Sketch Comedy at the Onyx Theatre!

Last night, Ron and I (along with my folks and our good friends, Claudia & Dirk) had the opportunity to see the new sketch comedy troupe “Feed the Monkey” at the Onyx Theatre, 653 E. Sahara #16.  We were invited by our own Gret Menzies (of “Dangerous Curves”) who is also a member of this talented, comedy ensemble.

"Feed The Monkey" Cast and Crew

"Feed The Monkey" Cast and Crew

PICTURED: [kneeling and seated, left to right] Jillian Pizzuto (cast), Enoch Augustus Scott (cast/writer/director), Jon Paul Raniola (cast/writer/director), Michael Gonzalez (cast); [standing, left to right] Jennifer Deanne King (costumes), Jeremy Knowles (cast), Becca Hollis (production manager), Bre’ann O’Neill (stage manager), JJ Gatesman (director), Lori Kay (assistant director), Gret Menzies (cast), Scott Johnson (cast/writer/director)

Now, to be quite honest, sketch comedy is not really my thing.  I rarely watch shows like SNL (Saturday Night Live) or MADtv…the characters tend to get on my nerves and the sketches usually go way too far, to the point of being annoying.  However, I must say that I actually really enjoyed myself last night.  There were some really funny parts in the show, and some extremely talented cast members…particularly Scott Johnson (who participated in two great bits involving the “Count” from Sesame Street — seriously, very funny!) and Jon Paul Raniola (who did a fantastic job with EVERY character he portrayed).  In fact, the entire cast is to be commended on how well they did…especially when you consider how difficult sketch comedy can be!  And this particular comedy troupe only performs once a month (the 4th Saturday of each month) and each month they have a NEW show, so they only get ONE SHOT to get it right…ONE SHOT to get the laughs!  It’s like “opening night” every, single time.  OY!  Was the show perfect, and was every bit funny?  No…not really.  But with a show like this, I didn’t really expect to love everything…and I was quite honestly surprised at how much I did like.

Gret Menzies and Me

With Gret Menzies after the show!

Is it worth going to?  Yes, it is…definitely.  And here’s a few reasons why… First, the tickets are only $10…you can’t beat that.  Second, it’s a fantastic way to show your support of local and independent theatre here in Las Vegas.  Third, I can guarantee that you will laugh out loud at least few times (when’s the last time you did that???).  And finally, the Onyx Theatre is actually located at the back of The RACK store (an acronym for “Responsible and Consensual Kink”), which was voted “Best Adult Store” in Las Vegas in the Review-Journal’s “Best of Las Vegas” ’07. Oh MY!!  So bring your significant other and show up a little early to do a bit of shopping beforehand!  Woohoo!!!  Comedy AND sexy fun, all in one evening!  Seriously, who could ask for anything more???

Visit the “Feed the Monkey” MySpace page for cast bios and more information… www.myspace.com/feedthemonkeylasvegas

To get tickets for next month’s show, October 25, visit The Onyx Theatre’s Official Website… www.onyxtheatre.com/ticketing.htm

To read last month’s great review of “Feed the Monkey” Sketch Comedy, featured in Las Vegas Weekly Magazine, Sept. 4. 2008… www.lasvegasweekly.com/news/2008/sep/04/feed-monkey/

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We live in a world in which politics has replaced philosophy…

Barack Obama vs John McCain

Watched the Presidential Debates this evening, broadcast live from the University of Mississippi in Oxford, and I’ll admit I have mixed emotions about it.  Overall, I think Obama came across much better than I expected.  He handled himself very well, and proved that he is a good speaker and knows how to present himself well on television (he was very careful to direct most of his answers either directly into the camera or to John McCain himself).  McCain on the other hand did not speak as well, appeared to be looking down most of the time (because he was directing most of his answers toward to moderator of the debate, Jim Lehrer), and even stumbled on his words a few times.  He even came across as slightly antagonistic at times, and Obama was very careful not to fall prey to it on live television.  Obama had obviously rehearsed very well for this debate, and it paid off.  And if we were auditioning a “spokesperson” for an ad campaign, or if we were looking for a new “leading man” for a Broadway show or a Lifetime Movie of the Week, we would possibly have a very clear winner….

