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October 25, 2014

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Stratosphere’s investment in Frankie Moreno is a tall order, but well worth it

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Gabe Ginsberg/Vegas Kool

Frankie Moreno, shown in performance at the Stratosphere.

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Frankie Moreno, shown performing at the Stratosphere.

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Frankie Moreno, shown performing at the Stratosphere.

It was something of a Strip epiphany.

The other day I was pulling into Bellagio, heading southbound on the Strip with the magical water show playing out to my right. I gazed hypnotically at the dancing aquatic showcase until I felt a giant presence to my left.

It was one of those ponderous, rolling billboards. Leering down was Frankie Moreno.

Well, hello up there.

The Stratosphere’s new headliner seems everywhere these days: on billboards, giant vehicles and even signs hovering over baggage claim (that’s no baggage — that’s my sister!) at McCarran International Airport. A significant investment of resources and energy by resort officials, Moreno’s show opened Nov. 9 and, as expected, is a dynamite night of entertainment. That’s the easy part. Moreno and his 10-piece band (strings and horns joining his super-tight, four-piece band) blend originals and covers seamlessly. This groovin’, well-paced show benefits from a refreshed showroom that is being re-carpeted even now, and a booming new sound system.

Getting the word out around town (and outside, as the hotel has bought ads in such in-flight publications as Southwest’s Spirit magazine) has been the chief objective, which is why Moreno has been running ragged making personal appearances, posing for photo shoots, and recording video clips of his own “Hanging On a Maybe” at the Stratosphere’s 8 Pool and “Let’s Fake a Honeymoon” at the Welcome To Fabulous Las Vegas sign. Inside the showroom, the process of reviving the vibe that was so appealing at Moreno’s previous haunts, especially the Lounge at the Palms, is going to take time.

Many of the industry types, including many headliners on and off the Strip, who filed into the 10:30 p.m. Tuesday start time at the Palms are now going to struggle to make Moreno’s shows.

The move last week to move the start the Wednesday performances to 8 p.m. from 11 p.m. is not going to make this outreach-to-entertainers effort any easier. Moreno specifically requested the late, midweek start time so the Gordie Browns and Greg Londons of the world could swing by his show after their own.

The downside of that strategy is the audience for those performances is only populated by locals. And that is a pretty big showroom, about 550 seats, for a guy whose boundless talent and charisma remain largely unknown qualities to those who are visiting Vegas.

Regardless, what is being staged Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays at the Strat is worth checking out, and tapping into. I think it will work, too. The show is a blast. It's a great value, at $29.99 per ticket, $19.99 for hotel guests and locals (absent fees). The Stratosphere executives are fully invested, which alone is something to support in this era of hotels renting rooms to entertainers and assuming the role of “Three’s Company’s” Mr. Furley.

And the crowd assembled is often as fun-loving as anything you’ll see onstage. Trust me on that.

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at Twitter.com/JohnnyKats. Also, follow “Kats With the Dish” at Twitter.com/KatsWithTheDish.

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