Las Vegas was built on pure, raw talent. That's producer David Saxe's stance and the concept behind his creation VEGAS! The Show at Saxe Theater. The show celebrates iconic moments from the city's rich entertainment history through the performances of 40 singers and dancers and 11 musicians.
Born into a show business family, Saxe grew up watching some of the great acts that made Vegas what it is today - the Entertainment Capital of the World. His dad was a bandleader for some of the biggest performers on the Las Vegas Strip, including the Rat Pack, while his mom was a dancer in "Folies Bergere" at the Tropicana. She performed even while she was pregnant with Saxe in 1969.
When he was 17, Saxe became the youngest producer in Vegas when he launched his sister's show, Melinda the First Lady of Magic. During the past 20 years he has produced more than 100 shows. He currently has 13 shows in production at Saxe Theater and his other venue V-Theater, both located at the Miracle Miles Shops at Planet Hollywood.
As someone who grew up loving everything about Vegas entertainment, VEGAS! The Show is a way for Saxe to celebrate the city's colorful past with audiences today.
VEGAS! The Show opens with a custodian named Ernie who works at the neon sign graveyard. Clad in a blue jumpsuit, Ernie reminisces about some of the most memorable entertainers who played Vegas. Behind him is a lavish set piece resembling some of the neon signs that once graced the Strip, including signs for the Glass Pool Inn, the Silver Slipper and the Sands.
"For one night only, we want you to suspend reality and join us on a journey back in time to experience some of the greatest entertainers who ever played Vegas," says Ernie.
Meanwhile the stage transforms into a classic Vegas showgirl routine. Along with the showgirls, men wearing tuxedos and women in gowns take the stage for a glamorous song and dance number choreographed by Tiger Martina.
"We want to share with you the moments and the memories of that gleaming jewel in the desert," says Ernie who both acts as the master of ceremonies and performs as various entertainers from the past.
The scene changes to a swingin' number with Louis Prima and Keely Smith before transitioning to the 1960s when the Rat Pack played the Copa Room at the Sands. Throughout the show the stage is constantly transforming into a new and exciting scene with dazzling costumes, incredible singing and contemporary choreography. Each scene represents a vintage Vegas act, but Martina's high-energy choreography, paired with innovative production elements, portrays these iconic entertainers with a new twist.
For example, Sammy Davis Jr.'s "The Candy Man" starts with a performer singing the song solo before being joined by a parade of showgirls. Dressed in fitted outfits with silver ruffles that say "Good & Plenty" "Almond Joy" and other candy names, the dancers throw out chocolate and other goodies to people in the audience during the song. It's a pretty sweet number.
The scene quickly changes to another memorable Vegas act. While iconic entertainers are represented in the show, the performers aren't tribute artists. This is most apparent during the Elvis numbers.
Most people probably expect to see a white jumpsuit and a dark pompadour with side burns when it comes to Elvis, but not in this show.
"Yeah I know, I'm blond," says the performer representing Elvis.
He jokes with the audience, letting people know that what he and the other performers are doing isn't about emulating every aspect of famous entertainers. Instead they're celebrating the performers and what they might be like if there were still around today.
"The heart of the city is gambling but the soul is music," says Ernie before performers representing Sonny and Cher appear on stage singing "I Got You Babe."
Along with all the song and dance numbers, the show also has a little magic. Seasoned magician Joseph Gabriel performs later on in the show. He amazes the audience with his sleight-of-hand magic, transforming scarves into doves and a macaw parrot.
Toward the end of the show, the audience is treated to an Elton John tribute. A performer wearing a white suit and large glasses takes a seat at a white piano situated on stage in front of the curtain. As he sings "Rocket Man," video footage of vintage Vegas is displayed on the curtains. Some of the images are of the original acts that were just performed on stage, while others depict casinos in Vegas that have been imploded over the years. The video clip reminds everyone that while the landscape may have changed, the city is still home to fantastic entertainment with glitz and glamour that can only be found in Vegas.