HOWEVER, this is a presidential debate, not an audition OR a popularity contest.  My fear, however, is that many people may vote according to who is more “appealing,” not necessarily who is the most qualified and experienced to run this country, or who truly understands all of the issues, or who actually shares their core beliefs.

To be honest, I much preferred listening to and watching Barack Obama…his persona was very likable tonight.  But, knowing the basic tenets of the Democratic Party, and knowing how liberal Obama is on so many of those issues, I do not think I could ever vote for him and be able to sleep comfortably at night.  The alarms of “socialism” ring a little too loudly when he speaks…

BUT, you decide for yourself.  That’s the absolute beauty of our political system…that we ALL get a vote.  Just be sure to examine the actual issues, and how they will affect us all in the long run.  Then get out on November 4th and cast your vote! :)

Okay, enough about the debate…time for some silly, fun, political stuff:

Favorite Political Jokes:

  • A Republican and a Democrat were walking down the street when they came to a homeless person. The republican gave the homeless person his business card and told him to come to his business for a job. He then took twenty dollars out of his pocket and gave it to the homeless person. The Democrat was very impressed, and when they came to another homeless person, he decided to help. He walked over to the homeless person and gave him directions to the welfare office. He then reached into the Republican’s pocket and gave him fifty dollars. It took years to figure out the real differences between Democrats and Republicans, and this little story says it all.
  • Teaching a child the basic philosophy of most liberal Democrats (although, when you put it in these terms, they’d never admit to it):  You work very hard in school, studying and doing all assignments and you earn an A. You are so proud because you know all your hard work earned you that high mark. But, your teacher feels sorry for the kids who didn’t work so hard. It must be because they didn’t have the same opportunity as you, although you know they had the exact same opportunities, they just didn’t have the ambition you had, and just didn’t do the work.  So, your teacher decides that to make things more fair, he is going to bring your grade down to a C and bring the failing students up to a C – so everyone is on the same level and no one has to feel badly about himself.
  • A man in a hot air balloon realized he was lost. He reduced the altitude and spotted a woman below. He descended a bit more and shouted, “Excuse me, can you help me?  I promised a friend I would meet him an hour ago, but I don’t know where I am.”  The woman replied, “You are in a hot air balloon approximately 30 feet above the ground. You are between 40 and 41 degrees north latitude and between 59 and 60 degrees west longitude.”  “You must be a republican,” said the balloonist.  “I am,” said the woman.” “How did you know?”  “Well,” answered the balloonist “everything you told me is technically correct, but I have no idea what to make of your information, and the fact is I am still lost. Frankly you’ve not been much help so far.”  The woman below responded. “You must be a democrat.”  “I am,” replied the balloonist, “but how did you know?”  “Well,” said the woman, “You don’t know where you are or where you are going. You have risen to where you are, due to a large quantity of hot air. You made a promise which you have no idea how to keep and you expect me to solve your problem. The fact is you are in exactly the same position you were in before we met, but now somehow, it’s my fault.”

And here’s a quote that even my Democrat friends will like:

  • Democrats are the party of government activism, the party that says government can make you richer, smarter, taller, and get the chickweed out of your lawn. Republicans are the party that says government doesn’t work, and then they get elected and prove it. – P.J. O’Rourke.

What?!? More “Chick Singers” in Town?

Veronica Valdez, Kelly Clinton, Elisa Fiorillo

Veronica Valdes, Kelly Clinton, Elisa Fiorillo

Last night, Ron and I were invited by Carmine Mandia (of “Shades of Sinatra”) to the Stirling Club at Turnberry Place to see fellow performer, and friend, Kelly Clinton with her new trio, “The Chick Singers.”  We have seen Kelly perform quite a few times before, doing her one-woman show at the Bootlegger Bistro & Suncoast Hotel, and have always enjoyed her performances.  She has a great flair for comedy and her shows are always entertaining.  Obviously, hearing that she now had a trio, I was very interested to see what she had put together, and of course to check out the “competition.” :)

As the byline on their show program reads, their show, (co-written by Clinton, Valdes and Fiorillo) is the “true life story about 3 unique and talented ladies who decided that 3 was a much stronger number than 1.”  All three of these women have been in the business a long time, and share some fun stories about working as a “chick singer.”  Elisa Fiorillo is by far the strongest singer in the group (although all three of them did have some very nice moments), and she is an amazing song-writer as well.  Two of my favorite songs in the show “Bun in the Oven” and “Count on You” were both written by Elisa.  In addition, she co-wrote two other funny songs, “Awkward Moments” and “Rejection,” with Kelly and Veronica.

