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December 22, 2014

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The Strip:

Mark Shunock lights up ‘Mondays Dark’ at Body English; Travis Cloer on the march at Kansas State

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Christopher DeVargas

Mark Shunock of “Rock of Ages” at the Venetian makes a surprise performance with the dancers from “Divas Las Vegas” at the Quad during the “Showbiz Roast” of Frank Marino at Stratosphere Showroom on Friday, Oct. 4, 2013.

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Mark Shunock and Troy Burgess arrive at the "Rock of Ages" grand opening after-party at the Venetian on Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013.

On Saturday morning, the Kats Report Bureau was ensconced at the DMV office on West Flamingo Road, where I perform as a volunteer “greeter” on select weekends and until I am hustled out of the joint. It’s a great way to meet people as they trudge into the office’s spacious waiting area and catatonically gaze around, seeking the information counter and maybe divine intervention.

The DMV is an easy target for derision, but it is actually not such a painful experience if you prepare properly for what’s in store. It’s sort of like prepping for one of these mass-gathering events in Vegas, but not quite as long and absent all the fun stuff.

One of my favorite fun facts about Vegas is that one of the great PR reps in town, Alissa Kelly of PR Plus, actually worked for a time at the DMV. She loved it, too, and while I was waiting my turn at the counter today, I imagined Alissa talking down a persnickety motorist who had neglected to bring an updated SR-22 form. I wonder if she transferred those skills to navigating occasionally petulant journalists, and I feel the answer is yes.

There is a saying favored by employees at the DMV, something to the effect that your lack of preparation is not our crisis. That is something to remember as I dine up the lucks, I mean line up the ducks, to head out to Macau for the Manny Pacquiao-Brandon Rios bout. I am getting all my stuff in order, not quite sure how it’ll turn out, but hoping I’ll walk out more enlightened than when I walked in.

That, too, is a comparison to the DMV, and maybe the only one during this adventure. Taking a break now to rake. Follow along, eh?

• Sometimes entertainers wade into VegasVille talking all about how they love the city, but you don’t always see them taking actions that are consistent with those words. So it’s refreshing to see the indefatigable Lonny of “Rock or Ages,” Mark Shunock, throwing himself head- and heart-first into the city with his “Mondays Dark” charity show. The first of what Shunock plans as a series of these showcases is set for 9:30 p.m. Monday at Body English in the Hard Rock Hotel.

The presentation is a classic talk-show format, with Shunock playing the role of Jimmy Kimmel (or even Merv Griffin, to dust off an apt reference), introducing and interviewing guests Dot-Marie Jones of “Glee,” Travis Cloer of “Jersey Boys” at Paris Las Vegas, Paul Shortino of “Raiding the Rock Vault” at LVH and Anne Martinez of “Dancing Queen” at Planet Hollywood. Also planned are performances by Shunock’s fellow cast members from “Rock of Ages” and the O.V. Elvi, the group of kids from Opportunity Village who perform a delightful tribute to Elvis.

The night is to raise money for Opportunity Village, with tickets at $20 or $50 for a VIP table, with the seating capped at 200 (click the Mondays Dark website for ticket info or call 485-1262). All ticket revenue is to be donated to O.V., the Las Vegas-based organization that for 30 years has provided services and assistance for those with learning disabilities.

Shunock promises a fast-paced show of 75 minutes and “not a long, boring event,” with an opening number and a monologue (delivered by him) and performances scattered throughout. The set is a replica living room. Shunock was left scrambling for a stage after his first venue, the Act at Palazzo, closed on Oct. 15 less than a week before the original “Mondays Dark” scheduled performance on Oct. 21.

Hard Rock officials tagged Shunock immediately and found a suitable home for the show on a night when the recently reopened Body English is available.

“I’d like to keep it at Body English permanently,” Shunock says. “It’s a perfect fit. This could be the beginning of something really cool.”

Shunock’s wife, Cheryl Daro, also is in the creative process as last month she ended a run as Gigi in “Miss Saigon” at Signature Theater in Washington, D.C. Daro, whose performance in that musical was applauded by critics, is now looking for something performance-related in Vegas. She is likely to be featured in future “Mondays Dark” productions.

As Shunock says, that would be something really cool.

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Travis Cloer, of the Jersey Boys, performs Let the Good Times Roll during a fundraiser to benefit trombonist Mike Turnbull, who is recovering from stage-four thyroid cancer, at New Song Anthem Church Saturday, May 11, 2013.

• Somewhere in that stretch, we mentioned Cloer, who is among the busier and more gifted entertainers in the city. Bookmark his “My Place for the Holidays” at Cabaret Jazz in the Smith Center on Dec. 16, as he’s backed by a seven-piece band. Cloer is a great showman, period.

Cabaret Jazz seats about 240; on Saturday, Cloer sang for about 53,000 fans in Manhattan, Kan.

Cloer was backed by the 400-member Kansas State University marching band during the halftime show of the Wildcats brimming-with-suspense 33-31 victory over TCU (K-State kicker Jack Cantele won it with a 41-yard field goal with three seconds left in the game). Cloer is a K-State alum and spent a couple of days on campus at his old school, leading a workshop for theater students on Friday and later singing at the school’s Chapman Hall.

Cloer tweeted that the performance at halftime was “one of my career highlights!” Can’t wait to hear more about this; Cloer said he was going sleepy-bye after that last tweet so he could catch an early morning flight back to Vegas, where tonight he’s due back onstage as Frankie Valli.

In one pivotal moment, “Jersey Boys” touches on Valli’s hopes that The Four Seasons will be successful enough to afford a horn, or a even a whole horn section. Cloer seemed to have had that covered Saturday.

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Benjamin Hale performs as Johnny Cash during the Million Dollar Quartet show at Harrah's Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013.

• On the topic of Strip performers and side projects, Ben Hale of “Million Dollar Quartet” at Harrah’s is holding an album-release party (and we are still calling them albums) at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 23 at Art Square Theater just north of Arts Factory on Charleston Boulevard and South First Street. The band and album are called The Crimson Balladeers. Hale plays Johnny Cash in “MDQ” after a run as Raoul in “Phantom — The Las Vegas Spectacular.”

During rehearsals for “MDQ” he said, ““I went from a romantic lead to a badass.” Outside the Cash role, in this band, Hale is that. And that isn’t a criticism.

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Jeff Civillico boards a unicycle.

• Extreme juggler and daredevil unicyclist Jeff Civillico has locked in his second “Headliners Bash” fundraising for the Vegas entertainment charity organization he founded a couple of years ago, Win-Win Entertainment. The foundation acts as the link between Las Vegas entertainers with philanthropic organizations and projects.

The event is Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. with a silent auction (if it’s silent, why so much yammering?) and the program following at 9 p.m. Wednesday at the Quad Showroom, where Civillico headlines daily (dark Tuesdays and Sundays) at 4 p.m. Tickets are $30, $50 and $70 (click the Win-Win website for info).

Clint Holmes and Kelly Clinton-Holmes host the show. Scheduled to appear are Veronic DiCaire (Bally’s), Taylor Hicks (Paris), Frankie Moreno (Stratosphere), Human Nature (Venetian), cast members of “Jersey Boys,” the KriStef Brothers (“America’s Got Talent”), Mac King (Harrah’s), Recycled Percussion (Quad) and cast members of “MDQ” and “Divas Las Vegas” (Quad). Lon Bronson and members of his All-Star Band supply the music.

• Reminder: Stifler is Dec. 18.

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

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