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July 28, 2014

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A quick peek at ‘Empire’ as Spiegelworld bridges Las Vegas and New York

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John Katsilometes

Whale bones used to balance a feather during a 10-minute piece in “Empire.”

'Empire' showcase at Caesars

A scene from the dress rehearsal of Launch slideshow »

Scene from Empire

When an unclothed guy winds up leaping frightfully into your lap, you are made aware that this is no ordinary entertainment experience.

The experience was, and is, “Empire,” the new Spiegelworld production that was test driven (along with its first seated audience) on Sunday at the Absinthe tent at Caesars Palace. Spiegelworld also co-produces “Absinthe,” with Base Entertainment, so the lending of the tent at Caesars’ Roman Plaza is a logical move.

Less logical was emcee Jonathan Taylor, who is the Gazillionaire-esque emcee of “Empire,” which mirrors the adult themes and general circus act-driven adult chicanery of “Absinthe.” He found himself disrobed onstage, frightened at the surroundings, and jumped into my seat in the front row of the in-the-round theater.

The problem was I also was in that seat.

Hashtag-awkward.

Taylor was not actually fully naked, but close enough. I should have been better prepared for this moment because Robin Leach had warned me that near-nakedness would punctuate my inclusion in the show. Taylor is friends with Voki Kalfayan, who plays Gazillionaire, as the two worked together in an online, clown-inspired reality TV show “Freaks in the Box,” before either hooked up with Spiegelworld.

“Empire” opens for previews next week in Times Square in New York. The effort is from Spiegelworld founder Ross Mollison, who was on hand along with Gaz and Penny Pibbets to introduce the show, to build a cross-country bridge connecting Las Vegas and New York. He envisions his company as a significant entertainment vehicle in both cities. Originally, he’d talked of showcasing “Empire” somewhere downtown or in Symphony Park at World Market Center.

But as it turned out, with most of the Vegas “Absinthe” cast in attendance, Sunday afternoon’s test drive worked out nicely, the shedding of costumes notwithstanding.

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

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