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April 24, 2014

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Ringo keeps beat with ‘The Golden Drums’; cast shuffle at ‘Rock of Ages’; Hertzenberg flourishes at Foundation Room

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Rob Shanahan

Ringo Starr and cast members of Love at The Mirage in Niagra Falls.

Updated Friday, Oct. 25, 2013 | 7:34 p.m.

The Kats Reports Bureau is the Clark County Library on East Flamingo Road, where among the rules are no cell phones and no food or drink. No spitting, either, which is not so much a rule as expected protocol in or out of a library. Regardless, no spitting.

At the moment I am awaiting a presentation of the new book “Getting Better All The Time: Las Vegas Writers Explore Progress,” sponsored by Vegas Valley Book Festival and published by Huntington Press of Las Vegas. The Festival supports a new volume of Vegas-centric essays each year, and this is the fifth such volume, edited by Desert Companion deputy editor and former GMG colleague Scott Dickensheets. This year I was honored, flattered and nervous to be invited to contribute to this year’s theme, “Progress,” and have been joined by eight outstanding writers: Novelist and memoirist Kris Saknussemm, literary authors Douglas Unger and Aurora Brackett, horror writer Rena Mason, Geoff Carter of Vegas Seven, Henry Brean of the Review-Journal, and freelancers Abigail Goldman and Sarah Jane Woodall.

We are to read from (our own) chapters of the book, then take questions from the audience or take part in a cakewalk. I am sort of unfamiliar with this format. Maybe it’s a best-ball scramble. Whatever, tee off is in an hour or so.

While we wait, let us rake:

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Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr.

• Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band are taking off on the next leg of their current world tour, beginning Wednesday in Sao Paulo, Brazil and winding through several cities in South America and Mexico. The only stop in the U.S. and the final shows on the tour happen to be Pearl Concert Theater at the Palms on Nov. 22-23. To ignite interest in the tour and also his upcoming book of yet-unpublished photographs, handily titled “Photograph,” Starr appeared at two media events on Wednesday in Los Angeles.

The first was at ArcLight Theater on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, which focused solely on the new book. The second was a brief performance by the latest variation of the All-Starr Band -- Steve Lukather (Toto), Richard Page (Mr. Mister), Gregg Rolie (Santana), Todd Rundgren, Mark Rivera and Gregg Bissonette – followed by a news conference during which Starr starred.

Given the success of the Beatles-Cirque production “Love” at the Mirage and Starr’s affection for performing in Las Vegas (which is not so far from his primary residence in Los Angeles), I asked Ringo if an extended engagement or residency in Las Vegas might ever be in the offing.

Actually, I wasn’t so articulate. My question came out, “Ringo! Vegas? Extended engagement? Ever?”

“You mean, like, ‘The Golden Drums?’ ” he asked back, playing off the title of Elton John’s original show at the Colosseum at Caesars. “What is it, the Red Piano? The Golden Drums! Fourteen years later!”

But Ringo says he would be open to sitting down in Vegas with a version of his All-Starr Band.

“It’s been talked about, but nothing has been finalized,” he said. “It would be a couple of years before that happened. So, what is the answer? Not yet.”

Also, one of the photos in the book has attracted a worldwide search for the individuals in the picture. It was taken by Starr on during the Beatles’ first visit to the U.S. in February 1964. As the car carrying the band drove along a New York highway, a group of teenagers pulled alongside and peered out of the rear window. Starr took a photo of the group, and USA Today is attempting to locate everyone in the shot. Reportedly, two have died but the other four have been identified. One report is they were a group of kids from Fair Lawn High School in New Jersey who were turned away from Kennedy International Airport when the Beatles landed in New York. A formal announcement of their identities is likely to be made when “Photograph” is released on Nov. 22, same night as his first show at the Pearl.

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New “Rock of Ages” at the Venetian cast member Jon Robert Hall.

• There is to be a new Stacee Jaxx in “Rock of Ages” at Palazzo, as Kyle Lowder leaves the show after Wednesday’s performance to take over the lead in “Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” on Broadway. Stepping in is Jon Robert Hall, who has played the Warbler John on “Glee” for two years.

Hall’s arrival is in the midst of a few cast changes as the show makes its one-year turn at Palazzo. Tiffany Egan (“Legally Blonde” on Broadway and on tour) is the new Regina, replacing Alyson Nicole Bloom; Matt Meigs (“Rock of Ages” on tour) steps in for Kevin Heggman as Franz; and Terrance Spencer (“Wicked” on Broadway) is the new Mayor/Ja'keith Gill/and club DJ. Spencer is playing the role left vacant by the death of original Vegas cast member Rob Peters, who passed away this in September after a short illness.