While there were some really cute spots in the show, unfortunately much of the timing and delivery of the jokes still needs a lot of work.  I do think, however, that they are on the right track.  Veronica Valdes has a great character in the show, complete with thick Cuban accent, and when she actually stuck with that character, I really enjoyed her bits.  One of Kelly’s characters, special guest “Jo Jo Spaghetti Moretti,” is always a hit.  And of course her “PMS Blues” song is pretty much guaranteed plenty of laughter and applause whenever she does it…very funny.  Comedy is definitely her forte.

With Carmine after the show...

With Carmine Mandia Following the Show at the Stirling Club...

Overall, it is a much more comedy/character driven show than musically/vocally/harmonically driven..which, to be honest, I was a little disappointed with.  BUT, their audience of friends really seemed to enjoy the show…and in this difficult time of economic stress and uncertainty, maybe a little fun and comedy is exactly what we all need right now.

Click Here to Visit Kelly Clinton‘s Website and see her schedule of upcoming shows

Click Here to Visit Elisa Fiorillo‘s Website (and hear audio samples of her awesome songs and even order a CD of her music)

Click Here to Visit Las Vegas Best Entertainment to find out more about hiring Veronica Valdes

Dinner at Bally’s Steakhouse

Bally's Hotel & Casino

Bally's Hotel & Casino

Last night we enjoyed a wonderful dinner and evening out at Bally’s Steakhouse, located inside the Bally’s Hotel & Casino, 3655 Las Vegas Blvd.  What a FABULOUS restaurant!!

The manager of the restaurant, Louie Maione, did an incredible job making sure that we were well cared for…particularly when it came to ordering our food.  As many of you know, my mom and I both have Celiac Disease (an autoimmune disease where any form of gluten — found in wheat, barley, rye, and some oats — is literally toxic to our bodies), and it can be very difficult sometimes eating out at restaurants.  As common as this disease is becoming (approximatey 1 in 100 people have it), there are STILL so many restaurant managers and chefs who do not know how to handle it.

Dad, Mom, Me, Ron

Well, Louie did a great job at making sure we got what we needed, and made sure to clarify all of the ingredients found in the different dishes.  While it was not an inexpensive meal by any means, it was well worth it!

Some of the dishes our family enjoyed: Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail (GF), French Onion Soup, Filet Mignon (GF), Prime Rib (GF), Alaskan Halibut (GF w/o sauce), Sauteed Asparagus (GF), Grilled Onions (GF), and HUGE Baked Poatoes (GF).  Mmmm….good! Bally’s Steakhouse is open daily from 5:30pm-10:30pm, and you can make reservations by calling (702) 967-7999.

Visit the Bally’s Steakhouse Website

Photo Shoot FUN!

Okay, so it’s already almost 11:00pm, and I REALLY need to get ready for bed, but I wanted to post a quick blog with a preview of some of my new photos!!  When we did the “Dangerous Curves” photo shoot a couple of weeks ago, Wayne gave us each the opportunity to take some single shots as well…however, since I’ve been out of town, I hadn’t had a chance to see mine yet…until today!  I’m really excited about them!  Although Wayne hasn’t had a chance to do his “magic” to them yet, I was able to do enough touch-ups on Photo Shop Elements to at least feel comfortable posting a little preview:

Lisa Smith Proof Sheet

Lisa Smith Proof Sheet

Wayne is such a GREAT photographer!  He was able to make me feel so comfortable during the shoot, and he has a great eye for composition and angles. Seriously, it was so much fun!  So if you, or anyone you know, need headshots (or even family photos) taken, I highly recommend Wayne with Jon Wayne Productions.

Wayne Young

John Wayne Productions

email: eggroll1@cox.net

phone: (702) 338-6045

Be It Ever So Humble…

What an exciting day!

What an exciting day!

