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April 17, 2014

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Monte Carlo’s Anton Nikodemus, Jabbawockeez forge unlikely alliance

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Denise Truscello/WireImage

Jabbawockeez perform at Jet in The Mirage.

So many terms leap to mind when you encounter Anton Nikodemus:

Highly refined. Well-suited. Admirably groomed.

But, "Fan of Jabbawockeez" is not among them.

Yet today the president of Monte Carlo — who has the dashing disposition of a man who just beamed in from the real Monte Carlo — is an avid backer of the plucky, hip-hop dance crew.

Announced earlier this month, Jabbawockeez are bounding into the onetime Lance Burton Theatre and replacing onetime Monte Carlo magician Lance Burton as a regular headliner at the hotel. Opening night for the Jabba-Jabbaz is Oct. 7.

The Jabbawockeez show is called, "MÜS.I.C.," and slides into the 9:30 p.m. slot previously held by comic impressionist Frank Caliendo (and my esteemed colleague Ubiquitous Robin Leach reports the showroom might well be renamed for Caliendo).

Now the hotel's lead headliner, Caliendo occupies the choice 7:30 p.m. position.

For the uninitiated, Jabbawockeez won the first season of "Randy Jackson Presents America's Best Dance Crew" on MTV. Unleashing an audio-visual extravaganza, the best way to describe this hip-hop crew is, "Blue Man Group with a masked and costumed approach."

That's how Nikodemus describes them. Good enough for me.

To be honest, I'm much looking forward to Nikodemus' first formal appearance onstage with the crew — the dapper resort executive shaking hands with a collection of young guys dressed in crimson suits with matching, foppish caps and white masks.

I question whether the Jabbawockeez crew would even be allowed to book a room at the Monte Carlo while wearing their slightly menacing stage attire. It seems such an unlikely pairing, but for Nikodemus the real lure of the dance troupe was financial — the uncanny success the troupe showed in previous appearances at MGM Grand's Hollywood Theatre from May 7-May 26, and again June 17-June 23). Thunderous, madcap performances are becoming something of an MGM Grand hallmark, actually, with Recycled Percussion having just opened at Studio 54.

But though RP's is a ticketed show, it is staged in a nightclub. Jabbawockeez are taking over a traditional Vegas showroom. There were a number of options, including summoning a magician to replace Burton, who had been at the hotel since it opened in 1996. But the company is already in partnership with illusionist David Copperfield, who makes repeated appearances at Hollywood Theatre, and Criss Angel's "Believe" at Luxor.

So it was time for something different at Monte Carlo, and Jabbawockeez is that.

"We had an opportunity, with Lance's departure, to look at a show that had great legs, that was a rising star yet had already had a certain level of success," Nikodemus said. "They had tremendous success at MGM Grand. They had an amazing sell-through there, which got our attention., There is also an amazing Asian following for the Jabbawockeez. Their touring show has shown a remarkable fan loyalty."

Hooking an international audience — particularly the Asian demographic, a culture that dependably boosts table-game revenue in Vegas casinos — is a high priority. The nature of a Jabawockeez show is that you can speak any language and enjoy the performance, similar to Blue Man Group and most of the Cirque du Soliel productions that have sprouted along the Strip in the past several years.

Nikodemus also noted a strong social-media component to Jabowockeez popularity: Facebook.

"They have more than 1.5 million Facebook fans," Nikodemus said. "They have fans from Russia, Spain — you don't realize how the music and showmanship has gone global until you look into their Facebook page. It's remarkable, and this is something we would not have investigated even a few years ago."

Monte Carlo has signed "MÜS.I.C." for an extended run through the middle of 2011. What happens to the show at that point?

"We'll gauge it then," Nikodemus said.

Until then ... we dance!

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at twitter.com/JohnnyKats.

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