.”

That’s a locals’ joke if ever there was one, even if in real life Clark is “happy to say I’m renting.”

Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at mweatherford@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0288.

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