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July 30, 2014

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A Holmes-coming for Bill Fayne at the Smith Center; Teller’s take on venues is theatrical

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Clint Holmes performs at Cabaret Jazz in the Boman Pavilion at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts on Friday, May 4, 2012.

The Kats Report Bureau has been quiet over the past few days during a move that has taken me back downtown. I’ve lived all over the valley over the years (though not all at once) and am residing in the Newport Lofts high-rise, where out my window in the distance is the Strip and close below is the Arts District, peppered with the Arts Factory, ArtSquare Mingo, Bar + Bistro, the Artifice and the glowing 18b sign.

It's very colorful around here, sign-wise and otherwise. I don’t know the band playing at Artifice on Tuesday night, but it sure cranked.

The process of relocating is onerous and expensive. After a move that has left me beat up from the feet up (as my friends say), some overdue raking is in order. Let’s do that:

• Clint Holmes’ performances this weekend at the Smith Center’s Cabaret Jazz represents a sentimental, nostalgic traipse down memory lane (I say with great reinforcement). The title of the show is “New York, Old Friends,” and Holmes is turning to one of his longtime buddies to make the evening extra special.

Holmes’ music director for the evening is Bill Fayne, with whom Holmes has been friends since the two were teenagers. Fayne was MD for Holmes when Holmes began his headlining run in Las Vegas in 1999, first at Golden Nugget and later for six years at Harrah’s. Holmes’ backing band was one of the best: Santa Fe & The Fat City Horns. It was simply one of the great music productions ever in the city, and for those who remember those days — and also for those who just want a great hang — the shows are 8:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.

Joining Holmes and Fayne is one of our favorite singers, Kristen Hertzenberg of “Million Dollar Quartet,” and the kindly gents from the vocal group Fifth Avenue. One day, I hope to be the Sixth Avenue …

But do drop in to see Holmes. It’s always a wonderful scene. Rush the stage, even. And say hi to Bill for me.

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Teller considers some finer points of co-directing “The Tempest” adapted from the play by William Shakespeare on Tuesday, March 11, 2014.

• The just-opened adaptation of William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” co-produced by dual visionaries Teller and Aaron Posner reminds of the import of venue. The stage for the show is unique for the Smith Center: A large, reinforced, circus-style tent. The seating is theater-style, with 510 seats affixed to bleachers squarely facing the stage.

In an interview a little more than a year ago, Teller remembered playing showrooms in Atlantic City in the days before Penn Jillette and he were booked in Las Vegas.

“And I don’t love showrooms. I just don’t love them,” he said during an interview in Penn & Teller’s storied Monkey Room backstage at the Rio. “Showrooms typically have people sitting at tables, and to watch the stage you have to turn your head or turn your chair around to see the show. Focus is a huge part of magic. For music, you can turn away from the stage and let the music wash over you.

“In magic, if you don’t feel like your attention has been riveted to what’s going on, there’s a whole part of the drama of it that is lost.”

Teller also has explained that his absence of onstage oratory is to subliminally compel the audience to pay attention to his physical performance. As he reasons: The more attentive the audience, the more fulfilling the performance.

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UNLV President Neal Smatresk with Ronnie Vannucci, drummer for The Killers, who graduated on May 14, 2011.

• Among those honored at the UNLV College of Fine Arts’ 11th annual Nevada Entertainer/Artist Hall of Fame was The Killers drummer Ronnie Vannucci. The onetime music student at UNLV who did wind up earning his bachelor’s degree was honored as the College of Fine Arts Alumnus of the Year. This is the next step in the school awarding Vannucci an honorary doctorate someday.

The Killers have been instrumental (as it were) in the renovation of the Huntridge Theater. The band donated several thousand dollars to the Save the Huntridge campaign’s Indiegogo grass-roots fundraising campaign last summer. The monetary and symbolic support of the band raised questions about The Killers returning to perform at the Huntridge, where they appeared during their rise to stardom a little more than a decade ago. During the casual hobnobbing before the event, Vannucci indicated that it is possible for the band to perform again at a renovated Huntridge, but it would be unlikely that The Killers would use the theater as its exclusive Las Vegas home.

Vannucci’s honor capped a program hosted by Channel 13’s Casey Smith with a boost from the reliably velvet-voiced Jeff Keop, the dean of the College of Fine Arts at UNLV. Honored with Sidney Awards, named for the hall’s first inductee, film legend George Sidney, were artist Tim Bavington; longtime Las Vegas vocalist and musician Sue Kim; and legendary jazz vocalist Joe Williams (posthumously).

Also recognized was June Brennan, who received the College of Fine Arts Dean’s Medal “for continually demonstrating commitment to education and extraordinary contributions to the College of Fine Arts” as the news release penned by personal hall of famer Jennifer Vaughan, the CFA’s crackerjack publicist.

• The “Modern Family” episode recently filmed at Mandalay Bay was filled with the usual set-in-Las Vegas cliches (the cast member, in this instance Claire Dunphy, exposed as a compulsive gambler and such ostentatious amenities as cucumber juice served in the VIP steam rooms).

But one great piece of writing featured Mitchell Pritchett (played by Jesse Tyler Ferguson) sitting at a blackjack table with his ex-boyfriend Langham, played by ex-“Saturday Night Live” cast member and “Portlandia” creator Fred Armisen.

As Langham remarked about Mitchell’s hot streak at the table, Mitchell admitted to an adrenaline rush and breathlessly said, “I guess I figure whatever mischief one might get into in Las Vegas kind of remains here, within the limits of the city.”

Langham stared at Mitchell and said, “That’s a cool way to think of it.”

Agreed. What happens here …

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

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