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September 1, 2014

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Albino gorillas? Farrakhan: The Musical? With Grier, anything is possible

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Courtesy

David Alan Grier.

Vintage Men on Film

Calendar

  • Who: David Alan Grier.
  • When: Friday 9 p.m.
  • Where: Mandalay Bay Theatre
  • Cost: $30-$45 (not including fees) Mandalay Bay website
  • For more information:(877) 632-7800.

Kicking off the notes with a few bulleted ruminations from David Alan Grier, headlining Friday night at Mandalay Bay Theater:

• Grier noted that he was in talks with Monte Carlo about a regular headlining engagement in which he'd appear monthly at Lance Burton Theatre. This was before the hotel signed Frank Caliendo to perform at the theater, and of course before Burton and the hotel agreed he would be leaving at the end of the summer.

"I would be interested in that kind of thing. If did that, I would want to do a different kind of show, with more production value, more multimedia, more music," Grier said. "But later I found out that (Caliendo) did a big deal in there. Interesting, though."

• His own show Friday night will be, "Fabulous, wonderful. We'll have albino low-land gorillas, which are a lot better than upper-mountain gorillas. Stay with me on this!" In a more serious vein, he says, "It's David 2.0. It's me, it's comedy, it's music."

• Grier says his Wikipedia entry is inaccurate. "My age is wrong. It has me a year older than I really am (Grier's 54th birthday was Wednesday). I actually found out about this after I was doing 'The Wiz' at the La Jolla (Calif.) Playhouse and I met a guy who had my exact name, David Alan Grier. A tall guy, a computer scientist from Detroit. His dad's name is William, my dad's name is William. It was actually pretty amazing. Then he said he had the same birthday as me, saying June 30, 1955, and I said, 'No, it's 1956.' It came from Wikipedia, and I've been trying to change it, but that was the only difference, the age."

• Another website errantly listed among Grier's credits a musical based on the life of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. "I was on television and I said, jokingly, that I was working on a musical version of Louis Farrakhan's life. It was a joke, but the web does not understand jokes."

• He looks back with a mix of nostalgia and amazement on his days on "In Living Color." "After a certain period of time, everything becomes legend. I'll be talking to someone from the show, and he'll say, 'Don't you remember the time Mike Tyson came to the set? And he had a lizard head on?' After 20 years, sure, yeah I remember that (laughs).

"But there are certain memories, yeah. At the time Jim Carrey was the one, the only one, who was saying the show would be legendary. He'd say this, and I'd say, 'You're nuts! Twelve-year-old crack heads are our demographic!' I didn't know (the sketch) 'Men on Film' would live on like it has. With YouTube, you can punch anything up you want to and continue the dialogue, and I'm proud of that. It was a great show, a great experience."

Brody's World

Brody Dolyniuk, frontman of Yellow Brick Road, performs during the opening night of his one-man show Launch slideshow »
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Brody Dolyniuk, frontman of Yellow Brick Road, performs during the opening night of his one-man show "Brody's World" on Tuesday, June 29, 2010, at Ovation at Green Valley Ranch.

The Brody Bunch

• Brody Dolyniuk's rock 'n' comedy show, "Brody's World," held Tuesday at Green Valley Ranch's Ovation showroom, was damn good. Sure, in the opening minutes it seemed Dolyniuk was about to overheat, like 100-meter sprinter running the 440 for the first time, but once he caught up with his breathing he was fine.

Even those who have enjoyed Dolyniuk's high-energy performances with Yellow Brick Road over the years would have been startled at the show's frenetic pace.

Dolyniuk's arsenal of impressions, and his command of those voices, gives this production some intriguing potential. He performed 70 voices in either singing or speaking form, and that's discounting a send-up of the full cast of "We Are the World."

Among many other music and entertainment icons, Dolyniuk uncorked Bono, Gladys Knight, Edith and Archie Bunker, Ed Sullivan, Jimmy Stewart, Jim Carrey, every member of The Beatles, Robert Plant, Janis Joplin, Ozzy Osbourne, Geddy Lee, Michael Jackson, John Mellencamp, Christopher Cross and Michael McDonald (in video form during a really funny version of "Ride Like the Wind"), Freddie Mercury, Stevie Wonder, Dave Matthews, Cher, Jim Morrison, Eric Clapton, Rod Stewart, Al Pacino and Macy Gray.

