Golden Joe Baker Official Tribute Web Site

Songs, Stories and Memories


December 03, 1999

'Viva Las Vegas' gives plenty of bang for the buck

By Joe Delaney

Dick Feeney's production of "Viva Las Vegas," 2 and 4 p.m., Mondays through Saturdays, in the Stratosphere's Broadway Showroom, is by far Las Vegas' best low-budget, high-quality entertainment buy. The show is in its ninth consecutive year. Ticket prices are $11. If you're a slot player, you can secure a coupon that admits one for the price of a drink at the bar just outside the entrance. What you get is one hour-plus of nonstop entertainment.

Comedian Dave Swan, a Welsh transplant, is a never-miss, whatever the audience's demographics. Ventriloquist-comic Michael Ziegfeld is a comparatively new addition, replacing Bruce Mickelson. The shock of the show is the Elvis take-off by the venerable Golden Joe Baker. Natalie Carson is a dynamic song stylist, a winner whatever the lyrical requirements.

The dancers are attractive, shapely and very capable. Shannon Bradford, Lynne Thomas, Jean Marie Duran, Jan Calvert, Kimberly Cartright, Cheryl Slader-Souza, Mindy Harris and Connie Crawford have a set rotation with the usual onstage complement at five. It is a family show with no nudity although fans who admire callipygian accomplishments should be in their element.

"Viva Las Vegas" was the show opener with the comely quintet attired in Latin costumes. The beat is hot, and Carson makes the most of the lyrics, getting the show off in high gear and setting up the audience for Swan's first appearance.

Swan is the thorough comedic professional, wearing a tux, engaging the audience in a dialogue that effectively established his identity, getting their confidence to the point that every joke, each punch line, hit home. To top things off, he paid tribute to fellow Welshman Tom Jones, singing "Just Help Yourself" in a voice that substantiated his claim that both grew up in the same Welsh village.

Carson had her solo moment with a heartfelt rendition of the theme from the film, "Titanic," "My Heart Will Go On," made even more effective by Feeney's staging and lighting.

Ventro-comic Ziegfeld started easily, doing a brief standup before introducing his first dummy, Nadia, a 91-year-old, the world's oldest lady gymnast who was joined by a talking tongue sandwich -- strong stuff -- which led to a topper segment with three members of the audience.

Carson and the dancers went country with Natalie singing "Why Haven't I Heard from You" to a male brought up from the audience.

Swan appeared again for a "Metamorphosis" gag, where he disappeared and re-appeared as Golden Joe Baker with his comparatively brief but hilarious Elvis spoof, worth whatever it cost you to get in. This is a classic bit.

"Viva Las Vegas" served as a reprise, the finale, and for introductions of the cast. The capacity crowd departed in good humor and ready for more Las Vegas fun.



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