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FABULOUS LAS VEGAS

It is so hard for a Las Vegas Strip production show to set itself apart, especially one that so strongly reminds of the best elements of Cirque du Soleil. That challenge is even more pronounced when the production is developed by a man – Franco Dragone – whose vision helped create the style of Cirque shows that now dominate the Strip. But “Le Reve” at Wynn Las Vegas has instituted a feature that draws a distinction between it and any other production in town: seats in the VIP Champagne Circle package. Even Bud guys can appreciate these seats, which were put into place during of the venue’s $8 million overhaul that shut the show down for several weeks. The seating capacity was actually reduced, from 2,100 to about 1,600, and the VIP seats were placed along the theater-in-the-round’s back row. Also installed were a series of video monitors (what could be called “TV screens”) to show footage underwater, behind the scenes and from high overhead of the show as it is in progress.I’ve heard from friends about these seats and finally, on date night Saturday, was able to watch an entire production of “Le Reve” from this unique vantage point. It takes a little getting used to, as the show itself is so clearly designed to play to the theater, but it is fascinating in particular to see the performers underwater, taking hits off oxygen tanks while still moving in tandem. Also effective are the overhead shots of cast members plunging into the watery stage from heights up to 75 feet. The show itself has improved; merely eliminating the faux-pregnant women alone erased quite a bit of confusion for me. “Le Reve” is where you take someone who might have seen a few other Strip shows, but who wants a new vantage point. Set aside the $175 for tickets. It’s worth it.** Before “Le Reve,” there was the KNPR gala honoring Pat and Lamar Marchese at Green Valley Ranch Station Casino. For more than four decades, Pat and Lamar have led the cultural development of Las Vegas and, of course, Lamar founded KNPR in 1975 and the station signed on for the first time, famously from a janitor’s closet at Sam Boyd Stadium, on March 24, 1980. Pat, who earlier this year retired from her position as director of the Clark County Department of Parks and Recreation, was on board during the formation of the Desert Breeze Center and Aquatics Complex, Hollywood Recreation Center, Whitney Community Center, Lone Mountain Discovery Park, the Western Trails Park and the Cora Coleman Senior Center. She also founded the Rainbow Children’s Theater and is still involved with the Reed Whipple Cultural Center, and Charleston Heights Arts Center.For both, the term “paved the way” was repeated several times during Saturday’s event. More than 600 friends and KNPR supporters were in attendance, including co-chairs Pat Shalmy of Nevada Power and Jan Jones of Harrah’s Entertainment. Shalmy drew a laugh when he announced rate-hiking Nevada Power as “your favorite utility company.” Emcee Peter Sagal of NPR’s “Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me’’ followed with, “The difference between a KNPR fund drive and Nevada Power is, if you don’t pay us, we DON’T turn it off.”** While we’re thrice-over plugging people, places and things, check out the new Atomic Testing Museum exhibit, “How to Photograph an Atomic Blast.” Peter Kuran, who won an Oscar for his work as an animator on the original “Star Wars” film (he was 17 when he started working on that movie), assembled the display of nuclear bomb photos. Saturday afternoon, Kuran and Dr. Harold Agnew, who worked on the Manhattan Project, gave a lecture for a couple hundred people to put some of the historic work in perspective. Agnew, whose work led to the development of the bombs that wiped out Hiroshima and Nagasaki, said the free world was largely fortunate to have come out of World War II intact. After nuclear fission was discovered in 1932, no one knew what technologies Germany was pursuing. “They were embracing rocket science. Good for us,” Agnew said. “If they had focused on nuclear science instead of rockets, there would have been no landing of the Allies at Normandy, and there would be no more Britain.”**From fission musings to the world of sports! Well, sort of. Softball star Tony Danza (who is also a stage performer who is the co-lead in “The Producers” at Paris Las Vegas) celebrated his team’s league championship last week with a backstage toast on Saturday night. Danza makes routine trips from Vegas to L.A. just so he can play in his rec league. He’s more dedicated than I am; I once missed a softball game to catch the opening gala of a show on the Strip. It was “The Producers.”**PL8 in my head: Elvis fan (likely) roaring through the streets of Vegas in a red Corvette with the plates CCRYDRR.

Fabulous Las Vegas appears at this Web site. John Katsilometes can be reached at 990-7720, 812-9812 or at john.katsilometes@gmgvegas.com

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