Vegas - Just how fabulous is it?
by Veronika Electronika
It is shortly after 6 a.m and they have just approved the use of portable electronic devices. I am flying out of Nashville to Las Vegas. I don't know how fabulous anything can be at this hour!
We checked into the hotel around noon, got a shower, and headed to find some lunch. Time was catching up with us and we had a show to go to. We walked back to the Riviera and got re-dressed for the show. The Phantom of the Opera was calling our names.
I had the pleasure of having second row seats stage right and couldn't have asked for a better view. If you have never seen Phantom, get to it! I don't think that more than four bars of music had played before I felt a tear stream down my cheek.
Today is my second day in Las Vegas and it is also my 27th birthday. Sleeping in on your birthday is always a joy, and I totally took advantage of the opportunity.
After lunch we came back to the room and got changed for the night's festivities. I wanted to look extra sharp for my birthday, not to be vain or anything. Catching a cab down to Planet Hollywood Resort only took a few minutes and we had some time to take a look around the casino before going upstairs to see STOMP.
Exclusive Q&A with Carlos Thomas, STOMP cast member
Veronika Electronika- How long have you been with STOMP?
Carlos Thomas- This is my ninth year. Once you get in, you stay.
VE- Which STOMP shows have you done?.
CT- I did the American tour, Europe and NYC.
VE- Compare the Vegas show to the New York show for me.
CT- The Vegas cast is bigger and better, but the New York show has only eight people where there are 16 in Vegas. In Vegas we have water, its louder and the numbers are different. Way more difficult.
VE- Is one person responsible for the show's creation?
CT- The one creator is also the developer. He gets a rythm in his head and we realize it. Now, one person could play what we were taught, but 8 to 16 could sound like one.
VE- Do you guys still rehearse?
CT- Yes, we rehearse everyday.
VE- Is it hard not to talk on stage?
CT- At first you can't even talk. Theres no time! After a while you get loose and just cant talk, its not part of the show.
VE- Do people ever get hurt?
CT- Injuries happen all the time. A girl broke her finger not long ago.
VE- How many brooms get brokEen per night?
CT- At lease four per night. If one breaks at a critical time in the show God help you trying to get a new one!
VE- Do you have a favorite section?
CT- Yeah, the opening section. And I love the big water tank.
VE- Hows the Cast?
CT- Everyones great, they are all all characters. And they are not just dancers, they are actors too. We have all different types of talent in the show.
VE- What do you look for in cast members?
CT- We look for the loose screw during auditions. You can't be perfect!
VE- What about the girls in the show?
CT- They get very thick skins. It takes a year to get the tough skin though.
VE- How much longer can you do this?
CT- Until I get joint problems, or till you cant do it anymore.
VE- How many shows a week do you do?
CT- Between 5-7 shows.
VE- What is a Stomper?
CT- A Stomper is someone who has three years invested in the show.
VE- So are you a senior stomper?
VE- When you were on tour, did you get to Nashville?
CT- Yeah, we had a great time in Nashville.
We got an early start today and headed out the Shark Reef Aquarium exhibit at Mandalay Bay. Even though I have come down with a slight cold I pushed on in the amazing heat to continue on with all of our plans, and I'm so glad I did. Shark Reef was great.
After a quick bite we headed to the pool. We had passes to both Mandalay Bay and Moorea Beach Club. Moorea is a 21+ area with European sunbathing. Yes, topless female sunbathers, but the topless male sunbathers weren't far away either.
The personalized attention was to perfection and we had what they called an "Opium Bed" all to ourselves. It was a full sized bed with white canopies and complimentary bottles of Fiji water and mixed nuts. I don't know where the nuts came in, but they seemed appropriate to compensate all the loose melons hanging around.
After changing back into street clothes it was time to see MAMMA MIA! We had pretty good seats and got inside the theatre early. The show opened with a simple set and a lone actress holding some letters. Now I don't want to spoil any part of the show but I know that I never knew that there were that many ABBA songs! I would say that out of all of the songs in the show I might have known 3, maybe 4.
The costumes were spot on, and the choreography was great. I especially liked the scene when all the guys danced wearing wet suits. YUM! Followed closely by the dance number when they wore little glow-in-the-dark briefs.
The mother character was backed up by two awesome supporting characters. The trio almost brought me to tears at times. The set was simple, but moved into different positions to create a great Greek motif.
Exclusive O&A interview with Carol Linnea Johnson who plays Donna Sheridan in MAMMA MIA!
Veronika Electronika- Where did your theatre career start?
Carol L. Johnson- All my life, never thought it would be professional. After I found out that I was passionate about theatre I started working with Shakespeare plays. Shakespeare is really popular with Summer theatre. I started out with doing Shakespeare, comedy, and eventually musicals.
When I was 28 I moved to New York. From there it was work, work and more work. One of my first gigs was in the Full Monte. I was the only principle who didn't sing in the whole show. Shortly thereafter I has a great audition for Mama Mia!, and that was six years ago. I learned how to bring my own voice into it and own it!
After I became pregnant, I came to Las Vegas to Star in the Las Vegas production.
VE- How did you see the Las Vegas opportunity?
CLJ- I saw it as an opportunity. I was really too young to play the lead for the New York company, and the schedule is way better. In NY there are three days that you have double shows, here in Vegas there are no matinees. Being in New York can make you tired, and it was hard to leave.
VE- Is it a different feeling in Vegas?
CLJ- Here you are away from the history of New York City theatre, people can be intimated just by being there.
