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April 24, 2014

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The Cosmopolitan opens ’14 with a cascade of cool

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Ethan Miller/Wireimage

Bruno Mars and his band perform at the Chelsea on Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, in the Cosmopolitan.

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Bruno Mars performs at the Chelsea on New Year's Eve, 2013.

The old year ended and the new one began in a blizzard of sight and sound at the Chelsea in the Cosmopolitan. Relying on his own mental timepiece, Bruno Mars asked, “Where we at? Ten minutes to go? What are we gonna play?”

Someone up front shouted “Elvis!” at him, or likely did, because Mars laughed and shouted to the band to perform “Jailhouse Rock,” and they did, and the crowd packed on the theater’s lower level jumped and swayed in a ripple of energy. Afterward, Mars again asked, “Where we at? Four minutes?” and asked a single fan up close for another song.

“Train!?” he said, then jumped into “Hey Soul Sister” as his ever-swiveling bandmates picked up the tune. Then he implored, “Please don’t put this on YouTube, ‘This is sad! Bruno is back doing Elvis again!’ ” That was a reference to Mars’ appearance as Little Elvis, when he was a kid, including a brief role in “Honeymoon in Vegas." “People will think I’m in the ‘Legends’ show.”

The big screens burst with fire, and Mars followed with Rick James’ “Superfreak.”

This was the scene that closed 2013 on the Strip, where outside pyrotechnics exploded off resort rooftops and inside the Cosmo the delirious crowd of 3,000 hugged, high-fived and kissed. This was a huge night for the resort, not just because it was the first set of shows by Mars at the new Chelsea theater. A floor below, the social club Rose. Rabbit. Lie. opened for dinner for the first time and concurrently debuted the Spiegelworld production “Vegas Nocturne.”

How big was this night? Spiegelworld impresario Ross Mollison slipped into a tux. He was quite Bond-esque for the occasion, as were the club’s partners, Rob Weakley and David Bernahl of Coastal Luxury Management of Monterey, Calif. They wore grayish suits and (in Berhnahl’s case) a white scarf, but they also wore expressions of anxiety, hoping opening night would play out according to an admittedly loose script.

By the end of the night, those gents were beaming. Rose. Rabbit. Lie. is as refined, intelligent and hip as the guys promised. Menus are delivered with a ring-waxed seal. The flatware is silver and decorated in a fancy gold design, placed atop a silver brace that serves no purpose other than to keep the forks and knives from touching the table. The food is to be shared; the dish I’ll recommend after one visit is the beef stroganoff. I’m not a foodie, but my two-word review: damn delectable.

For the first sitting, at 6 p.m. (or 6:30, delayed as the staff scrambled to get into position), the room was partially filled by members of “Absinthe,” Spiegelworld’s masterpiece at Caesars Palace. And I will always say that there is no scene that cannot be enlivened and enriched by the presence of “Absinthe” cast members.

The layout is multi-roomed, laden with small enclaves and hallways that seem to lead nowhere but open to a band room. Or the performance venue. Or the study, where sound from other hovels is almost totally muted. To find the restrooms, push through a wall that leads to an area where a gentleman dressed as a Revolutionary War soldier is seated at a live chess game, jotting notes into a journal with a feathered ink pen.

As the club partners promised, the dining experience was further spiced by live entertainment. We spirited away in the circuitous melodies of a glass armonica (an instrument invented in 1731 by Ben Franklin). Musician, singer and beatbox artist Butterscotch showed off her own unique form of performance art. The best description for what she does is to imagine the vocal group Mo5aic inhabiting a single body. And playing guitar.

Butterscotch is just one of many talented artists signed on by Mollison and Cosmopolitan CEO John Unwin to populate the restaurant’s strolling entertainment and, more important, serve as the cast for “Vegas Nocturne,” the three-canto, burlesque-tinged variety show set in the club’s 500-capacity theater.

Featured in any of the three cantos (acts): A whale bone-balancing routine covering 10 minutes. A pair of hopelessly unaware but hilarious co-hosts who have been coached by The Gazillionaire and Penny Pibbets of “Absinthe.” A coed body-balancing team. A high-wire artist who performs acrobatics, such as flips, on a wire no thicker than a half-inch. A magician dressed in a green-satin dragon suit working with a tiny dog. An aerial, plastic-bubble number. The straps-and-bathtub segment most Vegas audiences will remember from “Peepshow” at Planet Hollywood. And on and on.

Oh, and lest we forget: Sean and John, the terrific twin tappers late of “Vegas! The Show” and “V — The Ultimate Variety Show.” They are in “Vegas Nocturne” now, and the fact that Spiegelworld hired a top act from David Saxe’s production reminds of Saxe’s own coup in drawing the popular Skating Aratas from “Absinthe” a few years ago.

The scene at Rose. Rabbit. Lie. spilled late into the night, far outpacing the Mars show, as the DJ raged on and a contemporary dance troupe from New York regaled the audience with a flowing number in white silk. It was dizzying, sometimes bizarre, but never boring. The hotel named as such has entered 2014 with a vibe that is smart, chic and very Cosmopolitan.

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

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