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Kristen Hertzenberg.

• The Foundation Room at Mandalay Bay is becoming a busier player on the live-entertainment scene. Wednesday night in the Shangri-La Room, down the hall from the main lounge, Kristen Hertzenberg appeared in a show dubbed “Beyond the Stage.” Hertzenberg sampled from many of her favorite blues, country, rock, folk and R&B songs. (Blurb alert! Hertzenberg is a graceful performer whose voice is at once lilting and limitless!)

Hertzenberg has a particular fondness for Indigo Girls, which can be expected. What was not expected was her rap medley, which was goosed along from a call from the audience from “Jersey Boys” music director Keith Thompson. She was backed by some of the city’s most adept musicians, including Martin Kaye (keyboard), Ben Hale (acoustic guitar) and Mikey Hatchey (bass) from “Million Dollar Quartet. Filling out the band were George Bryant on drums, Joel Ferguson on pedal steel and Argentine musician Pablo Gadda on guitar.

Many audience members – particularly those from Strip shows (“Jersey Boys” and “MDQ” especially) -- had never been to the Shangri-La Room, or even up to the Foundation Room. This space has a lot of potential as a staging showcase for such shows as Hertzenberg’s. Rich Little and Steve Rossi are booked for a Wounded Warriors Project performance on Nov.25. The Beatles tribute band The Fab is set for Nov. 27. The room is an uniquely high-altitude complement to such popular off-Strip venues as Art Square Theater in the Arts District, and even Cabaret Jazz at the Smith Center. Performers in Strip shows are frequently seeking a room to perform outside their usual productions, and Shangri-La is becoming an appealing option.

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Keith Thompson, musical director for "Jersey Boys," sings an opening number as he hosts The Composers Showcase at Cabaret Jazz in The Smith Center for the Performing Arts on Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2012.

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Host Jim Caruso sings during a performance of the Broadway-based open mic and variety show Cast Party Wednesday, June 19, 2013 at Cabaret Jazz at the Smith Center.

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Murray Sawchuck and Chloe Crawford attend the “Fantasy” calendar-release party on Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013, at Luxor.

• On the topic of intimately sized venues, Thompson is back with the Composers Showcase at 10:30 p.m. Wednesday, or “after theater,” as we say. Thompson is fired up about the appearance of Bill Russell, who wrote the book and lyrics for the Broadway musical “Sideshow.” Keyboardist/vocalist Jamie Hosmer (we know him primarily from Santa Fe & The Fat City Horns at the Palms), and Leibow are among the featured composers.

The showcase that is showcased when the Composers Showcase is off, Jim Caruso’s Cast Party, will be returning, though Smith Center President (and one of my favorite 49ers fans) Myron Martin has not yet locked in a date.

After the most recent Cast Party, Geechy Guy reminded me that he is still looking to bring what would be the first pure comedy performance into Cab Jazz. It could be just a Night With Geechy, or a revival of his wonderful "Dirty Jokes Show," which is not really so dirty but is an apt theater piece that could conceivable fit well in the Cab Jazz tenor. This is a performance both staged and improvised, with three comics swapping jokes in an alleyway of a comedy club where the dressing room is under repair. Geechy has moved this show around town for the past three years or so. It’s distinctive and really funny.

• Brad Garrett checks in with a healthy check from his annual Maximum Hope charity poker tournament last weekend at MGM Grand. The event took in $90,000 for Garrett’s Maximum Hope Foundation, which provides practical needs for families caring for children with life-limiting illnesses. Garrett is hosting once more at his club Nov. 11-19.

Another charity event from last weekend took in an impressive donation haul. Jeff Leibow’s annual “NF Hope Concert” at Sands Showroom at the Venetian, replete with great acts (Mo5aic, Clint Holmes and Kelly Clinton-Holmes, the cast of “Jersey Boys,” “MDQ,” and Human Nature among them) has totaled at least $60,000 to benefit the NF Network, which aids families and those suffering from neurofibromatosis (commonly known as NF). That number continues to grow as money is collected from the event’s silent auction. A touching moment from Sunday's show was Leibow's daughter, Emma, who has NF and is the inspiration behind these charity shows, dancing around Holmes as he sang "This Nearly Was Mine" from "South Pacific."

• A great line from Murray Sawchuck from this week’s “Fantasy” calendar release event: “In our house, it’s always August.”

Sawchuck’s wife, Chloe, is a “Fantasy” dancer. She is featured in August in the new calendar, in which the show’s cast members (aside from comic Sean E. Cooper, which would be a whole different type of calendar) were hand-painted by artists Carlos Marin and L’crème Giordanno and expertly shot by Oscar Picazo.

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

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