Las Vegas is for everyone. People are not intimated to see a show in Vegas. That's one of the reasons that they are here. Here in Vegas you see repeat audience members, some people have seen the show three times during their visit! I feel blessed to be part of this cast.
VE- How is this character to play versus your other former characters?
CLJ- Well it is a lot easier to play the lead. You portray the journey that is followed by the audience.
This character does have lots of songs to do. I love that she is a modern woman, and she is a totally real woman. I love that.
VE- How is this cast to work with?
CLJ- I work closely with an amazing trio. Sometimes when we look at each other it is so real. There is a real kinship between three of us.
The cast is brilliant. It is always a journey working with a new cast. But, I will tell you that when Victor came aboard and I first saw him, my face went totally bright red! When we started singing together I got used to him, and I loved how he re-worked "Winner Takes It All." He took a risk to look at it in a totally new way.
VE- What are your thoughts on the MAMMA MIA! movie?
CLJ- I was really curious to see how true they stayed to the original concept. I was thrilled to learn that Merrill Streep was playing the lead, it was really affirming for me. To think that the same casting directors that chose her, once chose me, it was awesome. I do think that they stayed true to the concept, and I like the added characters, it brings something new to it.
VE- Any other thoughts?
CLJ- The story is magic! I have been able to see so many things, and meet so many people. Once there were two women who made a pact to see the show together, but due to health reasons one couldn't make it. Unfortunately she passed on before she was able to come to Vegas to see this production, but her friend did, and we were able to make a toast to her friend. That's the magic! This is my calling...
We started the day by going to Siegfried and Roy's Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat. We were greeted by a friendly hostess who informed us that this was not a facility that trained Dolphins, or had dolphin shows. It is a research facility.
There was a large pool with two adult male dolphins which we got to see from the underwater viewing room. Just beyond the Dolphin habitat was the Secret Garden. We saw a white set of adult Lions, and if you have never seen one of these amazing animals, you need to get to Vegas to check them out.
After leaving the Secret Garden we headed to "Bare" pool. The name kinda gives it away. Note that it was 'bare' and not 'bear' pool. The topless people were not furry leather wearing strapping guys, but suntanned ladies with, on average, two plastic enhancements.
The facility was really nice. Our server, Jacqui, was supreme! I have a feeling that she treats everyone like a couple of queens, like we all should be. I wasn't crazy for the pool part, it was a bit smaller than the pool at Moorea Beach Club,and the water wasn't as clear, but as for service, Bare was at the top of their game.
Back at the hotel we decided to see one of the shows in our own hotel this time. "The Concert that Never Was" is a tribute to Frank Sinatra and Barbra Streisand.
These two voices have special places in millions of peoples hearts, and in this show you get to see this comedic duo pay tribute to the voices of the century. They sing together as well as on their own. There is some trivia mixed in, with video and pictures adding to the ambiance.
The theatre is small which adds to the experience. The likeness to their characters is great, but their sound is even better. The combined sets of pipes would make the best organ blush!
Today started with an 11 a.m. interview (in drag time that means about 11:45) with the director of "Wet Republic" pool.
This facility is amazing! Picture the nicest pool mixed with the hottest lounge and smoking-hot people. Their servers are all trained models, and you can tell right away that they work hard at it.
The pools were filled with cool salt water. At first I was curious why salt water was used, but shortly after I was in the water I realized that salt water keeps cooler, and the water seemed to be the cleanest in Las Vegas. I know that this is another place that will be on my list of places to sun myself on every visit to the strip.
After a day of sunbathing at Wet Republic Josh and I both were starving. Luckily we had dinner reservations at "Social House". Social House is a restaurant inside of Treasure Island Resort. The cuisine is Japanese.
After we were stuffed and didn't think we could eat another bite, they announced the Tea presentation, and our desert platter that had been prepared for us. When I tell you that have never had anything that good in my life I am not lying. Every morsel on the large white rectangle plate was consumed.
We headed to Christian Aduigier's nightclub in Treasure Island. This club was the epitome of high class nightlife. The decor was very mature, and I loved the outdoor patio. The DJ was playing some awesome sets. They have a body artist there painting the ladies to match the mood of the evening. The bartenders were very kind, and made the perfect drinks.
We started out by visiting the La Cage show at the Riviera. Since that is where we were staying. I had to get a little dolled up to meet Britney, Joan Rivers and Jacko. The show was unlike any drag show that I had ever seen.
Frank Marino, Las Vegas' very own Joan Rivers, was the hostess. She was beautiful! Her jokes were spot on, and her clothes were to die for. I would say that she had at least a dozen costume changes. I know that it has to be exhausting to fill her shoes.
She warmed up the crowd and introduced the entertainers. We saw Bette Midler, Liza Minelli, Judy Garland, Britney Spears, Madonna, Michael Jackson, Reba, Dolly Parton and Tammy Spraynet! I couldn't have asked for a better lineup!
Each performer did a set of at least two songs. Each of them were good, but a few really blew me away. The Liza was stunning! She did "New York, New York" and really got the audience into it. Their Britney was dead on! The body, the moves and the face of her character! We spoke after the show and I can see her going all the way to the top. She has been on TV with her impersonation and gotten rave reviews.
Their Dolly was great, and had the chest to carry the character right into our hearts. Tammy Spraynet was the perfect way to tie all of these characters together. She did a comedy set of a fat Madonna and had a hilarious number where her boobs bounced from one side of the stage to the other.
The entire vacation was exhausting, but totally awesome. I would really encourage you to get out west to see it for yourself.