Critics aren’t monsters—we can give thanks, too


Even ingrates—say, critics who get to see Vegas shows for a living, then kvetch about them—can suck it up once a year and show some appreciation on Thanksgiving. So, this is me sucking. … you know what I mean.

Consider me thankful this year for:

Olivia Newton-John, for sprinkling the Strip with fairy dust made of equal parts class, talent, elegance and sweetness.

Rock of Ages star Mark Shunock, whose monthly charity fundraisers, Mondays Dark, reveal Vegas at its humanitarian best.

• The concept of knowing when to quit. Case in point: Pawn Shop Live!

• The concept of Sammy Davis Jr. living on into future generations. Case in point: Eric Jordan Young.

• The fact that the tepidly received Jersey Boys movie couldn’t dull the sheen on the gangbusters live musical at Paris Las Vegas.

• The return to the Onyx Theatre (and other venues) of once-imprisoned actor/director Brandon Burk, bringing him back to the community theater scene he loves—and that loves him right back.

• Huggy/touchy-feely/picture-posing Shania Twain, who showers affection on her fans during shows in a way that truly defines “giving thanks.”

Joni and Gina’s Wedding, an interactive, Sapphic-themed dinner show that landed at the intersection of pop culture and social change at precisely the right moment.

• What little time we did have with the exquisite, prematurely shuttered Ray Charles tribute, Georgia on my Mind—starring Strip returnee Clint Holmes.

Anthony Cools mercifully (for the audience) allowing volunteers to keep their clothes on when he somehow persuades them to schtup defenseless chairs and have orgasms on cue.

Matt and Mattingly’s Bucket Show at the Scullery Theater—toss whatever you want to pay for this sharp-witted improv comedy hour into a bucket and get way more than your money’s worth.

• Ventriloquist Jeff Dunham’s about-to-begin Planet Hollywood residency, Not Playing With a Full Deck. Given world events, it feels especially crucial now to laugh at his Achmed the Dead Terrorist.

• Those green-faced, white-eyed hotsie-totsies of lusty, zesty Zombie Burlesque, proving it’s possible to be impossibly hot without a pulse.

Raiding the Rock Vault’s senior screamers, proving they no longer have to look rock-hard to rock hard.

• Watching lounge singer/Steve Wynn discovery Michael Monge, who reminded me of another crooner, my late father—swelling my heart to super-size proportions.

• The chicken salad sub at the Nosh deli at Bally’s; the hot pastrami, and chocolate cheesecake at The Mirage’s Carnegie Deli; the burgers at Le Burger Brasserie at Paris Las Vegas; and that “secret pizza” joint upstairs at the Cosmopolitan.

• Readers who can still surprise me, such as the one who emailed about my review of Neil Diamond impersonator Rob Garrett, who didn’t flip the switch on my heart light. Wrote my fan: “When I was in Vietnam, I had more respect for the VC [Vietcong] than you.” Fair enough. But I’m cuddlier than the Taliban.

Now I think I’ve sucked enough … you know what I mean.

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