Trio With Brio: Las Vegas Tenors Bring Pure Joy of Performing to Stage

Photo by Kirk Marsh

Photo by Kirk Marsh

Love your work as much as these three—almost frighteningly so—and you ought to get hit with a pleasure tax just to console the rest of us (if the IRS isn’t too busy with shenanigans that get them hauled before Congress). Evaluating the percentage of pay the Las Vegas Tenors should fork over to cover their work joy, I’d estimate around 98.2 percent. (Surely there’s 1.8 percent drudgery there somewhere.)

Slotted into the rotation of acts at Westgate’s (formerly LVH’s)  Shimmer Cabaret, this trio of talents—Bobby Black (formerly of Bite), Shai Yammanee (billed as the classical/musical theater stylist) and Lou Gazzara (onetime Vegas! The Show cast member and American Idol contestant, and son of late actor Ben Gazzara)—repeatedly tell the crowd how they adore singing.

This isn’t hyperbole.

Performing against backing tracks and playing off their puckish promo tagline—“What, you were expecting opera?”—the Tenors assemble an inventively packaged repertoire to complement their affable personas. Plus there’s that endearingly odd group visual—rail-thin Gazzara, medium-build Yammanee and rotund Black, defying conventional onstage symmetry. As Black quips: “We even sing while we eat. Me more than them.”

Trading lush solos, they translate the Moody Blues’ “Nights in White Satin” into Spanish with swoon-y romanticism before reverting to English. That nicely establishes their eclecticism following the rollicking pop of the Doobie Brothers’ “Listen to the Music.” Combining the poetry of timeless Irish folk song “Danny Boy” (a.k.a. “Londonderry Air”) and Josh Groban’s inspirational “You Raise Me Up,” their harmony produces head-to-toe tingles.

During a medley that stylistically ricochets from “My Girl” and “Stayin’ Alive” to “It Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing,” the guys highlight it with a fascinating riff on the Four Seasons’ “Who Loves You,” rendered in an upper-register minor key, lending it a unique freshness. Several exquisite solos include Yammanee’s passionate, yet delicate “Maria,” Gazzara shaking the room with Elvis Presley’s “If I Can Dream,” and Black’s warm, emotional take on the blue-eyed soul of Billy and the Beaters’ “At This Moment.”

In “The Prayer,” the Tenors rearrange the Celine Dion/Andrea Bocelli duet into three-part harmony, then mine the depths of regret in Elton John and Bernie Taupin’s “Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word.”

Finally conceding to operatic urges—as well as expectations raised by their name—the Tenors climax the set with “Nessun Dorma” from Turnadot, a widely recognized aria that gives the finale a classical sheen while not feeling at all elitist or exclusionary.

Founded in 2005 by Black—the lone original member—the Las Vegas Tenors step in when Mo5aic is off on other dates. Visual presentation isn’t prioritized—they perform in front of a plain white curtain goosed by primary-color lighting—and there’s a shaggy-dog appeal to the simple way they offer themselves to us.

Slick showmanship is an important, but nonetheless calculated aspect of performing. Joy is not. Joy just … is. You can’t keep a lid on it. And the Las Vegas Tenors blow that lid right off.

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