New talent show looks to recruit Las Vegas acts

“American Idol,” “The Casting Call” and “Dancing With the Stars” — when it comes to talent shows, some people can’t get enough. Now, the Suncoast is offering its own talent competition, “Las Vegas Has Talent!”

The live competition is planned for 2 p.m. Tuesdays in the Showroom at the Suncoast, 9090 Alta Drive. The 1½-hour show is set to run 12 weeks.

“We’re excited to host ‘Las Vegas Has Talent!’, a unique and engaging show that will showcase new and rising talents throughout the Las Vegas Valley,” said Terry Jenkins, corporate director of entertainment for Boyd Gaming.

Doug Starks, who was the Sammy Davis Jr. character for “The Rat Pack is Back” at the Sahara, takes the stage as master of ceremonies. He’s appeared at the Suncoast regularly in the variety show hosted there.

“I think they asked me because I’m quick on my feet, and I do a lot of different things,” he said. “I’m one of those Renaissance guys — a stand-up comic, a dancer, a musician, impressionist. I love improv and doing stuff off the cuff.”

He advised contestants, whose skills can be in any genre, to be aware of their presentation, work within their abilities and maximize their creativity.

“Las Vegas Has Talent!” began taking online auditions soon after the first of the year. Jack Mathews is the creative producer, while his father, Ed Mathews, is the executive producer. The response has been so positive that the first two shows were quickly booked. Ed Mathews said he received a substantial number of female singers, as well as a large number of variety acts such as dancers and magicians.

“We didn’t advertise except for Craigslist and Facebook, and we have been loaded with performers,” Ed Mathews said. “Right now, we have enough to do the whole contest, but we’re not locking anybody in. We’ll wait and see who else (auditions).”

Barbara Grant, president of the Screen Actors Guild‐American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, Frank Sinatra performer Peter Pavone and musical director Bill Fayne have been tapped as judges. The fact that Las Vegas is a magnet for talent has those working on the show eager to see who steps on stage.

“No doubt the caliber of talent will be quite high,” Grant said.

Pavone has judged Elvis Presley performers and other competitions. He said talent outshines refinement.

The audience will get in on the judging as well, choosing some of the contestants who will go on to the semifinals. An applause meter is set to be used to determine their choice, so attendees should be prepared to make noise.

Robin Vincent, who appears in “Divorce Party The Musical” at Bally’s, was a winning contestant in Ed Mathews’ original talent competition eight years ago. She said a talent contest is a great boost for someone just starting in the business, even if they don’t win.

“The exposure, I think, is invaluable, like auditions,” she said. “You might not get the part, but you might meet somebody (who can further your career). It’s like passing out your business card every time you’re on stage. … And if you share the stage with anybody whose name people recognize, that carries a lot of weight.”

All contestants must be 18 or older. Applications will be accepted through April 8. For more information, visit

“I’ve never seen a city with as much hidden talent as … Las Vegas,” said Ned Mills, who has been in the entertainment business for 14 years. “One of the best blues singers I met in my life was actually driving a taxi, so it’s about time someone did something to (forward talent) like that.”

Mills said the Suncoast was a great place to hold the show as its audiences are known for rallying behind performers.

The semifinal competition is set for May 6, when one grand prize winner will receive a $1,000 cash prize and a guest appearance in the long-running “Variety at The Suncoast.” “Variety at The Suncoast” is slated for 2 p.m. every Thursday.

What makes a performance stand out?

“No matter what genre they’re performing, it’s how they connect with the audience,” Starks said. “It’s that connection. I’m sure we’ll see people who are technically entertaining, but you leave feeling like you never learned anything about them or they never really touched you. … Talent is a gift. If it’s given with the intention of regifting it, I think you connect with people, and when you connect with people, then it’s a gift for everyone.”

The show is free for B Connected card holders 21 or older. For more information, visit

Contact Summerlin/Summerlin South View reporter Jan Hogan at or 702-387-2949.

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