There were technical snags, which is to be expected when a show with so many technical components is put to the test for the first time. One bit that didn't work that I wish had was Dolyniuk's attempt to call China Spice restaurant across the casino from a house phone onstage, while using the voice of Billy Bob Thornton's Karl Childers character from "Sling Blade." The mic couldn't pick up the audio from the phone, and it's too bad. That would have been fun to observe, in an uncomfortable sort of way.

But what did work was Dolyniuk's successful attempt to channel Morrison; his wild, multi-colored, feathered costume as Elton John, and his tenacious Motown and Woodstock medleys.

I've long felt Dolyniuk has been one of the city's underappreciated talents. He has great vocal range, a fertile comic mind, plays guitar and piano with ease, and he even dances well. Backed by a tight, proficient band of bassist David St. John and multi-instrumentalist Jonathan Gilcrest from YBR, drummer Jimmy Keegan and guitarist Steven Lee, the show is musically strong. But it will be shelved, for a time, while Dolyniuk tinkers and plots his next course of action.

You can get an idea of the creative energy in one of YBR's gigs around town, but after seeing this I'll wonder if Edith Bunker won't unexpectedly break through for a rendition of "Crazy Train." One can hope …

Straightening this OUT

In my previous column about Dolyniuk's show at GVR, I noted his split with Las Vegas entertainment manager Chip Lightman. The two worked together for a time, then ... didn't work together. In noting Lightman's monetary investment in the production, it could have been interpreted that Dolyniuk held onto whatever money Lightman funneled to the project. Not so. Both men have told me that Lightman was paid back that investment. Just to make that clear. We like it clear here.

Executive Monkeys flying at Palms

Fronted by improv artist Matt Donnelly and produced by Emily Jillette, "Executive Monkeys" opened what will be at least a monthlong run Wednesday night at the Lounge at the Palms. Already one of the more challenging forms of live entertainment, the "Executive Monkeys" crew adds a pinch of social media interaction to the showcase as the comics literally read and react.

Vegas audiences will recognize Donnelly as a member of Wayne Brady's "Makin' It Up" show at the Venetian in its early incarnation. Donnelly is also a former member of the Upright Citizens Brigade comedy troupe. The balance of the Vegas cast: Paul Mattingly, Michael Hartnett, Jessica Eason, Ptolemy Slocum and James Eason. Mattingly in particular is familiar to Las Vegas audiences, as a former member of the late-great "Second City" cast at Flamingo and a member of the "Tony N' Tina's Wedding" ensemble at V Theater at Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood on the famous Las Vegas Strip.

In the first half of the Palms show, audience members are asked to send Twitter updates from their handhelds to the show's @exmonk Twitter account. The cast then reads such comedic suggestions as, "Paris Hilton meets the Rat Pack" and behaves accordingly.

The second half is a tarot-card reading of a guest celebrity, and Wednesday it was "American Pie" starlet Shannon Elizabeth, who not only sat for a reading but also took part in some improv set pieces. This is the only show of its kind in the city, never the same twice, largely dependent on the creativity of the audience. So come in armed.

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Pete Vallee buys wine at Sunflower Market with his girlfriend Amanda Lasham on Saturday, May 2, 2009. Vallee drinks a glass of red wine with dinner every night for his heart.

Those wedding bells...

Big news from our Elvis Impressionist Bureau: The great Pete "Big Elvis" Vallee is getting married. The date is July 15. His to-be is Amanda Rose Lasham, a familiar — and usually dancing — figure at Vallee's lounge shows at Bill's Gambling Hall & Saloon. The two have scanned the great Vegas landscape and decided to be wed at ... the lounge at Bill's Gamblin' Hall & Casino.

A man of great voice and enormous passion for the King, Vallee is shrinking in stature. He's lost somewhere in the neighborhood of 500 pounds, down from 900, and on his way to a target of 200. We wish him and Amanda only the best. As someone far wiser than I once said, "Viva!"

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at twitter.com/JohnnyKats.

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