Today’s events were the stuff that Blog Masterpieces are created from…um, NOT!  Today was completely boring and uneventful…which actually made for a REALLY nice change!  It was simply a day filled with unpacking suitcases, returning phone calls, following up on emails, and lots of laundry.  Not even sure how two people, with no children, who are hardly ever home, have time to create so much laundry???  But, there you have it…

Anyway, it is really nice to be home.  I can tell that it’s gonna take a couple of days to get back into the swing of things though…I still feel pretty discombobulated (is that a real word???).  I do start back in tomorrow morning with my 6:30am workouts (I’ve really blown them off while I was away…which I have to admit was totally great ;) ), but it will be good to get that going again.  So, I’d better finish everything up and get to bed at a decent time tonight.

That is, after I watch the season premier of Heroes at 9pm on NBC! Certainly can’t miss that!!!!  Woohoo! :lol:

“There are no mistakes or failures, only lessons.”

"The New World" Cast

Robin, Freddie, ME, Dennis - "The New World" Cast

So, I made it through all the shows.  Whew!  As you know by now, I am doing my best to look at the whole experience as a positive one.  I met some great people…learned some awesome songs that I can hopefully use somewhere else someday…got back in touch with an old friend.  And I have learned some important lessons in the process. Most importantly, never agree to a gig, particularly one that’s out of town and takes up almost a month of your life, without a contract.  Period.  Even if it’s a friend…even if you have agreed to a certain payment verbally…it honestly doesn’t mean diddly-squat when it comes right down to it unless you have a signed contract.  I always assumed, incorrectly, that when I was doing business with friends that they would stand by what they agreed to, and they would have your “back” when you needed to argue for something you were promised.  I guess I was wrong.  Friendship is friendship, and business is business.  Maybe I was just always lucky in the past.  Theatre-owners and director/producers are pretty much all about the bottom line and doing what’s best for themselves.  It’s really easy for them to blame the “other” guy to relieve themselves of responsibility.

Jeanette, our Costume Goddess!

Jeanette, our Costume Goddess!

I hope that doesn’t sound bitter…it’s not meant to.  At this point, I really can’t blame anyone except myself for not getting everything in writing.  I was naive and I was trusting.  Lesson learned.  I will not make that same mistake twice.  Moving on…

I really do want to send out big thank you’s to Robin DeLano, Dennis Kyle, and Jeanette Capuano (our costume mistress)!  I really enjoyed meeting all of you!  Robin and Dennis, your talent is unbelieveable!  I hope everyone reading this gets the chance to hear them sing at some point. And Jeanette really was a shining star in this whole adventure at the Grove Theatre.  Thanks, you guys…even with all the “learning experiences” you really helped to make this gig enjoyable for me… Love ya!

Be Careful What You Wish For…

So, do you remember me saying I was bummed out that Ron was not going to get to see my show (because Friday night was canceled and he had to be back to work in Las Vegas on Saturday)?  All night I kept wishing there was a way for him to see it…well, be careful what you wish for.  On Saturday morning as we were walking out to the car in the hotel parking lot to say goodbye, we noticed some glass on the ground.  We look up, and lo and behold, someone has busted out Ron’s car window and ransacked the car during the night.  Ai, yai, yai!!!!

Ron's Car Got Broken Into!

Welcome Back to California!

So by the time we filed a police report, talked with the manager of the hotel about trying to get a copy of the security camera tape, filed a report with our insurance company, vacuumed all the glass out of the seats, etc, etc, etc, it was too late for Ron to make it back to Vegas in time for work.  Fortunately, they were able to get someone to fill in for him.  But, add one more night of missed work to the already growing list of expenses from this weekend (oh yeah, and there’s that little thing called an insurance deductible to pay…ouch)…but, hey, the good news is that Ron was able to see my show last night! :)  Yeah, like I said, be careful what you wish for…

Let’s Go To the Movies…

Friday was just a nice, quiet day for us.  We spent the morning in the hotel room, catching up on email and updating my blog (and having a little “together time”), then we put on our swim suits and relaxed in the jacuzzi for a while.  Nice…quiet.  Later, we decided to go out to see a movie (something we don’t get to do together very often since Ron usually works evenings).

