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August 22, 2014

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Cirque has lofty plans for The Tenors in ‘One Drop’; Dispensary’s swanky jazz hang turns 2

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L.E. Baskow

The Tenors from Canada rehearse at Michael Jackson Theater on Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014, for this year’s “One Night for One Drop” fundraising performance at Mandalay Bay.

‘One Night for One Drop’ Rehearsal at Mandalay Bay

Performer Rokardy from Cirque du Soleil plays a homeless man during rehearsal at Michael Jackson Theater on Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014, for this year's “One Night for One Drop” fundraising performance at Mandalay Bay. Launch slideshow »

A question that arose on the scene this week: If a singer who sings live is asked if he or she lip syncs during a performance, is that a compliment or a criticism?

I answered it is a compliment because the vocals coming from the stage are close enough to a recorded track that you cannot tell the difference.

However, if you are, in fact, lip synching, it is not a compliment.

And this argument led to this related question: Is lip synching actually itself an art form? This is debated, to great comedic consequence, in the musical “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert,” with references to the trembling lip and wavering Adam’s apple.

But, really, try lip synching effectively to any song, and you’ll appreciate the challenges. I tried this during “Eleanor Rigby” this week, and the act of acting out a song takes some real … acting, I guess.

Something to ponder as we wield the rake:

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Rehearsal at Michael Jackson Theater on Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014, for this year's “One Night for One Drop” fundraising performance at Mandalay Bay.

• The Tenors were in town last week during a press preview of “One Night for One Drop,” Cirque du Soleil’s now-annual charity event for the company’s One Drop water-conservation foundation. The show is scheduled for March 21 at the Michael Jackson One Theater at Mandalay Bay, and a single scene featuring The Tenors was performed.

The act that played across the stage Jan. 30 was characteristic of Cirque, with an acrobat stacking chairs several feet above the stage and balancing atop that pillar while pouring a bottle of water into a wooden bucket. Meanwhile, The Tenors crooned their cover of the Bob Dylan ballad “Forever Young” as street performers on a nearby bench as a second bucket of water was passed hand-to-hand by artists dressed as common folk.

But what is to be a new approach is the idea of hoisting the four members of The Tenors above the stage and, perhaps, the audience during the performance. This in-development act is to be a bit more adventurous than the lifting of tiny vocalist Jackie Evancho above the stage at O Theater in the first “One Drop” show last March at Bellagio. Show director Mukhtar Mukhtar, who has been a dancer and a choreographer for “Love” at the Mirage, envisions a scene where The Tenors sing and play above the audience.

“We’ll see. We’re looking at the possibilities of them going up in the air, yes,” Mukhtar said in a chat after the presentation. “I mean, why not? They are performers, as well, not just singers. That’s the beautiful thing about Cirque: It pushes people out of their comfort zone. … But the most important thing for us is their singing, not taking away from that, because they are incredible singers, and I want to keep that essence in the show.”

The Tenors, previously known as The Canadian Tenors, are without question interested in getting (physically) high.

“If there’s time to try something outlandish, it’s when you’re on a Cirque stage,” said Fraser Walters, who is familiar with non-singing athletic activity. He was captain of the Canadian national track and field team in the 1999 Pan American Junior Games, specializing in the 400-meter hurdles. “We’ve signed some waivers, so anything goes, right? We’re ready for anything.”

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Michelle Johnson performs during the "Our Town for Newtown" benefit concert held Sunday, Jan. 6, 2013 at Railhead at Boulder Station.

• On Sunday from 5 to 8 p.m., a quite swanky jazz hangout is celebrating its second year of presenting swanky jazz. This is the Dispensary Lounge at 2451 E. Tropicana Ave. (in the strip mall at Trop and Eastern, precisely), where jazz-flavored artists such as Uli Geissendoerfer, Pascale Elia, Michelle Johnson, Karen Jones and Ronnie Rose perform late Fridays and Saturdays and also on Wednesdays.

Those taking the slightly raised stage next to the waterwheel include those already mentioned, along with Windy Karigianes, Skip Martin, JoBelle Yonley, Joe Darro, Michael Delano, Charles McNeal, Julian Tanaka, Ryan Rose and Steve Flora. These are all well-known performers in town who frequent the Dispensary, which has been around for more than 30 years — so long that it’s a favorite hangout for Jimmy Girard of Tap House, Italian American Club and Salvatore’s Italian Steak House fame.

But (perhaps) more impressively, Wynton Marsalis stopped in to check out the club after his performance at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts last March. Totally unexpectedly. He sat in with the band for a few numbers, then waltzed out, having given the Dispensary his singular stamp of approval.

• What’s up with Cheaza, you are asking? The former Peep Diva in “Peepshow” at Planet Hollywood has launched a new entertainment company, DBMM Entertainment, having posted her website last weekend. She specializes in training entertainers and anyone who is athletically inclined. In her teenage years in Northern California, Cheaza (known in those days by her full name, Cheaza Figueroa) was a contemporary of a rising track-and-field athlete named Marion Jones.

Cheaza was a top sprinter, hurdler, triple jumper and long jumper at Quartz Hill High in Antelope Valley, Calif., and a rival of Jones at nearby Thousand Oaks. Hamstring injuries knocked the young Figueroa off-stride, but she turned to stage performance, lopped her surname for the stage, and here we are.

• Lest anyone question the authenticity of Bruno Mars’ shows at the Chelsea in the Cosmopolitan, resort spokeswoman Amy Rosetti said in an email this week: “We are proud to report that Bruno Mars performs live at the Cosmopolitan.” I asked about Mars’ shows not in an accusatory vein but in the face of reports that Mars’ band and The Red Hot Chili Peppers were playing to tracks at Super Bowl XLVIII last Sunday.

The reason given was that, at the Super Bowl, it takes too much time to dial in the sound board and the electronically amplified instruments and the equipment and whatnot (sorry if I am being too technical here). So, I asked if Mars was playing live at the Chelsea, and there's the answer. Can’t wait to see that show again. It roars and soars.

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

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