We drove out to Ontario Mills to see the new Coen Brothers’ movie Burn After Reading, starring Frances McDormand, George Clooney, Brad Pitt, John Malkovich, and Tilda Swinson.  To be honest, I’m not really sure what I thought of it.  I guess I liked it.  I loved some of the performances (J.K. Simmons was great as the CIA Supervisor, and it’s almost worth the price of the movie ticket just to see Brad Pitt’s character…I can guarantee you have known someone in your life who he will remind you of), and I definitely laughed out loud at a few parts, but it was pretty dark…and left you feeling…well, I’m really not sure what I was feeling.  Should you see it?  Depending on the theatre (and maybe whether you can see it at matinee prices) I would say yes…OR possibly it’s best to save it as a rental.  Hard to say.  Not ‘movie of the year”…but I suppose I was glad we went.  How’s that for a completely non-committal review!  :)

Stephanie in “9 To 5: The Musical” at The Ahmanson!

The Musical!

"9 To 5: The Musical!"

We were SO EXCITED because we were able to get last-minute tickets to see our friend Stephanie in “9 To 5: The Musical” last night!  She and the rest of the cast were AMAZING!  The musical, which is currently in Previews at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles through October 19, is based on the 1980 smash hit movie, starring Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin, and Jane Fonda.

9 to 5: THE MUSICAL features a brand-new score by seven-time Grammy Award® winner DOLLY PARTON that includes the blockbuster title song, plus a book by original screenwriter PATRICIA RESNICK and direction by two-time Tony Award®-winner JOE MANTELLO (directing his first new musical since Wicked). Emmy Award®-winner and Tony Award® nominee ALLISON JANNEY stars as Violet Newstead, the super-efficient office manager who joins her fellow co-workers – frazzled divorcée Judy Bernly (STEPHANIE J. BLOCK of Wicked, The Pirate Queen, and The Boy From Oz) and sexy secretary Doralee Rhodes (MEGAN HILTY who recently starred as Glinda in the Los Angeles Production of Wicked) – to turn the tables on their “sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical, bigot” of a boss, Franklin Hart Jr. (Tony Award nominee MARC KUDISCH).

Stephanie’s big number in the second act, Get Out and Stay Out easily got the most applause of the evening (although I may be a bit biased :) …and she sounded AMAZING on it!).  The set was absolutely incredible…seriously one of the best moving sets I’ve ever seen!  Megan was hysterical and spot-on as Doralee, and Allison Janney was so perfect for this role that you honestly don’t mind that she’s not as strong of a singer as Megan or Stephanie.  She’s a terrific actress, and her song One Of The Boys was actually one of my favorite production numbers in the show!

Backstage following the show...

Backstage following the show...

Following the show, Stephanie left our names at the stage door so we could come back and visit for a while.  It’s been more than a year since we last saw her, so it was great to catch up a little.  Once the previews in LA are done, Stephanie said she has almost 3 months off before they begin rehearsals again to get ready for their opening on Broadway (previews are scheduled to begin March 24, 2009, and they open officially on April 23, 2009).  During that time, she is FINALLY going to begin recording an album of her own…it’s definitely time!  Her husband (Sebastian Arcelus) has fortunately been able to be with her in Los Angeles for the opening (his first vacation from the Broadway hit Jersey Boys in almost 9 months), so they’ve really been enjoying their time together.

What a great evening we had!  We even ran into several old friends tonight out of the blue (Dan Solis, who I worked with in Japan almost 18 years ago; Kamilah Marshall, currently starring as one of Bette Midler’s “Harlettes” in The Showgirl Must Go On, set to reopen at Caesar’s Palace in October; and Erik McEwen, who did Crazy For You and Jesus Christ Superstar with Ron back in California).  Small world, huh?  PLUS we even got to see my best friend Sherrie tonight!  She and her friend, Christina, were also able to get tickets to tonight’s show and sat right next to us.  What a GREAT evening!!!

Seriously, if there’s any way for you to get down to LA to see “9 To 5: The Musical” before it closes and moves to Broadway…do it!  It’s such a great show…truly a lot of fun.  Congratulations, Steph…you go, Girl!

For more inforamtion on Stephanie J. Block, visit her official website at www.StephanieJBlock.com

To get tickets for the world premier of “9 To 5: The Musical” at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles, visit the Center Theatre Group official website.